Dissenting From Culture Vultures

In IDP 316 - Portfolio, Uncategorized by Natalie James




I often think about the commodification of black bodies/culture and when I do there are often many brands that come to my mind. One brand in particular is the Kardashian brand. For me, the Kardashian brand encompasses everything that is violent about cultural appropriation. This past year, Kendall and Kylie Jenner released a line of t-shirts that portrayed slain Hip-Hop greats Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur. These t-shirts also incorporated the Kardashian brand by plastering Kylie, Kendall, and “K” on top of the artists. This had such a negative reception from that public that the shirts were never circulated in stores.

When thinking about the clear disregard for black culture that the Kardashians possess, I thought that this project was a perfect way for me to manifest my contempt. In order to do so, I created a t-shirt that displays my many thoughts about the Kardashian brand. On the front of the t-shirt is a photo of the Kardashians. In this photo, I decided to cross out their eyes. This decision was not based on my dislike of them, but rather my acknowledgement of their humanness. Because I do not know each Kardashian individually, I do not want to assume anything about them as individual people. However, I purposefully displayed them on the front of the t-shirt to signify how boldly their brand has commodified a culture that is not theirs to commodify. In addition to the photo, on the back the shirt I have written the letters “K K K” prominently at the top and the phrase “We Shall Overcome?” at the bottom. The K’s signify the Kardashian brand’s connection with an overarching toxic, white supremacist culture. In addition, it also alludes to their disregard for black death as represented by their t-shirts. The phrase “We Shall Overcome?” questions black culture’s ability to continue to resist the toxicity that commodifies it.


My hope is that the image of my creation will encourage folks to be more careful about how they perceive what they consume.