Shortly into the premiere episode of Life of Kylie, its star, Kylie Jenner, announces that she's unsatisfied with her life. "When I know I could buy any car, any house, that happiness lasts two seconds," she says. "That is not my real happiness... I'm so blessed that I've got to experience this at such a young age and learn that, so now I can find what really is gonna make me happy." It's a typical Kardashian/Jenner statement about fame, acknowledging her privilege with enough sad honesty to shush critics who might deem her out-of-touch. But what makes Jenner's comment stand out is that it isn't some throwaway line. Instead, her unease with her fame is the entire theme of her show — a series that's made to make viewers feel sympathetic to her "I'm rich and famous, but not happy" plight, but also tune in week after week and put more dollars in her pocket.
As we all know, Jenner is the nearly 20-year-old cosmetics mogul and social media superstar who's built an empire off selfies and highlighter. It's not an exaggeration to say that she grew up on-camera (Keeping Up With the Kardashians began when she was just nine years old) and that she's stayed there ever since. For the last 11 years, she's shared — or, more accurately, her "momager" Kris has shared — her entire life with fans, from her friendships to her dating life to her often-controversial changes in appearance. Through TV episodes and Snapchat posts, we've seen her mature from a giggly, clumsy pre-teen to a global phenomenon with nearly 100 million followers on Instagram. What Jenner does, likes, hates, etc. has become public fodder, and so, when she announced in April that she'd be starting a reality show, it seemed simply like the next natural step.
Life of Kylie, it was said, would show the "real" Jenner, the young woman behind the professionally lit photos and Kardashian-honed media skills. And in that, it succeeds. The first two episodes feature several confessional interviews with Jenner alongside more "candid" footage (and even a taped therapy session). She talks about how hard it is to be "Kylie F**king Jenner," a celebrity whose fame is so great that going to the airport is a panic-inducing nightmare. She calls herself an outcast in her own life, due to her inability to relate to "normal" people. And she says, constantly, that she didn't choose the life she has, and that she's not happy with the way she feels like she's forced to live.
These confessions are made, of course, to make us sympathize with Jenner, and why wouldn't we? She seems genuinely sad, trapped in a life she never asked for and feels compelled to keep up. "Kim always said this is what she's made for, and I respect that, but it's hard to do normal things when every single person knows who you are," Jenner says in one scene. "I think I lost a lot of parts of myself," she says in another, reflecting on her journey to fame. Seeing the reality star reflect on the life she never had, it's hard not to feel compassion; can anyone blame her for wanting an existence that's not constantly under surveillance?
But here's the thing — despite what Jenner says, she isn't forced to live her life this way. At 19, with plenty of money and a massive business, the star is a bonafide adult who has the ability to make her own choices. No one — not Kris, not the paparazzi, not her fans — is holding her hostage and making her be "Kylie F**king Jenner" at all times. Yes, being famous may be ingrained in her, but so what? If, as she says in the show and has said frequently in the past, she truly wanted to leave her fame behind and begin life as a "regular" person, she could at least attempt it. But she isn't.
Instead, Jenner is making a very different choice: capitalizing on her sadness. She may very well be unhappy with aspects of her life, but she's no victim in this situation. By making Life of Kylie, Jenner is not just allowing, but outwardly aiding, the growth of the fame she says she doesn't want. She's becoming a bigger star than ever before, and the fact that the show aims to portray her as so "human" will inevitably just make her more accessible to fans.
If Jenner truly wants to escape her life in the lime light, she's frankly doing a terrible job of making it happen.
And to some extent, the star admits this. "I didn't choose this life, but I'm not gonna say I'm totally innocent, because I am keeping up this lifestyle," Jenner says in Life of Kylie's first episode. "I know I'm making myself more famous by having an Instagram and posting photos, but I'm not that type of person where I want all the attention. I don't like that — it actually freaks me out."
But if this is the case, why doesn't she stop? And furthermore, why should we feel sympathy for her situation, when she's the one enabling it?
Because Jenner wants us to feel bad for her, so it helps her image. Her persona on social media — that of a young woman with fancy cars, gorgeous jewelry, and celebrity boyfriends — isn't exactly relatable, but a sad, confused young woman still figuring out her purpose in life most certainly is. It's just a shame that the two versions of Jenner aren't nearly as different as she wants us to think they are.