Buzzing round in the news is the story of a 24 year old British woman, Claire Leeson, who is said to have spent more than $30,000 on making herself over to look as much like Kim Kardashian as possible. Ms Leeson is presently $10,000 in debt and has plans for more procedures to further enhance her body transformation. That sounds like fandom gone to extremes.
The New York Daily News says that Claire claims her fixation on Kim Kardashian arose from bullying as a youngster. As a teen Claire was told she was ugly and should kill herself, it is claimed, so the goal to emulate a woman she describes as “so beautiful” was at least, at one level, her attempt to silence her critics. Claire reportedly attempted suicide twice before becoming obsessed with Kim Kardashian in 2009 as a result of watching Keeping up with the Kardashians.
The images of the new Claire-dashian is certainly that of an attractive young woman, but at what cost, and what does this say to us as we think about the international beauty business as well as the endeavors of folks in Second Life (SL) always striving to make their avatars the most beautiful ever, including looking like their favorite film star?
Bullying is also a dark theme in Claire’s story, and one that no doubt is familiar to people in SL as well, and probably those that use other immersive environments. Perhaps some people like the opportunity to ‘become someone else’ to erase the person that was previously a victim of abuse and bullying. Whilst it is not clear whether this actually does some good, it is reported (Neuroscience News, online, Dec 2013) that people who were bullied in childhood, even if it was for a brief period, are at increased risk of psychotic episodes by the age of 18. This was the case for people being bullied as well as their perpetrators. It seems that the whole dynamic of bullying leads to serious aberrant behavior years later for all involved.
So to consider changing one’s physical appearance could be seen as a clear demonstration that the individual (Claire in this case) really is not happy with their current appearance. It also indicates that the person believes fervently that their life will be successful and happy in the guise of someone famous that they identify with (Claire and Kim had similar numbers of siblings apparently). At best this is a mild delusion, at worst, it portends worse personal crises to come if the transformation, at great cost in money and pain does not produce the life satisfaction the person seeks.
It is an old chestnut that beauty begins on the inside. No amount of outside cosmetics or surgery can create a beautiful person, the most they can do is create a body potentially pleasing to look at. But if things go badly wrong, as it often does when cosmetic surgery has been taken to extremes – remember Michael Jackson and Jocelyn Wildenstein, the outcomes are truly disastrous. And in reality, no amount of surgery will actually transform you into someone else, even if you look a lot like them.
It’s always hard to figure out what goes on inside a specific person’s head without sitting them down and investigating how they think and feel with some probing detailed questions. But Claire has been reported as saying to UK The Morning program that “when I get my Kimmy on I feel like I’m unstoppable” and despite the rising debt when money comes in Claire just thinks “about getting my Kimmy on” because in that mode she “feels unstoppable” and Claire feels that she has the confidence to now “love myself a little bit more.”
Claire is now a famous person on the internet. She claims to feel powerful and on a path to more success, and she seems to like how she looks and feels now. But an interesting twist to the story is that there is plenty of debate on the internet about the amount of cosmetic procedures that Kim Kardashian herself has undergone. Perhaps this is a case of life imitating art imitating life imitating art.