Existing research on female empowerment highlights the negative effect of the beauty industry on society without empirically including the experiences of people. Nonetheless, Kylie Jenner explains that makeup helped her overcome her insecurity of having small lips. Therefore, Jenner founded the brand Kylie Cosmetics, aiming to make others feel confident and beautiful. This thesis addresses the research question: in what way does Kylie Cosmetics empower its audience while advocating female-empowering messages on Instagram? To answer the research question, three sub-questions were formulated: 1. Which female-empowering messages does Kylie Cosmetics advocate on Instagram, and how does the brand advocate these female-empowering messages? 2. How do audiences interpret the female-empowering messages of Kylie Cosmetics? 3. How do audiences integrate the female-empowering messages advocated by Kylie Cosmetics into their personal lives? A Qualitative synthesis study was applied to answer the question. First, content analysis of 80 Instagram posts (visual and textual) was conducted. Multimodal critical discourse analysis and feminist critical discourse analysis were used to analyze the content. The content analysis shows that Kylie Cosmetics advocates seven different forms of female-empowering messages on Instagram: celebrity feminism, entrepreneurial feminism, individual feminism, lipstick feminism, ecological feminism, intersectional feminism, and commodity feminism. The preliminary results of the content analysis were used to develop topics for the second qualitative method of data collection conducted: interviews. Eight interviewees who are familiar with the brand, and are part of the audience of Kylie Cosmetics, were asked about how they interpret and integrate the female-empowering messages advocated by the brand. Thematic analysis was used to analyze the data retrieved. Results of the interviews show that Jenner does not empower the audience with most of the female-empowering messages advocated. Celebrity feminism is interpreted as Jenner being a celebrity, which does not empower the audience. Furthermore, individual feminism is appreciated by the audience but is conveyed by the brand to empower Jenner, rather than the public. Also, ecological feminism is not recognized by the audience, which is why the messages are not empowering. Intersectional feminism on the other hand does not empower the female audience but does empower the nonbinary audience because Jenner advocates empowering messages while working with nonbinary people. In addition, Kylie Cosmetics commodified the use of lipstick feminism in its messaging. The audience believes that wearing makeup is a personal choice and should not be communicated as a tool to empower. Nevertheless, the audience feels inspired and empowered by these commodified female messages advocated by Kylie Cosmetics. Lastly, entrepreneurial feminism is empowering the audience to become confident and not be afraid to start a business as a woman. Thereby, it empowers the audience to see that Jenner is a mumpreneur and that they can become a mother and successful entrepreneur as well. This study concluded that Kylie cosmetics empowers (a part of) its audience while advocating female-empowering messages that are in line with the beliefs of entrepreneurial, lipstick, and intersectional feminism.

, , , , , , ,
Dr. Sylvia Holla
Media, Culture & Society
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Imane El Aoufi. (2022, August 15). Kylie Cosmetics: Empowering or manipulating?. Media, Culture & Society. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/2105/64901