Since first going public about her psoriasis in 2011, cultural phenomenon and wildly successful businesswoman Kim Kardashian West has given her psoriasis a recurring role in her family’s television show Keeping Up with the Kardashians (KUWTK), as well as in her social media messaging. Her every move is also chronicled in countless entertainment-focused media outlets and blogs, leading to things-you-don’t-see-everyday like Hollywood Life running the headline “Psoriatic Arthritis: 5 Things To Know About Kim Kardashian’s Illness,” or pop culture blog Stylecaster turning psoriatic arthritis into clickbait: “Kim Kardashian’s Mystery Illness Revealed & It’s Intense.” Yes, untreated psoriatic arthritis can be intense … intensely debilitating.
But being a plot device in a ratings-driven business is not without its pitfalls, and we have long worried that accurate messaging about psoriasis might be sacrificed for entertainment value or profits. At times, we have found her presentation of psoriasis missed the mark, and we have said so.
For example, visible psoriasis is the reality for many people with psoriasis, including self-conscious teens. Kardashian once posted a picture of her leg with a significant amount of psoriasis, along with the caption “sexy.” While her leg is certainly sexy, many people and most media outlets interpreted her comment as sarcastic, suggesting that the psoriasis plaques made her leg look un-sexy.
This doesn’t sit well with us. We have long been advocates of the body positivity movement, sending Psoriasis Calendars as early as 2008 to thousands of journalists and others to show a diverse array of psoriasis patients, with visible psoriasis or without, living their best lives – and looking great – despite their psoriasis. Meanwhile, our Short Sleeve Day – first held in 2007 – was entirely about our community exposing our psoriasis publicly, with confidence (though it picked up additional themes along the way). A supermodel with psoriasis is still a supermodel.
Another ratings-driven moment we disliked was an episode of KUWTK in which Kardashian visited a “medical medium,” a silly “psychic” that we felt trivialized psoriasis. We don’t want to be killjoys, and it was harmless fun (unless anyone took the psychic’s words seriously), but we’re not sure people could get away with media portrayals “treating” other diseases by visiting a Shaman or fortune teller. She has also tried alleged “detox” shakes, herbal lotions, and at least one faux-medical diet, despite having the medical resources to know they would not work. (We have no issue with her line of cosmetic concealer, as we believe it is up to each psoriasis patient to decide if or when to expose his or her psoriasis.)
Most recently, upon first learning (at least for the cameras) that she had psoriatic arthritis rather than lupus, she reportedly remarked “I’m so relieved that this is just psoriatic arthritis.” While we certainly understand her relief at not having lupus, a terrible disease, we’ve met too many people struggling with psoriatic arthritis to like that phraseology.
Still, these gripes aside, on balance we feel that Kim Kardashian is doing much good with her ongoing psoriasis – and now psoriatic arthritis – “storyline,” and her positive messaging is worth the occasional hiccups.
We are grateful that she had the courage to share on Instagram a selfie of her facial psoriasis – letting millions experience, through the strange intimacy of social media, the reality of psoriasis for so many people.
Her educating people about her ultraviolet light treatments, and the benefits it provided her, is a medically accurate and useful message to deliver to psoriasis patients.
Her social media, in particular, has been most helpful at conveying the pain and emotional toll that psoriasis takes on people living with it, and the selfies she has released of her psoriasis to her massive audience have educated millions about the disease in a sympathetic way.
Now, as her show KUWTK unfolds, we may benefit from her educating people about psoriatic arthritis, including psoriasis patients themselves who may not realize the joint pain they are experiencing may be psoriatic arthritis for which effective treatments are available.
Kim Kardashian, and her family, combine powerful charisma, amazing business savvy, and physical beauty into a forceful combination that can be used for great things (beyond making them wealthy). Kim K’s psoriasis messaging, while at times frustrating, has been a net gain for the psoriasis community; and has even given psoriasis a “cool” factor that one never would have predicted when clean-cut Jerry Mathers, of the late-1950’s television show Leave It To Beaver, became some two decades ago the first star courageously (and lucratively) to discuss his psoriasis publicly.