Kim Kardashian’s Naked ‘Paper’ Magazine Cover Is About Camp, Not Sex

If sex is funny, then the butt is its punchline. Kim Kardashian’s greased-up naked ass coming out of a dress that looks like a trash bag on the cover of Paper Magazine isn’t best understood as wet-dream fodder, though I’m sure many young men will add it to their fapping collections alongside the sex tape that made Kardashian a household name. Rather, Kim K’s cover is a glorious joke, the most spectacular bit of trolling in the “Year of the Ass,” a declaration that says, “I am willingly objectifying myself, but I’m not taking myself too seriously.” It is pure camp. In fact, it’s a brilliant example of that sensibility — and on that count, more credit is due to Paper than to Kim, though it certainly portrays a different side of her too (HAR HAR).

Jean-Paul Goude shot the cover(s), and if you’re going to get a guy to shoot someone’s greased-up body on the cover of a fashion magazine, it should be this dude. In addition to serving as the art director of Esquire during the 1970s, he shot Grace Jones — his lover and the mother of his child — naked and oiled up, numerous times as the model established herself as a music star. Have you ever seen a Grace Jones album cover? Each one is a work of art. Here’s the most famous one Goude shot:

Camp as fuck.
Camp as fuck.

Hiring a photographer with such an extensive history of “fine art nudity” is a statement in itself. In the alternate Paper cover, Kim is seen recreating one of Goude’s most iconic photographs, 1976’s Champagne Incident, starring model Carolina Beaumont.

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In addition to their choice of photographer, the “Break the Internet” tagline is a smart move on Paper‘s part. When was the last time anyone on the Internet talked about who was on the cover of Paper Magazine? It might be hip, but Paper isn’t well known outside of New York and (to a lesser extent) similarly trendy cities. Kim K’s Paper completes the “big star, small fashion mag, unreal cover” trifecta that began with Beyoncé’s 2013 draped-in-glitter Flaunt cover and Taylor Swift’s new brow-centric Wonderland cover. Covers like this tend to bring out something different in their superstar subjects; typically, it’s something more cleverly highbrow than your InStyles and your Marie Claires. Kim K’s cover goes with this strategy and turns up the volume — specifically with camp, a historically gay aesthetic.

Susan Sontag wrote in the defining text on the camp aesthetic, 1964’s “Notes on Camp,” “Indeed the essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration. And Camp is esoteric — something of a private code, a badge of identity even, among small urban cliques.” Paper embodies this latter statement. Founded in 1984, the publication became synonymous with New York’s downtown fashion scene and, later, its current editorial director, Mickey Boardman, essentially the Michael Musto of fashion journalism.

Sontag’s first statement on camp quoted here — “love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration” — can be found in what Kim K brings to Paper. The world thinks her exaggerated ass is unnatural, even artificially created — and in a way, that has become a form of power for her. Kim wields it over her throngs of admirers frequently on her Instagram account. It’s her social currency in an even more exaggerated way than it is for the queen of the ass meme, Nicki Minaj, since the public has largely come to the conclusion that Kardashian has no formal skill set (besides selling herself, of course). Similar to Minaj’s “Anaconda” video, Kim K can offer up an ass-centric magazine cover that works on a few levels: an invitation to the male gaze, a work that flirts with fine art (“so lowbrow it’s highbrow!”), and a knowing wink to those who see the humor.