Keeping up Appearances: The bloody beauty work of Kim Kardashian’s vampire facial

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In March 2013, Kim Kardashian gazed out at her millions of Instagram followers with a placid but bloodied face. The stated aim of the selfie was to tease the topic of that week’s episode of Kourtney and Kim Take Miami, a spin-off series of the E! network’s long-running reality programme, Keeping Up with the Kardashians. However, marked with the hashtag ‘#vampirefacial’, the post had another effect: it inaugurated a new beauty trend into the popular consciousness. The vampire facial is an out-patient procedure typically performed by a dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon and promises to rejuvenate the facial skin through a combination of micro-needling and a platelet-rich plasma mask made from the patient’s own blood. (Results are disputed.)

This article investigates the enduring association between Kardashian and the vampire facial in the popular imagination. Key to this investigation is the narrative function of blood vis-à-vis the figure of the vampire. When taken together, their corporeal and symbolic dimensions signal the abject, the feminine, the transgressive, the contagious, the vulnerable, the Other – that is, the Gothic. When applied to Kardashian’s glamorous celebrity construction, the bloody vampire facial affirms a comingling of Western Romantic beauty ideals with Gothic tropes. This article explores how Kardashian both upholds and challenges traditional Western beauty standards, and how, specifically, the Gothic signification of the vampire facial works to reveal the cultural tensions and anxieties around Kardashian’s performative beauty.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2222357
Pages (from-to)62-69
Number of pages8
JournalPerformance Research
Issue number1
Early online date26 Oct 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Oct 2023


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