I believe in the power of authenticity over everything. But my definition of authenticity, driven by my research among Millennials and Generation Z, is less about striving for perfection and more about breaking through by becoming your own champion. As I said in my best-selling book, “The Kim Kardashian Principle: Why Shameless Sells and How to Do It Right,” authenticity is not about seeking approval from others but feeling free to “focus on what you believe and what you want to create, regardless of the blowback.”
No one understands this better than the world of entertainment, fashion and beauty, and this type of “shameless” authenticity inevitably generates a level of hate. You don’t like the fact that Kim Kardashian promoted herself to fame, made $5 million on her sex tape, maybe bought some followers along the way, then landed the cover of Vogue? It doesn’t matter, because she liked it. How about her 21-year-old sister Kylie Jenner who built a $1 billion dollar fortune by taking belfies (that’s a selfie of your behind), building a legion of followers on Instagram to then sell Love Bite lip liner to via Kylie Cosmetics?
New world style icons like Kardashian, Christian Louboutin and even our first biracial British princess Meghan Markle continue to prove that leadership today is first and foremost about having the courage to be yourself. This means not only uniting legions of followers to love you but also aligning countless opponents to hate you. In fact, hate today is a status symbol and there are big benefits of being on the receiving end of it. Nike’s campaign with Colin Kaepernick — the ex-NFL quarterback famed for kneeling during the national anthem and generating his own share of MAGA haters — showed us just how big. Apart from the media reporting that Nike practically lifted my words for their campaign headline “Believe in something even if it means sacrificing everything,” the brand embraced every rule of the Kim Kardashian Principle to create a whopping $163.5 million in buzz.
If you’re not being hated, you’re not in the game. Hate is a form of engagement, and in an environment where most people are too busy to engage at all, hate means you are at least connecting on a deep enough level to inspire a response. MRIs show that hate activates the same area of the brain (the frontal cortex) as romantic love. When we are hated, it is because we are doing something so extreme, shocking or exciting that it incites an emotional response from our audience.
Haters can end up being your most powerful advocates. After all, nothing inspires a good old Twitter rant in your defense from those who love what you are doing like an enraged detractor. Use the hate to increase the love by getting your die-hard fans to support you stronger, and for longer. It’s harder to win over new customers than it is to keep existing customers and turn them into more committed advocates. Consider the possibility that haters are not your problem but avoiding them is.
The irony of shaming others — whether that be fat shaming, slut shaming or what I’m now coining “fake fame shaming” (shaming those who are supposedly famous for nothing) is that savvy audiences prize individualism and admire those who are unashamed. Today there is no shame in fame just like there is no shame in defining your gender or sexuality. More open to change than previous generations, today’s youth sees straight through the hypocrisy of pointing fingers and prize those who refuse to trade their authenticity for approval. Righteousness is out and what’s right for you is in. I believe Oscar Wilde, whose wit matched his sense of style, said it best, “every saint has a past and every sinner has a future,” and deep down, don’t we all know it.
Jeetendr Sehdev is the author of the New York Times best-selling book, “The Kim Kardashian Principle: Why Shameless Sells and How to Do It Right.” @jeetendrsehdev