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What happened when Kendall Jenner superfans turned against their idol

Two years. 147,000 followers. One Pepsi advert. And 14 reasons why. 

“We were getting tired of waiting for her to apologise.”

On 2 July, an online fan club dedicated to the model and TV personality Kendall Jenner made an announcement. Kendall Updates (@knjdaily on Twitter and @knj.daily on Instagram) was a two-year-old Kendall Jenner fan account, devoted to recording the minutiae of the celebrity’s daily life. Here are four photos of Kendall leaving a club. Did you see she appeared on Carly Walters’ Instagram story? Check out this video of her favourite baby powder.

But this update wasn’t like the rest.

“Why we decided to unstan: a thread” was a Twitter thread of 14 reasons why Kendall Jenner’s biggest fans didn’t want to be her fans any more. Five women from across the world ran the account, devoting hours of their lives and often staying up all night in order to be the best Kendall “stan” account. Stans (a reference to an Eminem song, as well as a portmanteau of “stalker” and “fan”) are people who are extremely devoted to certain celebrities; the word is also a verb, so that fans can “stan” a star. By 2 July, Kendall Updates had accumulated 147,000 stan followers across Instagram and Twitter.

“It wasn’t just like we woke up and we were like ‘let’s unstan’,” says Louisa*, the original founder of Kendall Updates. “We were expecting her to apologise but she never did”.

The unstanning Twitter thread went on to accumulate more than 15,000 retweets and 31,000 likes. The reasons why ranged from a Vine in which Jenner appeared to fetishise black men, the fact she once wore a confederate flag T-shirt, and various instances of cultural appropriation. Then, of course, there was that Pepsi advert.

“She just acted like nothing never happened with the Pepsi thing,” says Louisa, “that was when we were really disappointed.” After the advert debuted on 5 April, Louisa sent Jenner a message through Twitter’s direct messaging service. For around a year, the model had sent messages back and forth with the account, after following them in February 2016 and thanking them for their work.

“We tried to understand her and we sent her a DM and we didn’t say we wanted her to apologise, but we told her that we knew that it was wrong,” explains Louisa. Jenner never replied. “I think she thought people would forget about it because her family is used to scandals and everything and they just stay mute and nothing happens.” Before unstanning on 2 July, Louisa sent Jenner another DM, lying that she would update the account less because she was busy with work and not because she had come to dislike the star. Jenner allegedly replied wishing Louisa well.

Kendall Updates started in 2015, when Louisa and four internet friends decided to create an account about their idol. The group encompasses 21-year-old Louisa, a 23-year-old from Costa Rica, a 21-year-old from Chile, another 21-year-old from the United States, and a 16-year-old from Italy. “When we started we wanted to be like the best,” explains Louisa – whose name has been changed as she fears backlash from Jenner fans. “We were always posting everything… everything she was doing daily. It took a lot of time.”

Now, Kendall Updates is dormant. “Yes, we still get a lot of hate because of [the thread],” Louisa laughs nervously. “They’re all saying that we wanted attention which is not true because we already had Kendall’s attention for years.

“I noticed she has a lot of fans that are all up her ass – I’m sorry – they’re all up her ass because they want her to notice them and that’s just stupid. I mean if you’re a real fan you want your fave to prosper and to be someone that it's worth stanning for and she was just not that person anymore.”

When we discuss online fandoms, much of the rhetoric falls back on a cliché of rabid stans who would do anything for their idol, regardless of their misdemeanours. Louisa – and the other women behind Kendall Updates – proved to many that fandom has its limits. The last straw that prompted the unstanning was when Jenner and her sister Kylie released “disrespectful” T-shirts featuring their faces imposed over those of Notorious BIG and Tupac Shakur.

Louisa hopes that other stans will be able to follow her example when their favourite stars make poor decisions. “I think people on stan Twitter see their faves as a god or something, because even when they’re doing something wrong they want to defend them and that’s just not right,” she says. “Celebrities are people and you shouldn’t act like they can do no wrong…you need to call them out because if you agree with what they’re doing then you’re just as bad.”

After the unstanning thread, Jenner herself unfollowed Kendall Updates and blocked the account, going on to like a subtweet that Louisa believes was about her and her friends. “If ur talking shit I’m just gonna block you, I don't need negativity in my life sorrryyyyy❤ and a LOVELY BIG HEART AND KISS TO THE REAL ONES,” read the tweet from Lauren Jauregui, a singer, after Kendall Updates posted their thread.

Jenner now frequently likes tweets from other accounts that stan her. At the time of writing, her last two liked tweets are a video of herself from a fan account with 10,000 followers, and a gif of herself from an account with more than 96,000. Despite Louisa’s actions, there will be no shortage of Kendall stans on Twitter.

“We didn’t want to keep the account if we were posting about someone that just does not represent us and that was it,” says Louisa. “We were just tired of staying mute. I felt like I was stanning Kendall for absolutely nothing because she was doing nothing that represents me, nothing.”

Though Louisa is unsure if Jenner will change or apologise for her behaviour, she hopes the account’s actions will send a message.

“I think we need to speak out because people are where they are because they have supporters…so if they see that the public do not agree with what they're doing maybe they will change.

“If they don’t change,” she says firmly, “then they’re just shitty.” 

* Names have been changed

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.

Jake Paul via YouTube
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We should overcome our instinct to mock Jake Paul’s school shooting video

The urge to mock the ex-Disney star diminishes the victims he speaks to and ignores the good YouTubers can do.  

It’s very “darkest timeline”. Ex-Disney star Jake Paul (brother of vlogger Logan Paul, who infamously filmed the dead body of a suicide victim) has created a 22-minute documentary about the Parkland school shooting in which he greets Florida senator Marco Rubio with the words “Hey, what’s up man?” and doesn’t mention gun control once. 

Paul – who has previously made headlines for setting fire to a swimming pool – goes on to ask the politician: “I think like a lot of people think passing laws is super easy, can you explain some of the struggles around, uh, passing laws?”

It’s hard to not immediately balk at the documentary, which was released yesterday and has since been widely mocked by the press and individual journalists. Critics note that Paul doesn’t mention gun reform within the YouTube video, and many mock his conduct towards Rubio. Others accuse the video of being an insincere PR move, particularly as Paul has previously fetishised guns on his YouTube channel – and has a tattoo of a gun on his thigh.

21-year-old Jake Paul talks and conducts himself like a child, which is what makes the video immediately jarring (“I just wanna become homies with them and just be there for them,” he says of the Parkland survivors he is about to meet). There is a vacant – almost dumb – expression on his face when he speaks with Rubio, leading the viewer to question just how much the YouTube star understands. But this is precisely the value of the video. Paul is a child talking to an audience of children – and talking to them on their terms.

YouTube doesn’t disclose the exact demographics of a YouTuber’s audience, but fan videos and Paul’s comment section reveal that most of his 14 million subscribers are young children and teens. Paul is introducing these children to a politician, and the video is edited so that Rubio’s claims don’t go unchecked – with footage of the senator being criticised by Parkland survivors playing in between shots of Paul and Rubio’s chat.

Paul (admittedly unintentionally) asks the senator questions a child might ask, such as “Is there anything that people can look forward to? Is there anything new that you’re working on?”. Although this might be jarring for adults to watch, the comment section of Paul’s video reveals it is already positively affecting his young audience.

“Definitely going to speak out now,” writes one. Another: “I shared this to my Mum and asked her to show the head teacher so everyone do that as well.” Childishness is still transparently at play – one commenter writes “Plzzz Stop the Guns… it hurts my feeling I’m crying… 1 like = 10 Pray to Florida” – but this too shows that Paul has introduced new concepts to kids previously more concerned with online pranks and viral fame.

Of course, it’s easy to see how this might be a cynical move on Paul’s part. Yet how can we demand more from YouTubers and then criticise them when they deliver it? Paul’s video is far from perfect, but engaging children in genuine discussions about current affairs is a commendable move, one far superior to his prior acts. (Paul previously caused controversy by telling a fan from Kazakhstan that he “sounds like you’re just going to blow someone up”, and his diss-track “It’s Everyday Bro” is third most disliked video on YouTube). Like it or not, Paul has an incredible influence over young people – at least he is finally using it for good.

Paul’s video has also undeniably helped at least one teen. “It’s just easier to talk about what’s going on with someone like you than a doctor or someone,” Jonathan Blank – a Parkland survivor – tells the YouTuber in the video. Later, his mother praises Paul through her tears. “It was the best therapy for my son,” she says, “You didn’t have an agenda, you cared.”

Other Parkland survivors are angry at the media’s response to the video. Kyle Kashuv – also interviewed in the documentary – has tweeted multiple times since the video’s release. “Media has the utter audacity to mock my classmates and Senator Rubio for doing the interview ON MY REQUEST AND THE REQUEST OF TWO OTHER STUDENTS,” he wrote.  

“If you mock a video where my classmates, that witnessed their friends get murdered in cold blood, are crying and putting their hearts on their sleeve, be prepared to be hit back twice as hard.”

Kashuv differs from the most famous group of Parkland survivors, as the teen supports the STOP School Violence Act over national gun reform. Yet the teen’s politics do not make his thoughts or feelings less valid, or his voice less important in the conversation. While critics note Paul spoke little of gun reform in his video (instead he suggested that schools have bullet proof glass and Instagram should flag pro-gun posts), the YouTuber later tweeted to clarify his stance.

“Gun Reform changes we need in my opinion,” he wrote. Paul went on to suggest that anyone who wants to buy a gun should be 21, go through a six month training course, and have a mental health evaluation. He also tweeted that gun shows should be banned and there should be a “30 day wait period after purchase to receive firearm”.

This isn’t to say, of course, that Paul is right, or has all the answers, or is even equipped to discuss this topic sensitively. Yet his promise to pay for busses to the March for Our Lives demonstration in Washington DC, alongside the fact he didn’t monetise his YouTube documentary, speak of someone at least trying to do some good. “We all want the same thing and that’s to make schools safe,” he says in the video. Although he gives Rubio and the STOP School Violence Act a platform, he is dismissive of their impact.

“Kind of why I wanted to make this video in the first place is to activate parents and kids within their own schools and communities, that’s the way things are going to get done the fastest. We don’t to wait for hundreds of people in Washington DC to pass the laws,” he says.

Though the description to Paul’s video was most likely written by a far-more savvy PR, it’s hard to disagree with. “I vow to be part of the solution and utilise my platform to raise awareness and action across the board, but we cannot focus on one issue, we must actively discuss and make progress on them all,” it reads.

The criticism of Paul smacks of the old media sneering at the new media, galled and appalled that a 21-year-old YouTuber would dare wade into politics and do so less than perfectly. Concerns about propriety and morality are a veil to disguise a pervasive distaste for YouTube stars. Criticisms that his suggested solutions are stupid ignore the fact that it’s not his job to reform society. It’s like having a go at Sesame Street for not criticising Theresa May.

YouTubers might not be the idols that adults wish teenagers had, but we can’t change that. What we can do is encourage viral stars to engage with important issues, and not mock them when they do so less than brilliantly. Jake Paul may not be a good person – it might even be a stretch to describe the video as “good”. But the YouTuber made an effort that should be commended, not mocked. 

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.