Frisky Reads: Khloé Kardashian’s Strong Looks Better Naked Is A Body-Image Victory

Put a Kardashian’s name (or a Jenner’s) on a book , and I’ll read it. I’m more devoted to the famous reality TV family’s literary output than I am a diehard viewer. Prior to this week, their releases included the titles Kardashian Konfidential and Dollhouse (by Kim, Kourtney and Khloé), the memoir Kris Jenner…and All Things Kardashian, plus the YA novel Rebels: City of Indra (by Kendall and Kylie Jenner).

But the book I’ve been most looking forward to is this week’s Strong Looks Better Naked by Khloé Kardashian, because it promised to be substantive rather than salacious. Based on an early press release, I was expecting the book to be all about body image — and to some degree it is – but it’s more accurately a hybrid memoir and self-help title. Kardashian does tackle weight and looks, as well as her experience with growing up while being bombarded with the message that because she wasn’t as thin as her sisters, there must be something wrong with her.

But while publisher Regan Arts is touting the sexy photos Kardashian posed for with lines like “Book jacket folds out to a full-size poster!” (and Kardashian herself is too, with a behind-the-scenes video from the shoot at One Gun Ranch posted in her app), Strong is actually a meditation on the reality star’s philosophy on life more than it is about her exercise regime or eating habits per se.

Fittingly, the book quotes a variety of safe souls such as Confucius, The Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin, Amelia Earhart, JFK, Buddha, Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, Maya Angelou and Martin Luther King, Jr., amongst others. It’s peppered with the kind of generic, hard-to-argue-with advice that self-help books often are, like, “Many of us must learn to prioritize ourselves.”

Those parts, while less interesting than Kardashian’s personal revelations about how exercise has been her salvation at some of the darkest times of her life – like following her father’s death and during the demise of her marriage to Lamar Odom – are still important. Why? Because the world, and especially the world of the teens and young women who hang on every word uttered by their favorite reality stars, needs every bit of inspiration to not follow dangerous diet fads or trends. While this isn’t a “love your body” manifesto per se, it’s also not a “you must follow my diet plan and exercise X hours per day” book either.

In fact, Kardashian writes, “Being big or a few pounds over my ‘ideal’ weight was not then and is not now an issue. In fact, because I believed I looked good—notwithstanding what everyone else thought—I always carried myself with confidence, and I learned long ago that people find confidence attractive. If you walk around thinking you’re pretty cute, people are going to believe it. And I believed I was cute.”

Some of the most moving parts of the book are about how outside influences have at times seeped in and made Kardashian question that very confidence, such as a teacher who was incredulous that she was actually Kim and Kourtney’s sister. Or the time the media was reporting so incessantly that she was pregnant during her marriage to Odom that Kardashian actually bought a pregnancy test to make sure (she wasn’t). She told People in their recent cover story, “In reality I wasn’t fat; I wasn’t obese. But I let society make me believe that I was.” How many of us can relate to that?

Sadly, probably millions of girls and women. And for anyone who’s ever felt that way, this book is a major step in the right direction. Kardashian explicitly tells readers not to count calories or be fixated on the number on the scale, but instead emphasizes the joys and benefits of exercise for its mental health and physical fitness results. When she tells readers to “set realistic goals” and “forget the quick fix,” she’s explicitly defying so many of the ubiquitous cover lines on any given newsstand in this country. She writes, “If you are exercising to make someone else happy (a boyfriend, a husband, a critic, a relative), it’s probably not going to work.” And she’s absolutely right. This is not a book about looking “strong,” but being strong inside and out.

Perhaps one of the most interesting details is buried in the acknowledgments; the book’s ghostwriter was Pablos Fenjves, who was also the ghostwriter for O.J. Simpson on If I Did It, which was originally supposed to be published by ReganBooks, but was ultimately published by Beaufort Books. Fenjves famously admitted in interviews that he believes Simpson is a murderer. Kardashian writes in the acknowledgements: “I’m so grateful to Pablo Fenjves who helped me not only to find my voice, but also helped me write a book that captures my spirit and my heart[.]” Strong does touch on Simpson’s trial for the murder of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson and how it impacted Kardashian’s life, although it’s a brief digression.

Though Kardashian cancelled her official book tour in the wake of Lamar Odom’s hospitalization, she will be signing books next Monday at Barnes & Noble at The Grove in Los Angeles. And while she does get a mild plug in for her upcoming TV show, Kocktails with Khloe, in a drinks recipe section of the same name, for someone of her clout, there’s surprisingly little shill here. In fact, there are moments where she almost seems embarrassed or put off by how she makes a living, or at least, how it’s impacted her life and relationships.

Is this a book filled with sexy poses and a lot of extraneous quotes from Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff? Yes. But is it also a book that just might reach girls who are considering spending an unhealthy amount of time at the gym or denying themselves a piece of birthday cake in the name of thinness? Yes. And for the latter, I say, bravo, Khloé! Her line, “Instead of being self-critical, I have become my own cheerleader” is a feminist mantra if I’ve ever heard one.

Khloé Kardashian’s Strong Looks Better Naked is in bookstores and on Amazon now.