Caitlyn Jenner still in the spotlight

An exploration of Jenner’s recent accomplishments and the impact she is making for the transgender community as a celebrity role model

Contributed Photo
Contributed Photo

Months after debuting a new name and image, Caitlyn Jenner’s 30 seconds of fame are still not over. Since featuring on the cover of Vanity Fair earlier this year, Jenner has added a handful of accomplishments to her celebrity profile which have kept her name among the hottest trending topics of the entertainment world.

Last month, Jenner was voted the Teen Choice Social Media Queen of the year, running up against major stars like Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez, Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus. This award is representative of the significant amount of support her transition has received over the last few months.

In a very short period of time, she gained over 180,000 followers on Facebook, 350,000 on Instagram and one million in just four hours on Twitter, breaking President Obama’s record. Her presence on social media has been marked by the usual life updates and birthday wishes, but also by attempts to raise awareness of transgender issues and messages thanking people for their love and support.

In July, Jenner accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, a sports-oriented but not limited award, meaning that it may be presented to individuals whose contributions are capable of transforming sports. Past winners include world famous boxer Muhammad Ali and anti-apartheid revolutionary and former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela.

Some critics however did not believe Jenner deserved to join these big names.

Instead, some hoped the winner would be Lauren Hill, a teenager who died of cancer in April after scoring four points in a game of college basketball, fulfilling her life’s dream. Others hoped the award would be given to army veteran Noah Galloway, who lost a leg and an arm in Iraq but continues to participate in adventure races.

Despite this controversy, Jenner went on to accept her award at the ESPYs and was supported by her family and friends who have played a significant role in the transition process.

She delivered an inspiring speech which highlighted the difficulties faced by transgender people that are bullied, beaten up, murdered or driven to commit suicide. With this, her aim was to change people’s attitudes towards transgender people. Jenner even took the opportunity to address her critics by adding: “If you want to call me names, make jokes and doubt my intentions, go ahead because the reality is I can take it. But for thousands of kids out there coming to terms with the reality of who they are, they shouldn’t have to take it.”

This summer was also marked by the premiere of I am Cait, an eight-part documentary series about Jenner’s transition. A grand total of 2.7 million viewers were introduced to Caitlyn Jenner on the series premiere. Jenner was excited to come out as her true self and showed great hopes to change how the world sees transgender people.

As Jenner possesses a privileged status, which has given her a voice, part of the episode focused on raising awareness of the difficulties encountered by young transgender people.

Jenner realizes that to most people the transitioning process is not as well embraced as it was for her. She shows awareness of the importance of this issue and welcomes the tremendous responsibility bestowed upon her.

As family support is essential for transitioning, Jenner was also shown interacting with her own. In this first episode, Jenner’s mother and two sisters were also introduced to Caitlyn for the first time. In their separate testimonies, all confessed the transitioning process was hard and that everybody had to change along. Even though they did not understand how it could work, they were happy to see Jenner relaxed and happy with herself.

From the beginning, Jenner hoped to transform world views of transgender people by taking advantage of her status and using the show as a mean to educate people.

However this will be harder than expected as episodes focusing on transgender issues have received significantly less viewers than those featuring members of the Kardashian family. Perhaps the smaller audience can be explained by unmet expectations from a public who hoped for a similar reality show to Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Welcoming the Kardashian presence on the show more often might contradict Jenner’s intentions with her show, but it also might be just what she needs to keep it on the air.

Overall, the show exhibits an overdose of ambition, which could be damaging or beneficial to her intentions. Whether she is succeeding or not, the important thing is that Jenner remains on the spotlight. At the end of the day, any press is good press.

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