It’s easy to worry about North West. During this season of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Kim Kardashian’s eldest child finally asked why aggressive strangers are constantly following her family around taking pictures. When her natural curls are straightened down to a flat ponytail, the photos send panicked ripples across social media. North is a young Black girl growing up steeped in the height of modern day white beauty: her entire contoured family.
But, Sunday night’s KUWTK season 16 episode, “Heavy Meddle” proved North actually has some very healthy beauty role models hovering around her life. And that all comes down to one very welcomed cameo by model Winnie Harlow.
“It is so cute how North is, like, obsessed with Winnie,” Kim says during a campaign shoot for a KKW Beauty-Winnie Harlow collaboration. North, Kim explains, was scrolling through her mom’s Instagram feed and happened upon a photo of Winnie. She asked Kim who the mystery woman was, and Kim asked, “Why; do you think she’s pretty?”
“No…” North responded, according to her mother. “I think she’s beautiful.”
This is proof that North is absolutely enamored with Black beauty, despite the world’s concerns about her budding perceptions. Winnie, a Black woman with vitiligo, isn’t just pretty to North — she’s stunning. KUWTK doesn’t overtly say this, but that kind of recognition matters for Kim and Kanye West’s oldest daughter, who is usually making headlines for her desire to emulate Kim’s version of beauty. Remember when Kim confirmed North is only allowed to straighten her hair twice a year? It was an important way for the Kardashians to show their dedication to fostering North’s natural self-esteem as a Black girl. However, it also made straight hair sound a treat, like birthday cake and Christmas presents.
Yet, we can now see Kim really wants to support her daughter’s understanding of what constitutes worthiness and confidence — that Blackness is a part of that. That’s the whole reason Kim is even doing the KKW collaboration with Winnie, who spends her few seconds on KUWTK striking gorgeous poses for the camera, in the first place.
“To me, why I really wanted to do this with her is just because she’s so confident,“ Kim says. Her makeup artist, Mario Dedivanovic adds, “And [she’s] a good role model, I think, you know?” Again, no one says what the underlying meaning is, but it’s very clearly that North needs to see women like Harlow leading cosmetics campaigns right alongside her mom.
While North’s love of Harlow is the most interesting relationship at play in this Keeping Up vignette, it seems even Kim is learning to love herself thanks the model’s cameo.
The C-plot of “Meddle” is Kim’s increasing battle with psoriasis. The skin condition has taken over most of the reality star/beauty mogul's body by the episode. Kim brings in a medical medium who taps at her and waves his hands around her body. She decides not to wear a special teeny gold dress because it reveals too much of her psoriasis. She stuffs her hands into her sweatpants to make sure her latest miracle medical device reaches the patch of psoriasis on her “groin.” Kourtney and Khloé Kardashian are both baffled by that very personal moment made vaguely public.
But, Harlow's sparkle proves to Kim she doesn’t need to be so consumed by her skin condition. Harlow may have vitiligo, but she also seemingly couldn’t be more proud of her body — a body she has turned into a star-making career. Between Harlow's confidence and North's admiration of that self-assuredness, Kim says in voiceover, “North has made me realize that I really shouldn’t be insecure about all of my psoriasis spots. And sometimes you do have to… just not really worry so much about what other people think.”
Winnie Harlow may just be KUWTK’s most powerful guest star this season.