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The Kims Fashion Dynasties

Jane Santos

If these two fashionistas got it together, they could rule the world.

There's a goldmine waiting to be discovered in the form of a collaboration between the two most notorious Kims in pop culture history. I'm talking about Ms. Kimberly Jones, aka soon-to-be-incarcerated rapper Lil' Kim, and North Korean dictator, Kim Jong II. (If there are more notorious Kim's in pop culture that I've overlooked, please let me know.) Anyways, someone please tap the potential for a breathtaking Kim fashion dynasty and get those two together to design their own fashion line. Not only would I die of happiness, but I would buy their clothes and look way sex-i-licious, tough-as-hell, and fabulously demented.

What would happen if Kim Jong ILbroke out of his reclusive hermit state, and Lil' Kim was somehow freed of her one-year jail sentence for lying to a grand jury to protect her friends, and the two got together for a collabo? Jumpsuits would most certainly be successfully mass-marketed to fit all shapes, sizes and occasions. A camouflage-printed jumpsuit, inspired of course by Kim Jong II's trademark khaki military jumpsuit, would be a crowd-pleaser. So would a beachwear jumpsuit, printed with seahorses and seashells, inspired by the seashell pasty that adorned Lil' Kim's bare breast when she wore that purple jumpsuit at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards.

There could be adorable "KJ" nameplate necklaces and "KJ" could be an official logo emblazoned on accessories just like the "LV" that stands for Louis Vuitton. The line would include purple wigs inspired by Lil' Kim, and Cazal glasses like the kind Run DMC used to wear and height-inducing platform shoes influenced by K. Jong. They could market the cutest baby tees printed with the words "Shorty" and "Oh no, I didn't." Together they could even successfully launch their own fragrance entitled "Scandalous" and market it toward the individual that acts on their impulses, does whatever they want, and never has any regrets. The Kims' official fashion philosophy could be "Dress less for success, more for notoriety."

The pairing would spark more headlines than when Wacko Jacko and Lisa Marie Presley first got together. The public and media would go apeshit. Journalists would attribute the success of the clothing enterprise not to entrepreneurial skills, but to Kim Jong's Confuscionist practices, as they do his maintenance of his feudal society in North Korea. The project would be all-the-more intriguing to the public, as it would challenge the stereotype that Koreans and African Americans are supposed to be at odds with each other, and Kim Jong ILand Lil' Kim are already folks with a lot of odds against them. Plus, P. Diddy would be super jealous.

As farfetched as this idea seems, it's not that crazy to draw parallel lines between the two Kims. Why? For starters, when you do a Lexis Nexis search for the word "Kim" and "jumpsuit", humorously enough, both their names pop up in a slew of articles. A closer examination of the famous Kims reveal that their lives do share many common threads (yuk yuk), other than their names and diminutive statures. (Lil' Kim is 4'11 and Kim Jong is reported to be somewhere around 5'1, and was described as a "pygmy" by George W. Bush.) The North Korean dictator and the hornasty rapper Lil' Kim share the same penchant towards jaw dropping behavior, fibbing, self-prescribed nicknames, ego-tripping and trendsetting. Kim Jong ILhas a reputation for being a wild ladies' man and party animal who loves to guzzle cognac while Lil' Kim earned her naughty reputation for being a raunchy sex fiend, infamous for swigging you-know-what from a water bottle at a music festival. Both Lil' Kim and Kim Jong ILhave been lampooned and dismissed by the press and simultaneously embraced as entertaining pop culture icons. At the same time, their style of dress has afforded them greater leverage and power in their respective playing fields of world politics and the hip-hop community. The Queen Bee and the "Dear Leader" are very public figures that people love to hate.

It's fascinating how somewhere along the line, people as reviled as Lil' Kim and Kim Jong ILrose from the ashes of controversy and infamy and became unexpected fashionistas that legions of admirers from Brooklyn to Pyongyang can't get enough of. As a fashion icon, Lil' Kim has been a spokeswoman for MAC makeup, Candies shoes, Old Navy and inspired a line of diamond-studded watches manufactured by Jacob the Jeweler. She has also graced the covers of countless magazines such as Harper's Bazaar, Jet and Essence, and was recently cavorting around as Mac Jacobs' latest muse, a role usually reserved for wide-eyed naifs like Sofia Coppola.

Kim Jong II's status as a fashion icon is comparable to Lil Kims'. The Washington Post reported that despite the fact that Kim Jong ILroutinely fires rockets over Japan, he is an underground fashion icon in Tokyo's teenage subculture. A Kim Jong ILcomic book, first published in South Korea, reportedly sold more than half a million copies in Japan (Washington Post, 29 April,2004). In January of this year, the Guardian also reported that in imitation of their "Dear Leader", North Korean men reportedly pouffed their hair into those Little Richard-looking bouffants; and cut their hair short when Kim Jong ILdecided that shorter military haircuts were more in vogue with their Communist way of life (Guardian, 12 January 2005). All in all, Lil' Kim and Kim Jong ILhave images that are so iconographic, that had he lived, Andy Warhol would certainly have immortalized their visages in silk screen.

Their status as fashionistas can no doubt be attributed to the fact that Lil' Kim and Kim Jong ILhave learned the art of making headlines with their clothes. "Lil' Kim stylish in court" reported the Star Phoenix in March, describing how Lil' Kim's reps were busy trying to snag designer clothes from the likes of Marc Jacobs and Moschino for the Queen Bee to wear in court. The Associated Press recently blazed the headline, "Brooklyn Neighborhood Girl who Became Fashionista, Convicted of Perjury" in response to the conclusion of Lil' Kim's trial regarding the Manhattan radio-station shoot out. In a 2003 piece, Jet ran a profile of the rapper titled "Lil' Kim Wants Fans to Like Her Look, but Love Her Music," indicating that Ms. Jones' was oft times weary of her style eclipsing her music.

Kim Jong II's fashions have also proven to be the stuff headlines are made of. In an article titled "North Korea's Hair Unapparent" the Washington Post reported rumors that the dictator is going bald. A quote from the article read, "Who, after all, would have noticed if Pol Pot of Augusto Pinochet needed a little Rogaine?" CNN also titled an article "The Many Faces of Kim Jong II" an allusion to the Hollywood film classic, The Many Faces of Eve, indicating that Kim Jong's image is undeniably associated with Hollywood. Indeed, Kim Jong ILis film buff obsessed with Hollywood and according to BBC News, he owns 20,000 Hollywood movies. His uncanny resemblance to fat Elvis with the jumpsuit, big glasses, bouffant and platforms further confirms his infatuation with Hollywood. Yet another headline from the Financial Times last May read, "North Korean Leader's Platform Shoes a Hit with South Shoppers", about how sales of Kim Jong's trademark platforms went up in South Korea. "Having governed for years in obscurity, Kim now is a household name in America's heartland," declared the International Herald Tribune last January, sounding a lot like they were introducing Kim Jong ILat a debutante's ball. Given the way the press talks about his attire and persona, one would think that he was J. Lo or Chloe Sevigny, and not a vicious dictator guilty of deliberately starving and executing his people.

As famous as they are for their style, Lil' Kim and Kim Jong ILdo occupy an awkward space as trendsetting fashion icons. For one thing, their clothes are mercilessly ridiculed by the press and used as ammunition to easily underestimate and dismiss them. The attention paid to Lil' Kim's clothes has at times overshadowed her music, a fact that the rapper admitted sometimes bothered her (Jet, May 2003). And the media's caricature of Kim Jong ILas a cartoonish jumpsuit-wearing lunatic have overshadowed the urgency of confronting the serious human rights abuses of his regime. Kim Jong II's obsession with Hollywood and desire to emulate Prince, Elton John, and fat Elvis in his attire don't really lend much credence towards his fervent anti-capitalist stance, either. At the same time, Lil' Kim's coochie and titty baring clothes and her candid talk of blowjobs cause more than a few people to snicker when the rapper speaks of her strong religious beliefs. As much as Lil' Kim made herself out to be a pillar of self-confidence, she also got a disturbing Michael Jackson-esque racial transformation nose job, and took further steps to turn herself into a Barbie Doll by getting breast implants and liposuction, becoming blonde, and wearing blue contacts. Like modern-day Sphinx's made up of different parts, Kim Jong ILand Lil' Kim have beguiled the public with their riddles and contradictions.

Despite the pitfalls Kim Jong ILand Lil' Kim have to deal with as world infamous fashion icons, they appear to approach fashion as cunning Machiavellian players who carefully choose their clothes in order to gain the attention they think they deserve. They respond to those who critique their image with fearless bragadoccio, and no matter what you think of them you can't help admiring their unyielding belief in their personal style. When asked what she thought about the negative comments made about her revealing clothes, Lil' Kim responded, "My clothes and image are a direct connection to my music. For as many people who have issues with it, there are even more that love it." (Ebony, October 2003). Similarly, Kim Jong ILhas reacted with a stunning disregard for the fact that the world thinks he looks like a crazy turkey with a jerry curl, saying "I know I'm an object of criticism in the world, but if I am being talked about, I must be doing the right things." (BBC News).

The Kook with the Nukes and the Cutie with the Clit have got just the right amount of delusion, audacity, and ego to pull off super crazy outfits. And that touch of ego and delusion is enough to make them memorable figures in pop culture and fashion history.

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