Of the 80-some-odd years I’ve likely got on this planet (if I’m lucky), I never thought I’d spend even ten minutes of them reading a book by a member of the Kardashian “Klan,” particularly considering that the last Kardashian “book” was little more than a photo collection of cleavage and pursed lips. But I was intrigued when I saw that Khloé had written a book. Why? One, because I have a secret appreciation for her snark and humor. Two, because her life is the only one of the Kardashian family that I find even remotely relatable. And three, because the title of the book, Strong Looks Better Naked, along with the nude cover photo, irked me.
Strong Looks Better Naked. What does that mean? Along with the stripped-down photo, it seems to reinforce the popular but false notion that confidence is measured in one’s willingness to disrobe publicly. Strong women, the thinking goes, aren’t scared of public nudity. This is, of course, absurd. There are plenty of good reasons to insist upon wearing clothes in public, and not liking what’s underneath them doesn’t have to be one of them. Confidence and the notion of privacy are not mutually exclusive. To the extent that the book conflates strength with shamelessness, it does a disservice to people—young women in particular—everywhere.
But far be it for me to literally judge a book by its cover. So I decided to pick up the book, which released in bookstores today, and give it a look.
While I didn’t find a suitable explanation or justification for the title and cover, the book did have many redeeming qualities. It contains some not-so-subtle digs at Kim’s ex Kris Humphries, and it doubles as an advertisement for Khloé’s trainer, nutritionist, and someone named Pastor Brad. It reads like a rambling stream of consciousness, so it can be hard to follow, but overall, I found that despite itself, the book contains some genuinely good advice.
01. A New-Age Version of Optimism
The book is split up into three broad sections: body, mind, and soul. “Body. Mind. Soul. What does that even mean, anyway?” Khloé asks. “And how many of us actually get beyond body?” She then details how, through a series of adversities, she improved her relationship with all three. For her, the path to a healthy body, mind, and soul relationship began with her body and then seeped into other areas of her life.
Admittedly, some of the book is almost comically unrelatable to the average American. And much of it simply puts a modern, rich-lady spin on age-old advice, including—I kid you not—what amounts to an iPhone version of the “glass half full/half empty” metaphor. “There are two kinds of people in this world,” Khloé claims. “One kind drops her iPhone, breaks it, and curses and stamps her feet like a spoiled child. The other one puts the phone back in her back pocket and adds an item to her to-do list: Go to Apple Store. Which would you rather be?” I guess I’d rather be someone who, when she breaks her smartphone, has hundreds of dollars to simply trot to the nearest store and buy another one. But I digress.
02. There’s More Than One Way to Escape
In the first portion of the book, Khloé describes how the gym became an escape from loneliness for her while she was in Dallas and away from family. Later, when she moved back to Los Angeles, it became an oasis from both the paparazzi and her marriage to Lamar Odom, which was, in her words, floundering. And many of her experiences bear life lessons that we can all appreciate.
Voicing the benefits of externalizing stress through exercise, she explained, “My workouts were not about vanity; they were about relieving stress. I had so much going on emotionally, and I was disinclined to talk about it, even with my own family, so the workouts became a form of therapy.”
Eventually, however, exercise became part of the lifestyle change she had been heretofore lacking—a lifestyle absent of fad diets and scales. Now? She exercises because she loves how it makes her feel, she cooks delicious food, and she eats mindfully. Something, no doubt, we all should seek to emulate.
Khloé goes on to detail how she recovered peace of mind in the wake of her father’s death. The answer? Working. After his death, she turned to drinking and partying to numb her pain. Partying led to binge drinking and binge eating. And she found herself very unhappy. Things only turned around when her sister Kourtney intervened and forced her to run their family’s new store, Dash. The added responsibility pushed her out of her slump. “Just getting up, going to work, and being productive changed my entire outlook on life,” Khloé says. Unfortunately, not all of us can simply open up a women’s boutique when life gets tough, but the overarching point here—that sometimes we “need a reason to get out of bed”—is a good one.
03. Everyone, Even Celebs, Must Work Hard
Although Khloé acknowledges her personal privilege, she doesn’t shy away from advising that hard work is necessary for success. According to her—I had no idea—her mom and stepdad were broke after her parents divorced. In response, Kris Jenner started booking Bruce to speak at any and every venue that would take him. Slowly, they built up a client base and, eventually, a fortune. “People look at our extended clan, the Jenner–Kardashians, and they see an empire. And while it’s true that we’ve had more opportunities than most people, we’ve had to fight hard, too. . . . That guy running the movie studio started in the mailroom at the William Morris Agency.” As annoying as it is to hear that from a Kardashian, she’s right.
There is much more to it, but I think the message of her book is that you are in control of your happiness. Setbacks and seemingly bad situations can be overcome if you take positive steps, no matter how small. Discussing her breakup with Odom, she writes, “It hurt like hell. And I wallowed, briefly, and when I’d had enough self-pity, I put one foot in front of the other and kept moving. That’s what strength of mind is all about. You get up and power forward. You become your own engine.”
Ultimately, Khloé’s book conveys very common and universal life lessons through the lens of a very uncommon and particular life. Yes, some of her experiences are absurd: paparazzi following her night and day while her marriage was on the brink, her mother struggling to come to terms with her ex-husband defending a man who she believed killed her best friend, lashing out at her mother because a radio interview didn’t go as planned. But the lessons she’s learned through those experiences are very much in line with the ones that ordinary people learn every day: that sometimes you just need to put in headphones and tune everyone out, that even the most difficult parts of our lives are temporary, and that learning to react to adversity appropriately is important.
After reading the book, I still don’t know what the title Strong Looks Better Naked means. I’d still rather see a strong, beautiful woman who has achieved confidence in her body, mind, and soul buck the trend and stay dressed in her photo shoots. But I have to admit that I got something out of Khloé’s story. In her words, “My goal is to be happy. I know there will be periods of happiness and periods of unhappiness, and like it or not, I will have to live with both. But, my goal is to live a rich, interesting, productive, generous, kind, mindful life full of love.” I can respect that.