This post originally appeared on our sister site Slate.fr. The post has been translated and lightly edited by L.V. Anderson.
An attack is always traumatic, but the one that Kim Kardashian suffered in the Parisian residence that she was renting goes beyond the category of miscellaneous news as a result of the victim’s fame. Late Sunday night, the most famous of the Kardashian clan was held up by masked men who posed as policemen and stole jewelry worth several million euros, according to sources cited by France Info. The star wasn’t hurt, but she emerged “stunned” by the ordeal. Her husband, the singer Kanye West, dramatically interrupted a concert in New York after learning the news.
The combination of a muse with a certain international glamour, the city of luxury, and an armed robbery, in the middle of Fashion Week, is catastrophic for the capital that has striven for several months to clean up its image in the eyes of foreign tourists. Already under pressure from Airbnb, whose biggest market is in Paris, the traditional tourism industry suffered the fallout from the attacks in Paris and Nice, which had an effect on the number of visits paid to the great landmarks and nights spent in hotels. Even if a “Euro effect” boosting visits from the European consumer base partially offsets the overall extent of the disaffection for the destination, annual revenue in the sector could drop by 10 percent, according to the advisory services firm KPMG.
The convergence of these problems forced Paris to come out of its denial and to accept that it had to fight to preserve it status as the most desirable city in the world. Two weeks before the Kim Kardashian attack, the first visible manifestation of this concern appeared in the form of a commercial presented by the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo (who made an appearance in it). The clip, financed by industry groups and the city as part of a revitalization plan for Paris, was directed by the actor and director Jalil Lespert and focused on touristy visits to all the major sites: the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Elysées, the Louvre, Montmartre. Critics found the proposal too stereotypical, but it signaled that the core audience of the city associated with romanticism—couples who only spend maybe a week of their lives in Paris—is at risk of faltering if nothing is done to correct the situation.
Tough luck. The attack on Kim Kardashian occurred several days after the launch of a video that was supposed to inundate the web, but didn’t end up making much of an impression on social networks. (It will end up being broadcast on institutional distribution channels like long-distance Air France flights and Accor hotels starting in November.) Far away from these distribution networks, the reality star known for having “broken the internet” with a picture of her butt in a fashion magazine is omnipresent in the feeds that drive media attention. Whether with her 48.3 million followers on Twitter or her 29 million followers on Facebook, or her iconic status on Snapchat (which doesn’t make follower counts public), Kim Kardashian is known for documenting plentiful moments of her life on social networks, since her occupation consists of maintaining her own celebrity. She is so influential that Snapchat can invite her to its headquarters to test a preview version of a filter that will then be offered to the masses.
The supreme irony is that Kim Kardashian’s schedule for a week in Paris is the perfect guide for what could have been a commercial for the ostentatious luxury that, whether you like it or not, is the image that inspires a good number of trips to the city. Because what does Kim do when she’s in Paris? She goes out to dinner at the restaurant L’Avenue, makes a stop at the Ritz with her model friends, attends the fashion shows of Balanciaga and Givenchy, goes to the designer Azzedine Alaïa’s home for dinner, etc.
Anne Hidalgo’s chief rival in the mayoral election of 2014, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, jumped at the occasion to describe the attack as a “counter-advertisement” for the city’s image. Meanwhile, Hidalgo published a release to “tell [Kim Kardashian] that she will always be welcome in Paris,” all while responding to Kosciusko-Morizet’s attempt to politicize the event:
In a complicated context for tourism, in which boosting attendance must be the priority of all, using this incident for polemical purposes would amount to directly harming the tourism sector, which represents 500,000 jobs in Ile-de-France.
Given the Kardashians’ influence in global communications, and her love for the Paris of catwalks and ostentatious parties, one hopes that she will shell out a tweet (and a Facebook post, an Instagram photo, a Snap, etc.) to reaffirm her love for Paris after the traumatic experience that she suffered.