Kim Kardashian stepped out—or rather stood out—at a Los Angeles Shell station last night. She was wearing a long-sleeve and curve-hugging black Balenciaga dress with heels and large sunglasses. Her accessory of choice was a hulking gas nozzle that she held firmly in her hand (is she as flummoxed with the high oil prices as the rest of us?). And it’s not Kardashian’s first dalliance with refined oil and fashion. Since the early 2010s, the gas station has become a paparazzi pit stop for the reality star turned mogul.
In June 2021, shortly after filing for divorce from Kanye West, she opted for a vintage Christian Dior black leather dress and a blazing orange leather jacket by Yeezy that not only matched the leather interior of her car, but also the Shell symbol. While exiting the backseat of her silver Maybach in 2019, she was friskily mummified in an iridescent green turtleneck bandage dress. Only a few months before that, Kardashian stepped out from the passenger’s seat and entered the mini mart to purchase who knows what, all while dressed in an archival lace-trimmed purple, blue, and lime green Versace dress hailing from fall 1996. In 2017, after years of wearing big name brands, she opted for a jersey skirt by the then indie but now big brand Eckhaus Latta to get snacks at a gas station’s convenience store. This was Kim’s venture into the great underground.
All of these scenarios feel as if they are plucked out of a lookbook—meaning they seem staged. And sure enough, the gas station step-and-repeat was immortalized in a paparazzi-style shoot for Yeezy season 6 back in 2018. It was a cheeky partnership with the photo agency Splash News that used real paparazzi to capture Kardashian wearing a bevy of sand- and concrete-hued, skintight pieces by Yeezy.
The fascination with celebs at the pump is nothing new. It’s a classic “Stars—They’re Just Like Us!” moment. Actors head there in their spandex post-workout to fill up their Range Rovers (there are dozens of images of Ben Affleck fueling his sports cars.) The juxtaposition of high fashion against the humble station makes it all the more transfixing. Look to Bella Hadid, who made her moment a full-blown meme. Back in January, the model was filmed stepping out of her Mercedes Benz G-Wagon, talking on the phone and wearing a paparazzi-ready look: über-low-slung baggy gray wind pants and an American Girl–sized crop top. Earlier this summer, the short clip titled “Bella Hadid at the gas station” was reimagined by thousands of TikTok users who recreated Hadid’s mindless pump antics. Hadid herself even got in on the fun, and made her own meta TikTok.
The gas station has long served as the boring backdrop for glam and just plain oddities. While researching images of celebrities at the pump, I came across one of a nun. In the photographer’s mind—and many minds—she was out of her element and instead just a normal human fulfilling a quotidian task.
Of course, when Kardashian hits the petrol station in her high glam way, she’s pumping with a purpose. It’s glammed-up banality at its finest. Most of Kardashian’s outings are accompanied by incredibly detailed descriptions that these paparazzi wire agencies use to talk about her outfits. One description on Splash about Kardashian’s barely-there top and slip skirt in 2017 reads: “Kim Kardashian seen making a stop at a gas station to pick up a packet of Haribo after having dinner with friends in Brentwood.”
Kardashian is showing the world that the most sought-after woman can be in a normal setting—one that only underscores how high-octane her look really is. Thanks to whatever haute thing she is wearing, Kardashian makes the setting extremely abnormal and creates an entertaining image. This is most likely Kardashian’s intention all along. Stars—They Aren’t Just Like Us!