One of the oldest love stories is that of Romeo & Juliet. Frequently performed onstage and read in high school English classes everywhere, it’s an oft-retold story of two star-crossed lovers that are forbidden from being with each other as soulmates due to the feuds and boundaries of their family lineage. The young couple meets up in secret but eventually (after a lot of unnecessary death and some other stuff I didn’t read in high school) they decide the only way they can be together is if they resort to drastic measures. Spoiler alert: they both die.
Imagine this folklore with a happy ending… or a happier ending than two dead teenagers. Instead, it begins with the clash of two families, a meteoric rise to fame and then, despite race and class divides, eventual love and the creation of a new family… all on the E! Network, of course.
The latter, happier tale is that of Blac Chyna and Robert Kardashian. The duo is by no means unknown, but their respective fame was given to them for very different reasons. To put it summarily, Robert Kardashian and Blac Chyna did not grow up or come to the public eye in similar circumstances.
Robert Kardashian is the only son of the late Robert Kardashian Sr., an attorney, and Kris Jenner, the mastermind of the incredibly successful, hit reality TV show Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Kardashian’s family is (depending on who you ask) as close to a royal family as America has, with their fame and wealth knowing no bounds. That said, any dedicated watcher of their television show would know Rob Kardashian is a bit of a black sheep, having struggled with finding a career in a family of hard-earned success stories, depression and accompanying weight gain. Kardashian is not exactly the model member of his family. That’s Kendall Jenner‘s gig.
Blac Chyna was born Angela White and she did not grow up with nearly as much wealth or privilege as the Kardashians. She was raised in urban Washington D.C. and she began stripping at a young age, which led to modeling in urban men’s magazines and eventual appearances in many rap music videos, including as Nicki Minaj’s body double and then her life-changing appearance in Tyga’s “Rack City.” Blac Chyna eventually dated and had a child with Tyga, naming the baby boy King Cairo. The couple split and according to many, the breakup was due to the underage sister of the aforementioned Robert Kardashian, Kylie Jenner. Jenner is Tyga’s current girlfriend. From there, Chyna and Jenner engaged in some shady spats on and off social media.
Then it happened, the impossible: Blac Chyna posted a photo on Instagram featuring a loving arm around her, belonging to none other than Robert Kardashian, recognizable by his tattoos. A whirlwind courtship ensued and the couple got engaged with news leaking that they were expecting a child… the last Kardashian child, the only heir to the infamous family name.
Keeping Up With The Kardashians watchers will have seen the family’s reaction to the relationship. They seemed angry and betrayed, the rumors were that they felt Chyna was not worthy of them or villainous and they silently put their heads in their hands, distancing themselves and then in time reluctantly accepting. This is all a story you most likely know, as it’s been mentioned in every celebrity gossip-related publication and conversation ever.
The narrative on social media, in tabloids and the seeming general consensus all painted Blac Chyna as the lucky winner of the sugar daddy-lottery. It was not uncommon to see social media posts congratulating Chyna for her ability as a vixen or seductress to score a man and get revenge. Rob Kardashian was chastised by some for being “trapped.”
Here’s the part of the story that doesn’t seem to be widely told: Blac Chyna is not lazy. She is not without her own income, businesses or ambitions. Chyna is a graduate of JLS Makeup Artist School and she owns her own business, Lashed Bar, which offers makeup classes, eyelash extensions and several other cosmetic services. Reviews of the beauty bar have been almost resoundingly good. Similarly, she owns a line of fake eyelashes and also an online clothing boutique. In addition, pre-pregnancy Chyna was paid to host parties and make appearances. She also has a line of emojis and is paid to make Instagram and social media endorsements due to her large following. On top of all of these accomplishments, Blac Chyna is a mother, who frequently posts pictures of her baby and is wholly committed to raising him as best she can.
I admire Blac Chyna and view her as a hero because, in a narrative that is both racist and elitist, she comes out a winner, despite all of the odds. In opposition to the assumed laziness or gold-digging, Chyna, the soon to be Angela Kardashian, is not being given the gift of cash or money. Those are things she had before. Chyna has found love and a new family with someone that loves her. Chyna has overcome the barriers placed in front of her by slut-shaming and she hasn’t sacrificed her sexuality or sexual expression. She is carefree, in love and making money. Robert Kardashian and Chyna are even slated to star in a reality show coming soon entitled Rob & Chyna.
Blac Chyna is a modern day hero because as much as nobody wants to admit it, she completely beat the odds. She ran laps around public opinion, racism and elitism. And she won the ultimate trophy, which wasn’t money or fame but was instead true love and motherhood. In the process, she also helped Robert Kardashian do things his own family couldn’t.
Not only has Chyna reached a period of extreme professional success, she has actually been a major asset in the youngest Kardashian’s struggle to find health, mentally and physically. Rob Kardashian is rumored to have lost a large amount of weight, has made recent public appearances after a reclusive period of isolation and is according to those that know him, the happiest he has ever been.
Let’s take a moment to look at the Kardashians: though often ridiculed, but they are never accused of gold-digging or sexual conspiracy. Their relationships don’t face the skepticism of a racist or elitist scope, though their careers post-public awareness do closely mirror Chyna’s. They did not start their careers stripping because they did not have to and did not want to… and what’s more appropriate is that, even if they had, that should not invalidate or be the reason for skepticism of their current career and personal success. In particular, American culture tends to paint African-American women as not being worthy of their earnings, and this is only made worse when combined with the classic “Jezebel” trope. This isn’t to say that the Kardashians aren’t slut-shamed because that would be wholly incorrect, but the Kardashians’ sexual expression is not their sole or master status and they are usually credited for their businesses and successes, whereas many seem to erase Blac Chyna’s professional ambitions.
Even if Chyna and Rob broke up, here’s the bottom line: We watched an African-American woman reach beyond a sexist, racist and elitist rhetoric to achieve success, and to give us a love story even better than that of Romeo & Juliet. She is an example of a multi-faceted human being in a society that prefers women (especially African-American women) to be solely mothers or solely “hoes” with their whole identity reliant on their assigned cultural labels. This story is better because these odds were even tougher and nobody came out dead, but instead with a reality show, a baby and a wedding. Their story has the best ending of all: happily ever after.