By now if you have read any fashion news at all in the last month you’re well aware of the fact that reality TV’s most recent darling, Kim Kardashian is suing clothing retailer Old Navy for what she claims was an intentional attempt to deceive consumers into believing she endorsed the retailer. At the heart of the suit is Old Navy’s “Super C.U.T.E.” commercial that has been airing since early spring, and at the center of the commercial is a young aspiring signer/actress named Melissa Molinaro who bares a very strong resemblance to Kardashian; a resemblance that Kardashian and her lawyers believe was designed to dupe consumers into thinking they were watching Kardashian in the commercial.
Whether you think this lawsuit is justified or just plain ridiculous, it is hard to argue that Molinaro and Kardashian are not very similar in appearance. What Kardashian’s lawyers must prove in court is that this similarity has cost Kim the $20 million dollar sum she is suing for by depriving her of that most lucrative and sought after celebrity possession: the endorsement deal. Kardashian, who is in talks with Sears to release her own clothing label, The Kardashian Kollection, exclusively through their retail locations may not be overreaching as much as that $20 million dollar sum suggests at first glance.
In 1988 Bette Midler pursued a similar suit against Ford Motors after they contracted one of her back-up signers to sing like her in a widely aired Ford commercial. Midler won a partial victory because she was able to prove that not only was it too difficult for the average viewer to discern between her and the imposter but that the similarity was intentional (Ford had originally approached Midler to do the commercial but she declined).
While Kardashian may not have such a neat and tidy way to prove that the casting of a look alike was intentional what she does have on her side is time. It has been over 20 years since Midler’s suit and now more then ever a celebrity is a brand unto themselves, they are more aware of this and take a more aggressive stance when it comes to controlling their public image in the age of the 24-hour news cycle. Kardashian is certainly no exception to this rule. What is most interesting though is if Kim does get the victory she seeks, where does that leave Melissa Molinaro? A world where daring to look, act, or speak too much like an internationally renown celebrity is perfect for today’s modern celebs who in many cases make the lion’s share of their earnings through endorsements, but where does that leave aspiring stars who were (un)lucky enough to be born looking like a certain celebrity?