'I Am Cait' Premiere Balances Fashion and Family With Transgender Activism

The docu-series, which debuted Sunday, follows Caitlyn Jenner after her highly publicized gender transition.
Avatar:
Chantal Fernandez
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
443
The docu-series, which debuted Sunday, follows Caitlyn Jenner after her highly publicized gender transition.
Caitlyn Jenner gets her hair and makeup done before her mother sees her as Caitlyn for the first time. Screengrab: E!

Caitlyn Jenner gets her hair and makeup done before her mother sees her as Caitlyn for the first time. Screengrab: E!

On Sunday night, "I Am Cait" made its E! debut, and the creators wasted no time in making clear what viewers can expect from next seven episodes of the documentary series. One, they will witness the aftermath of Caitlyn Jenner's very public gender transition in an intimate way, including its effect on her famous family; and two, see her become an advocate for the transgender community at large by telling stories of adversity, tragedy and acceptance. It's a challenging balancing act, especially considering how vapid the many makeup chair and closet-cleaning scenes typically are on "Keeping Up with The Kardashians" ("KUWTK"). And yet, by keeping the tone intimate and sincere throughout, fashion and beauty scenes become moments of poignant female bonding and transition naturally to documentary-style interviews with people outside the Jenner/Kardashian family.

The camera lingers on Jenner's white pumps. Screengrab: E!

The camera lingers on Jenner's white pumps. Screengrab: E!

The audience wants to see Jenner's beauty routine and sense of style, and the show delivers. Jenner gets her makeup done and her hair curled before welcoming her mother to her home for the first time since her transition, wearing a stunning white blazer, trousers and pointed pumps. She wonders if she should wear a necklace, and her stylist advises she buttons her shirt higher "because it's mom." But unlike the "About Bruce" special episodes of "KUWTK," Jenner is not insecure or hesitant about her style on "I Am Cait." There are no discussions of what her hair or makeup should look like, nor does she look unaccustomed to the "glam team" treatment. She is nervous about introducing her new self to her family, but never second guesses her appearance. 

Jenner plays tennis in full hair and makeup. Screengrab: E!

Jenner plays tennis in full hair and makeup. Screengrab: E!

Her style is sleek and minimal, even when playing tennis in a short skirt. "Now I know why girls need a sports bra," she says. "It gets a little harder when you start running."

Jenner tries on Kylie's turquoise hair extensions. Screengrab: E!

Jenner tries on Kylie's turquoise hair extensions. Screengrab: E!

Her youngest daughter Kylie comes over and they bond as Jenner's hair stylist puts in extensions from Kylie's own line. Yes, it's a product promotion, but it's also a sweet scene as Jenner indulges her daughter's project by modeling it herself. 

Jenner welcomes Kim Kardashian and Kanye West to her home. Screengrab: E!

Jenner welcomes Kim Kardashian and Kanye West to her home. Screengrab: E!

For Kim Kardashian and Kanye West's visit, Jenner wears a bold DVF wrap dress covered in red lips. West then gets his own product plug moment, showing off his Adidas Energy Boost ESMs to much adoration from the women. 

Good thing Kardashian knows her mom's closet inside and out — Kris Jenner has the same Tom Ford dress. Screengrab: E!

Good thing Kardashian knows her mom's closet inside and out — Kris Jenner has the same Tom Ford dress. Screengrab: E!

Kim takes another look at Jenner's closet, as she did in the "About Bruce" episodes, and is happy to see sleek, minimal and solid everyday separates and dresses. She scolds Jenner for holding on to a striped cotton dress and tells her she and Kris Jenner have the same Tom Ford long-sleeve zipper dress. Stay tuned for a "Who Wore It Best" moment. 

Jenner visits Kyler Prescott's mother, Katherine. Screengrab: E!

Jenner visits Kyler Prescott's mother, Katherine. Screengrab: E!

But when Jenner goes to visit the family of Kyler Prescott, a transgender teen who committed suicide, she respectively tones down her look. In black pants and a black long sleeve shirt, she listens to Kyler's mother tell her son's story and joins Prescott's friends and family in a memorial service balloon release by the beach in his honor. 

Jenner in a group hug at Kyler Prescott's memorial service. Screengrab: E!

Jenner in a group hug at Kyler Prescott's memorial service. Screengrab: E!

Suicide is a major theme of the episode, and Jenner admits to having considered ending her life at a particularly dark moment. The preview scenes for the rest of the season promise to continue spotlighting transgender people and their personal bravery, as well as scenes of Jenner traveling, meeting new people and helping her family get to know her new identity. Unlike "KUWTK," which focused on contrived drama, "I Am Cait" needs no faux storyline. She has more than enough to show and tell the audience.

"I don't want people dying over this, I don't want people being murdered over this stuff," says Jenner in the opening scene of the episode. "What a responsibility I have towards this community. Am I going to do everything right? Am I going to say the right things?" Stating that she might not succeed in balancing everything she wants to communicate on "I Am Cait" is a vulnerable admission — but if the first episode is any indication, Jenner has found a space on reality television to finally be herself and serve a higher cause at the same time. It's no easy feat, but she is an Olympian.