For those few who have been far far away on a distant planet, Kim Kardashian is a 30-something US reality TV star, lately prominent in Britain, who has, since becoming famous in 2007, ascended to the level of a symptom in the culture. Keeping Up With The Kardashians, currently in its nth season, is contrived, sensationalist, repetitive and witless, but no more so than a lot of things one enjoys without accusing them of spiritual corruption. The difference in this case is reach. Twitter is an unreliable measure of influence, but Kardashian has nearly 16 million followers, putting her ninth in the world, three places behind Obama. (Lady Gaga is number one; Taylor Swift number eight.) With her two sisters, Khloé and Kourtney, she runs a chain of clothing stores called Dash, has a Las Vegas-based outlet called Kardashian Khaos, promotes makeup and fashion lines under the label Kardashian Kollection, all of which act as window dressing for the business, merely, of being Kim Kardashian: a woman of average looks, seemingly nice, who along with the rest of her family – emotionally speaking – poll dances on TV for tips.
For Kardashian haters, the tipping point was when she filed for divorce from Kris Humphries, a basketball player, after three months of marriage and a blizzard of wedding coverage said to have been worth many millions (she will dispute the numbers). The whole thing looked like a stunt to drum up trade for her TV show, although if it was, it backfired in that for a short while she was reviled as the most cynical woman in America.
Kardashian characterises her typical fan as “a 15 or 16, girl who loves fashion, loves to be a girly girl, loves beauty, glam”, and whom she respects as a backwards projection of herself. If you can overlook the vacant materialism, she is in some ways not a bad role model. She points out that she is not “your stick-skinny typical model”; that she doesn’t go out on benders; that she tries not to swear too much.
Whether or not you approve of Kim, she has wrought a successful business out of thin air. It’s also worth pointing out, given how snotty the fashion industry is towards Kim Kardashian, that to anyone’s knowledge she has never thrown her phone at a personal assistant.
For the record then, what is Kim Kardashian’s talent?
The mastermind behind the Kardashian empire is assumed to be Kris Jenner, mother, manager and ringmaster of her children’s careers, who comes across on the show as a gimlet-eyed monster, wringing every last dollar from the family conceit. Despite her 100% belief in the reality genre, Kim Kardashian has to admit she is very glad she went through adolescence off-camera, unlike her youngest sisters, who were nine and 10 when the show started. (Their father is Caitlyn Marie Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner, the former Olympic athlete and Kris’s second husband, whose career as a motivational speaker she reignited after marrying him. Her first husband, Robert Kardashian, who died in 2003, was OJ Simpson’s lawyer).
The beginning of Kim Kardashian’s career. She found work in a clothing store and liked it so much that, after paying off the car, she kept the job. She started to design her own accessories.
She and her sisters periodically lived with their father at this point, their parents’ marriage having disintegrated after Kris Jenner had an affair with a 22-year-old. Fault lines in the family were, bizarrely, crystallised by the OJ Simpson trial. Kardashian’s mother had been one of Nicole Brown Simpson’s best friends and was supposed to have seen her on the day she was murdered; she believed OJ was guilty. Robert Kardashian was one of OJ’s best friends and defended him.
This was the beginning of the family’s life in the spotlight, although Kim Kardashian had always wanted to be on TV.
Kim inched farther towards her goal when she started knocking around with Paris Hilton, and then, in 2003, she made a sex tape with her then boyfriend, the singer Ray J. The tape was eventually leaked and a star was born.
Not all the endorsement deals have been successful. There was a debit card (“the Kardashian Kard”) that had high hidden fees and from which, after a firestorm in the press, the family distanced themselves; and a diet product that is currently the subject of a lawsuit.
Kardashian has probably attracted more criticism for her decision to pose topless in Playboy and W magazines.
Meanwhile, another generation of Kardashians is emerging to fill the endless hours of scheduling. So, Kim might potentially say no to another season?