A couple of weeks ago, one of the world’s most famous teenagers shared a mirror selfie with her 50 million Instagram followers.“I look like Kylie Jenner tonight,” read the caption. The picture — a jaunty angled and heavily-filtered snapshot of luxurious narcissism — gained a cool 1.3 million likes and over 18,000 comments. Only the young woman in the photo is Kylie Jenner, the 18-year-old reality TV star and burgeoning businesswoman, sister of supermodel Kendall, daughter of Kris and Caitlyn, half-sister to Kim, Khloe, Kourtney and Rob Kardashian — AKA America’s Royal Family. “I’m not the Kylie Jenner on Instagram,” she says when we meet in the reception room of her new home (reported cost, $2.7m), sequestered away in the Truman Show-esque unreality that characterises this particular part of Calabasas. “I’m not Kylie Jenner. That’s my alter-ego,” she says, surrounded by framed pictures of her various magazine covers. So who are you, I ask? “I’m Kylie.”
Revisit the Fame Issue interview…
“I’m not Kylie Jenner. That’s my alter-ego.”
Entering the world of Kylie Jenner, or, just Kylie, is a discombobulating experience. For one thing, Calabasas — a celeb-heavy fortress forty minutes outside central Los Angeles — is an oddly sterile cluster of gated communities, where oversized cars hum quietly past tiny dogs on pretty leads. Entering Kylie’s house, meanwhile, is like stepping into a tabloid; I start to recognise things, but I’m not sure how or why. Outside is a Ferrari I’m sure I’ve seen on various celebrity websites. Inside I’m greeted by Norman and Bambi, Jenner’s Italian greyhounds, who were subject to scrutiny last year following accusations they were being underfed (for what it’s worth, they seem fine; Bambi vigorously dry-humping Norman while they both perch on my lap). Under my feet I recognise the black wood flooring Kylie and Khloe discussed at length during an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, the ludicrously successful reality TV show Kylie’s been on since she was nine. On the shelves next to the roaring fire (outside temperature on a mild LA afternoon: 18 degrees), sits a picture of the family that has, for better or worse, dominated the pop culture landscape for almost a decade.
Their cultural cache has swiftly expanded into cold cash, with Kylie adding her name to a range of hair extensions (Kylie Hair Kouture), nail lacquers (her two colours are Wear Something Spar-Kylie and Rainbow In The S-Kylie, because of course they are) and clothing lines. She’s also co-authored a science fiction novel, 2014’s Rebels: City of Indra: The Story of Lex and Livia, launched an app called Kylie, and recently — following the much-publicised transformation of her own lips — released a range of lipsticks called Lip Kit.
On the surface things seem to be going pretty well for Brand Kylie, but there’s a sense she’s growing tired of the ephemera that goes with fame. Dressed down for the interview in a baggy tracksuit and cream Adidas Yeezy Boosts (designed by brother-in-law Kanye West), there’s not a spot of makeup on her face. Nor, she says, was there any during the cover shoot. “I feel like I didn’t really appreciate that side of me; the very simple, no makeup Kylie. Honestly, it all started with me just getting so sick and tired of having to dress up everyday,” she says, her buzzing iPhone 6 resting in her lap. So it felt like you were playing a role? “I don’t think I was dressing up to be Kylie, because everything that I do is all me. But I did feel a sense of Keeping Up With Myself — like, ‘Ooh I need to come up with a new hair colour or a new cool makeup trick.’”
“I was just so excited to get another car or get all these materialistic things and I realised that when I got them it didn’t make me happy.”
While her sisters have always seemed to relish the various facets of fame, there’s something slightly rabbit-in-the-headlights about Kylie. I tell her about a YouTube clip I watched of her riddled with anxiety before a red carpet; that I was surprised she found it so difficult when the assumption is that she craves attention. “Oh no!” she cries, briefly breaking out from behind the unemotional veneer that seems to descend like an Instagram filter. “It’s not that I don’t want to do it… Yeah, actually I kind of just don’t want to do it anymore. Honestly. But I’ve always been like that. I want to be a businesswoman and be behind- the-scenes. Kylie Jenner needs to retire.” In fact, she often talks about fame like a jaded fifty-something as opposed to an 18-year-old: “I was just so excited to get another car or get all these materialistic things and I realised that when I got them it didn’t make me happy. It didn’t fill the hole in my heart. People will be like, ‘Oh shut up, just go drive your [Mercedes] G-Wagen’ and I’m like, ‘That will not make anyone happy.’That’s not real.”
As you can imagine, Kylie Jenner’s reality is refracted through a very strange prism, but you sense that she’s trying to stay connected with something close to the real world. Her app, for example, features cheaper, high street alternatives to the designer clothes she wears. She’s also started a hashtag, #iammorethan, on Instagram, encouraging people who’ve been bullied to share their stories. “Growing up, I’ve heard the worst things anyone could ever say about me and bullying was such a big part of my life,” she says,“with the whole entire world judging me and stuff. So I started to look towards people with, like, I think, bigger more real issues then I have.” Recent posts have featured a burns victim, a woman with a rare lung disease and a young transgender woman.“They inspire me because I was like,‘I’m getting bullied all the time, but they’re just haters and [these people] deal with real life issues.’”
There are also few of the eccentricities you expect with the unimaginably famous. At one point I ask if she collected anything as a child, and while her initial answer of frogs conjures up images of a mansion covered in amphibians, it turns out she means anything frog- related. “I was obsessed. And I loved rubber ducks — I still have them. Every kind of rubber duck you’ve ever seen in your life. Every birthday all I ever wanted was rubber ducks. It was so weird.” She talks fondly about her future retirement from fame, which involves living on a farm with chickens. “And gardening I want to do so bad,” she adds, gazing outside at her table tennis table and swimming pool. She looks almost wistful, or bored — it’s sometimes hard to tell — so I ask her what her gardening look might be. After 10 seconds of silence, I suggest dungarees. “Yeah, for sure,” she says, a semblance of excitement in her airy LA voice.“That’s super cute. I should be cute while I garden.”
“I feel like I know what’s cool and I like to set trends.”
Before she can think of cleaning out chicken coops, however, she’s keen to keep building up her businesses, which means sustaining her personal brand for a little while longer. I ask her if she can explain why so many people are obsessed with her. “I have no idea. Like, literally, I don’t even know.” As quick as a flash, however, she has an idea. “I don’t want to be bias, but I feel like I know what’s cool and I like to set trends. Even last night I was in the studio with Kanye and he was showing me his new album and he was saying that the cover was totally inspired by my aesthetic. He has his stylist come and steal all my clothes and look at them for inspiration. It’s like that with a lot of people. I don’t know. It’s so big.” Her influence is such that when she initially denied having had her lips injected with fillers, a craze swept across the more moronic corners of the Internet involving using suction and a shot glass to make lips bigger.When she finally told the truth, it only lead to more rumours.“People think that I’ve had everything done. I thought it was going to chill down when I said: ‘OK, I admit it, I got my lips done, I never lied, I just wasn’t telling the whole truth’. And then people took that and were like, ‘Oh well, if she got her lips done she probably got everything done’. People don’t realise I just turned 18, so there’s no way my mum would ever let me undergo a nose job or a boob job.” So why did she feel like she needed surgery at such a young age? “I was just insecure about it and I literally begged my mum for months. Even the guy I was dating at the time didn’t know, or any of my best friends. It was for me and I didn’t want anyone’s opinion.”
Not being offered someone else’s opinion seems like a diminishing luxury in the fairly insular world of a realityTV star. While her small group of friends — two of whom are lazing about upstairs as we chat — are mostly made up of non-famous people, she says it’s easier if her boyfriends are well-known (all talk of on-off beau Tyga is verboten). Hers is a life of accelerated dreams. “I feel like I’ve accomplished so much and done so many things,” she says. “I’ve done things that like 30-year-old women haven’t got the chance to do. I don’t even beef with anybody,” she says suddenly. “There’s no point, because all I have to say is that I’m 18 and I’ve done more than you ever have. It’s so crazy.” The craziness she describes never seems to inflict itself upon her demeanour which rarely strays from neutral, even when she’s talking about her father, whose transition from Bruce to Caitlyn became a global fascination. “I mean, obviously I knew about it my whole life, but it was never admitted to and then when it was all said and done, I honestly just wanted to not be lied to,” she states, before reading a message on her phone. “I just wanted honesty and no secrets. I’m OK with everything, as long as everyone’s honest.” She says she’s immensely proud of what Caitlyn — who she still calls “dad” (“I could call her mum, I’m not against it, I’m just saying it’s not correct.”) — has achieved in bringing transgender issues into the mainstream.“I want to encourage people to live their life, you know?”
“Nobody really knows who I am.”
For now, Kylie’s happy to carry on being Kylie Jenner for as long as she needs to. She’s also keen to strike a better life balance; spending more time with her friends, going on hikes and watching the sunset. “Nobody really knows who I am,” she says. “People think that because we have a reality TV show that they know everything, but it’s like, I’m not filming right now.That’s maybe 5% out of my day.” If you stopped being famous as of tomorrow, would you miss it? “See, I think about that sometimes,” she says, suddenly alert. “I don’t think so –– I would miss a part of it, but I would enjoy that next chapter of my life. I’d enjoy being normal.”