Eve Barlow trails the story of Kween K and the Kardashian dynasty – Earth’s most followed fam.
Mid-way through a 10am interview with Kim Kardashian on a Sunday morning, my attempts to protect her from the threat of unseen, yet omnipresent, paparazzi almost knock her out. There we were, sat on the serene balcony of a Malibu residence, the location for today’s Wonderland shoot and Kim Kardashian West in full – or “KKW” as she’s referred to on email – is casually beginning every answer with a Valley girl “To-tally” (twenty-two “totally”s in total over the course of our conversation). Nothing is sacred when your life has been broadcast to the world via 12 seasons – and counting – of E! series Keeping Up With The Kardashians.
Kim chats about whether her third husband Kanye West shares night feeds for their six-month-old son, Saint. He doesn’t. Kanye’s “hands-on, but he’s not a night guy”. He’s great with North, their three-year-old daughter. When Kim asks Kanye to watch Saint, she returns to find her husband passed out on the bed. “I’m like, ‘That’s not how this is supposed to go!’”
Today, her heart-shaped face is what’s termed “pre-glam” – bare, to you and I. It is teeny, unblemished, and gently pointed at the chin like the peach Emoji she uses on Snapchat. That peach Emoji could describe either her facial cheeks or her other cheeks, depending on how cheeky you’re feeling. “I wear no makeup at home. My husband loves a fresh face,” she says. “I used to hate this bump on my nose.” She rubs the bump. I don’t see a bump. “Hated it. Now I love that it makes me look more ethnic. People think I’ve had my nose done. I haven’t.” Pause. “It does look smaller. Maybe it’s the contour I use.
“Ah-woo, my shoulders!” cry-laughs Kim. A gust of wind comes shooting around the side of the balcony. There’s an almighty CRASH!
The wind shouldn’t have been a problem, but moments before her arrival, with the aid of her smiley security guard Sonny, I erected a 10-foot tall, solid wood screen behind Kim’s chair on this exposed balcony to conceal her from potential prying snappers. Kim’s level of fame is on par with that of the late Princess Diana, so you adopt a CIA mindset around her. Having secured the balcony’s perimeter, Sonny and I looked to the open sky, then to each other. No words were exchanged, but ours was a deep understanding. If helicopter paps came, and there wasn’t enough time to move Kim inside, I would have to sit on her.
As laughter turns to near-silent shriek, I jump up. “I’m OK, thank you so much for grabbing that!” says Kim, drama-free, as I liberate her from a plank of mahogany. Sonny too bolts to action via the balcony doors. Kim laughs, apologetically. “Thank you,” she repeats. “It’s not your fault.”
The accident came, oddly, while Kim was relating a tale about her neighbour, comedian Kathy Griffin, who has been snooping on Kim too, albeit unintentionally. Kim walks around her Beverly Hills home naked. One day her mother Kris called her from pal Kathy’s kitchen and told her that her “glam room” was visible from Griffin’s window. She and Kanye installed a hedge. Kim keeps forgetting to send flowers to Kathy to apologise. “I hope I’m not ruining Kathy’s life, gah!”
Kim’s is a dainty, cushioned figure that turned the internet into a giant think-piece, largely due to that derriere. Her behind takes you by surprise when she stands up, in the same way a baby-sized open parachute would surprise you if it was attached to someone’s back. It probably qualifies for a display in the Louvre. Peach-y bum aside, there’s a lot more riding on Kim’s still-intact shoulders. It’s hard to keep up with her, never mind her family. But let’s start with them.
In 2017, Keeping Up With The Kardashians will turn 10. Their public history begins in 1995, when Kim’s father Robert Kardashian defended OJ Simpson, a trial that was televised for 134 days – and has now been revisited via FX series The People Vs OJ Simpson – turning many of its figures into overnight celebrities. If you think about it, Dad birthed the concept of reality TV. Kim’s mother Kris had already separated from Robert and re-married Olympic hero Bruce (now transitioned to Caitlyn) Jenner in 1991. Robert died when Kim wasn’t yet 23 in 2003, the same year she filmed a sex tape with then-boyfriend Ray J, which would leak in 2007. Later, in October of 07, the family appeared on their E! network show, which documented the everyday happenings of Kim and her sisters, including elder sis Kourtney, and younger siblings Khloe and Rob. The Jenner children – Kylie and Kendall, her half-sisters – would also appear. “We’ve created the best memories,” Kim says today.
“I could have it go on forever if people were interested.” The show is the ultimate memorial to Robert, sealing the family as the architects of fly-on-the-wall TV. The content may seem like wallpaper melodrama, but there’s something to be said for the fact that the Kardashians have become the most consistent, functional family unit in many of its viewers’ lives, a unit that breaks conventions of mother/father roles, featuring bi-racial relationships (Kim/Kanye, Rob/Blac Chyna – not her birth name), Rob’s depression, and the most notorious sex change ever.
“People learn a lot,” says Kim. “Let’s just pick the trans issue. With our step-dad [Caitlyn] transitioning, I got letters from people saying: ‘I went through that, I had no one to talk to, your show helped.’ Our family might be a bit different, but that’s what’s so satisfying to me.” As someone who doesn’t watch the show, I listen to her tell me about her family as I would with a friend over coffee. Brother Rob has “come out of his shell, and he’s feeling so much happier”. She worries about sisters Kendall and Kylie. “I worry about all of them. Khloe, Kourtney… When Kendall’s having anxiety, it’s hard. Kylie puts her heart and soul into her makeup business. It’s a lot for a 19-year-old, she can handle it.” She’s less worried than she used to be. Kourtney, Khloe and Kim once had access to Kendall and Kylie’s Facebook passwords. “We’d spy on them. Nothing was crazy or alarming. They were totally normal.” Indeed, everything is relative.
The day we meet, Kendall Jenner appears on the cover of American Vogue. The internet is shit-stirring, suggesting Kim will be green with envy. Are you jealous, Kim? “No! She’s a model. She should be on the cover. I love that Anna [Wintour, first name terms] loves Kendall and gets this new generation. There’s nothing prouder for me than seeing my little sister on the cover of fucking American Vogue!” She smirks at herself. “I mean… I’ve been on the cover of US Vogue, ha!”
The biggest misconception about Kim is that she’s empty-famous, that they all are famous for being famous. And yet here we are on a Sunday morning ready for a 10-hour photoshoot. Kim says she takes longer to get dressed than Kanye does. She’s made a woman’s work her job. “Even if I have nothing to do on the weekends, I get up, work out, have my routine. I don’t like to sit around. I worked in my dad’s office for years, I worked in a clothing store in High School, I love to work. I think the misconception’s changing.” Kim’s achievements have eclipsed the show’s, hence her special relationship with mother, Head of Kardashian Ops, Kris.
“We’re coming up together. We figure out our business model just the two of us. No guidance, no real advice. We’ve learned a lot from each other,” she says. “And oh my god, when I was giving birth to my daughter I looked at my mother and said: ‘You deserve a fucking medal. You did this six times?!’ I understand her love for her babies more now, because I’m so obsessed with mine.”
Beyond giving birth to her second child, this year Kim made the cover of Forbes having banked – so the cover line says – “$45m from one game”. Her net worth currently stands at $52.5m, due to her three apps (KIMOJI, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood and her official one), her book Selfish (a collection of selfies), her work-out tapes, clothing and makeup businesses, and beyond. At the time of going to print, she has 127 million Twitter and Instagram followers. She out-schooled former friend Paris Hilton by turning her sex tape leak into an empire, taking her out of victim culture and female objectification and putting her in the driver’s seat of her own body image and intrinsically-linked business ventures.
Her “nude selfies ’til I die” philosophy has challenged attitudes to body-shaming, even encouraged European designers to build haute couture lines for her non-waifish figure. That said, she doesn’t necessarily feel like being photographed naked every day. “I did a shoot recently and was like: ‘Thank god this is about my legs.’ Sometimes I’m so over my ass.” The paps, however, are less easy to control. “Sometimes photographers will get down and zoom in on my butt. So I’ll put my hand over my butt. It’s my way of saying: ‘Fuck you, stop laying on the ground just to get a picture up my ass.’ Literally they’re constantly up my ass and I’m over it.”
Her empowered stance is the reason people were disappointed this week when Kim said she wasn’t a “feminist”. She has a blog in drafts ready to upload to her website “tomorrow” addressing it. “I see so many people claiming that they are a feminist and they don’t do shit to act like it.” She waves her hands. “I act ten times more of a feminist than some people that stand there and march. I definitely believe in all rights for women. I just don’t like labels.”
In May 2014, Kim married the most avant-garde rock star of the millennium at a fortress in Florence. Kanye West, the rapper who has a fan in inventor Elon Musk and has been compared to David Bowie by The Guardian, no doubt boosts Kim’s street-appeal. Like a Royal marriage, it’s hard to know whether it’s true love, but Kim’s upper tier wealth bankrolls his creative freedom and we might thank her in 50 years time for that. Kim’s co-starred in his music videos, most recently the ones for singles “Wolves” and “Famous”. “I hate talking about myself like: ‘Well I’ve been the biggest muse!’ I’m hands-on with his fashion. What he raps about…” she hesitates. “When he was recording [2013 album] Yeezus, I was so pregnant and miserable. He had this aggression. You can hear it. He wasn’t used to this life with me. He was super famous before, but the paparazzi life is a different world. So he went to France to record that album. When I first heard it I thought – ‘This is different.’”
Last summer, Kanye announced he wanted to run for President in 2020. How seriously is he taking the campaign? Is Kim prepared to be First Lady? She laughs.“Look at all the awful things they’re doing to Melania [Trump], putting up the naked photos [of her]… I’ll say to Kanye: ‘Babe, you know the kind of photos they’d put up of me!’ Haha.” Who would he be running for? “I don’t wanna put words in his mouth, but I’m pretty sure the Democrats. Maybe independent? I don’t know how serious he is about it. We’ll see…”
One night in London, Kim couldn’t sleep. Kanye was out for the count, as per. It was “four in the morning” and she was zoning. She called her best friend, entrepreneur Jonathan Cheban: ‘I’m so bored, talk to me.’ He told Kim to join Snapchat – a social media platform she’d previously ignored. He walked her through it, setting up a secret account she played with before officially joining this March. “He told me all these people to follow like: ‘Oh my god, you’re gonna die. I would either never hang out with them again or I’d want to hang out with them. We were dying laughing…’”
“I don’t wanna say,” she smiles.
Kim is far from perfect, which is why she’s so relatable. She’s come under fire for not wielding her platform for enough good in the past. The whole Kardashian clan have been having “meeting after meeting” about future charitable ventures. “There’s definitely more that we can do. We’ve been researching how to create our own foundation within the whole family. We’ll each have different causes in one hub,” she says. Up until now she has been keen to keep her charity work out of the TV show, preferring to keep the experience personal.
“I really want to figure out what is in my heart 100%. I’ve been speaking out a lot on gun control,” she says. Kim wrote a blog in July in response to the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Being mother to an African American son in this climate must make her a staunch Black Lives Matter supporter. “Absolutely. But first and foremost, anyone that’s compassionate would feel a type of way about that and would want to get involved. Having a black husband, a son, even my daughter… It’s a conversation that’s always in our household. I wanna raise my kids to not be afraid of people that are supposedly trusted.” The police? “Yeah. What a crazy time.”
Beyond the do-gooding, Kanye and Kim are going into business together. They’ll be launching a “Saint and North-inspired children’s clothing line”, which they’ve still not cleared the name for. There’s a second upcoming “tech” project of Kim’s too – which again must remain secret for now.
As for more concrete ideas, Kim says she has a 10-year plan, but she’s looking even further down the line. “If things slow down and I had time, I really wanna go to law school – just something I can do in my older age.” She’s also flirting with interning with a member of Johnnie Cochran’s team, the defence lawyer who worked with her father on the OJ trial. They’ve remained close. “Or I could become a forensic investigator. That would be my ultimate. I can really investigate things.” She lets out a jolly giggle.
Before we leave, and I sign a release form in the event this later makes it into an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Kim ponders her own fearlessness. “There’s been times when things have happened in my family and I thought our careers were over. I’d say: ‘Girls I hope you’ve saved up your money, because it’s over for us — but we got each other, so let’s all move to an island and have some fun now.’” There’s a lot resting on Kim Kardashian’s shoulders, but she shares the load. “If I’ve got Kanye, if I’ve got my family, then fuck the whole world.”
Words: Eve Barlow
Photography: Petra Collins
Fashion: Zara Mirkin
Hair: Shlomi Mor
Makeup: Allan Avendano for EX1 Cosmetics at Starworks Artists, using EX1 Invisiwear Liquid Foundation, EX1 Blusher and Delete Concealer
Nails: Kimmie Kyees for Opi at Celestine Agency / Set Designer: Lauren Nikrooz
Photographer Assistant: Cody Williams Smith
1st Fashion Assistant: Jordan Wright
2nd Fashion Assistant: Chalis Harris
Set Designer Assistant: John Carchietta
Producer: Erica Cornwall
Taken from Wonderland’s Autumn 2016 Fashion Issue, out now!