I hope everyone enjoyed my presentation last week on the Kardashians and their use of social media & digital business! I really loved all of the questions I received and am going to use my blog post this week to better answer some of the questions I got.
How much of a role does Kris Jenner currently play as a manager in their lives?
I couldn’t find a solid answer to this question. Most online sources still discuss Kris as the manager, or “momager” of the family. It seems that she is still taking 10% of her children’s profits as manager, which is actually a pretty reasonable amount considering the standard percentage for a manger is 15%. Interestingly enough, Kris was able to broker an incredibly lucrative deal with E! for five more seasons of the show. The cost for E!? $150 million dollars. As TMZ reports, “In this case, of the $150 million, $15 million will be taken off the top for Kris. As we reported, the remaining $135 million will be split among the family as they see fit. And remember … Kris gets a piece of that pie.” Love her or hate her, she’s good at her job and we’ll be seeing Keeping Up airing until at least 2019.
Why are they so famous/why is our culture so fixated on them?
I tried to answer this question briefly during the Q&A but I wanted to give a more thorough response because I think this is the most perplexing question people have. While many have been trying to figure out the answer to this question for years now, I think it comes down to a perfect storm of events. First, there is the presence of celebrity in American culture. For years, the idea of fame has been a fascination to the American people. Our glorification of celebrity culture has been a longstanding tradition that the United States seems to do better than any other country. Through the media, whether that be tabloids, TV shows dedicated to discussing celebrities, advertisements, articles, award shows, etc., celebrities are viewed as living the dream life. They are beautiful, rich, successful people who dress well, travel often, and enjoy life. In the past, being a celebrity meant being an amazing actor, singer, dancer, or otherwise talented individual. That requirement has largely changed. Who needs (or wants) to be an actor when Kim and her family landed the best gig of all time- being themselves for a job!
A report by the Pew Research Center found that 51% of 18-to-25 year olds said their most or second-most important life goal was to become famous. 64% said their first or second goal was to become rich (The Guardian). Celebrity culture is nothing new, it has been apart of the American way for decades now. What reality shows did was change how we consume celebrity culture. With reality TV, the viewer gets an inside look at the intimate details of lives that would otherwise be going on without cameras there. While much of reality TV is apparently scripted, the viewer suspends this doubt to enjoy the voyeuristic pleasure that comes with being allowed inside another family’s home. The Kardashians were never afraid to bare it all onscreen, and frequently discuss and argue major events going on in their lives with the cameras rolling. Why would anyone want to read a report of the latest Kardashian drama in TMZ, when they could watch Kylie and Khloé smack talk their brother’s new wife right on their TV?
As the Kardashians wealth increased throughout the years, their home, clothing, handbag collection, and car lineup also got upgrades. It is safe to say that they are fans of conspicuous consumption. All of these things made the show even more compelling to watch, playing on materialistic and capitalistic aspirations of many Americans. Another less discussed factor that contributed to their fame is American princess culture. For a country without a royal family, we certainly are obsessed with the idea of princesses. Disney and other children’s movie companies cultivate this, with young girls growing up with a ubiquitous multi-billion dollar business of princess products. For people in my generation and younger, the Kardashians are like real-life princesses who live in the golden land of Calabasas, Los Angeles. They preside in their multi-million dollar mansions, spend much of their time focusing on their beauty/products to enhance their beauty, and are constantly playing dress up with expensive designer gowns for exclusive A-list events. The Kardashian lifestyle is the unabashed embrace of lavishness, and the fact that they are a family creates a synergy that puts them on the level of a “royal” family.
There is another facet to their fame, and it goes by the name of beauty. We live in a looks-based society, and the Kardashians make sure to make beauty and nudity a priority. Comparing old pictures of the family to present day photos, it is obvious that exercise and cosmetic procedures have been a top priority of the family. They work hard for their beauty, and never shy from dressing sexually and showing it off. The Kardashians, with the exception of Kendall, are also a curvy bunch. They accentuate and embrace their curves while still working hard to have a flat stomach. Their fame luckily coincided with a time in American beauty standards where being “healthy fit” and having curves (in the right places) is seen as hotter than the almost-frail Paris Hilton look popularized in the 90s/2000s. Whether it be through their countless magazine spreads, red carpet appearances, provocative Instagram posts, or revealing Snapchat stories, they are all consciously aware that being “hot” is an incredibly valued asset in today’s society.
This has been a prominent point of controversy for the family. In a time when the hyper-sexualization of women is everywhere, here comes a family that openly embraces showing off their bodies. Is Kim a feminist role model for being comfortable enough with her body to embrace and share it, while being a powerful self- made businesswoman? Or is she the antithesis of feminism for her constant nude selfies, only promoting her exclusionary personal brand and reinforcing the idea that women should solely be valued for their bodies? The jury is not out on that one. An article from Eleanor Morgan articulates the complex position well by noting, “We can talk about the patriarchy and the male gaze until we are blue in the face, and we should, of course we should, but the fact remains: Kardashian chooses to get her tits out. She wants to, even though she doesn’t “need” to” (The Guardian).”
How much of it came down to luck?
While no one could know the true answer this question with certainty, I would argue that the amount of the luck the Kardashian’s had is pretty equal to that of any other celebrities who got lucky and became famous in Hollywood. Let’s compare the Kardashians to another wealthy celebrity family they have ties to: The Hiltons. Paris Hilton was born into the Hilton Hotel empire, was born blonde and skinny, and parlayed these features into multiple reality TV programs, fame, and a (then) powerful personal brand. Paris was notoriously unprofessional- being late to meetings, uncommunicative, unprofessional on set, etc. Let’s compare this to the Kardashians. They were not born with immense wealth or the “look” of the time period. Instead, Kris was headstrong about wanting to turn the family famous and worked incredibly hard to do so. According to people that work with the Kardashians, they are notoriously professional, on time, and on target about what they want. For example, Niccolo de Masi (CEO of Whalerock– developer of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood game) says: “She responds to my texts faster than my own employees!” (Forbes). This commitment is seen through their namesake show, Keeping Up with The Kardashians. After 10 years, it is the longest running reality show with the same recurring cast. The Kardashians’ professionalism and close relationship with E! arguably created the most notable reality TV show in history (and plenty of spin-offs).
Is Kylie Jenner pregnant?
If I had to answer I would say yes, for a few reasons. Kylie has been interestingly quiet about the allegations. Normally she would turn to Twitter to shut down an outlandish accusation but this time she has remained completely silent. In addition, she normally posts revealing Snaps/Instagrams of her body but everything has been confined to her face or close-up body shots recently. When it comes to Kris, her responses only add to the suspicion that she is in fact pregnant. On Ellen, Ellen tried asking Kris about Khloé and Kylie’s purported pregnancies and Kris gave evasive and vague responses. If the rumors were false, one would presume that Kris would say so. And despite talk that Caitlyn Jenner made a statement that it “had happened some time ago” this report was debunked as false. In recent paparazzi photos of Kylie, she does indeed look larger. Kylie claims these are photoshopped; the photographer is standing his ground that they are unaltered.