Just who is Kim Kardashian and why is the reality star so famous?
Reality TV star, social media mogul, author, model - Kim Kardashian's CV is longer than one of her marriages. As the star makes global headlines once again after a jewellery heist during Paris Fashion Week, our reporter explains just why the mother of two is as famous as she is
Published 05/10/2016 | 02:30
Who is Kim Kardashian? That was the question being kicked around Twitter yesterday morning when the news broke that the multi-millonaire reality television mogul had been robbed at gunpoint in a luxury abode in Paris. For some, the question was a snarky one; after all, Kardashian is one of the most photographed and well-known women in the world, and has been for several years.
The wife of rapper Kanye West, she has done what so many reality TV stars fail to do and forged a career off screen for herself, making bank in the process.
Yet due to her fondness for stripping off and a perceived vacuous nature fuelled by her selfie obsession, many dislike Kardashian and all she stands for, with some online cynics even going so far as to suggest she faked this heist for TV ratings.
However others were asking who Kim Kardashian is, because they truly don't know.
Yes, they might have caught sight of her infamous bottom on a magazine cover or heard her multi-syllable name thrown about in relation to sex tapes and quickie divorces, but many millions of people outside the millennial bracket quite simply haven't got a monkeys who Kardashian actually is, why she's famous, and why her Paris hold-up was global news. So allow me to explain.
Kimberly Noel Kardashian is the middle daughter of Kris Jenner (nee Houghton) and Robert Kardashian. Born on October 21 1980 in Los Angeles, California, she was brought up in a privileged household with older sister Kourtney (37) and younger siblings Khloe (32) and Robert Jr (29). Robert Sr was a prominent attorney in Beverly Hills who worked primarily in the music business with a roster of famous clients, and his wife was a homemaker. However all was not rosy at home; the couple split in 1991 after Kris had an affair, but remained friendly for the sake of their four children.
That all changed in 1994 with the murders of close family friend Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. When Nicole's husband, football superstar OJ Simpson, was arrested on suspicion of the murders, Robert Kardashian became one of his friend's defence lawyers. Kris was distraught, believing Simpson to be guilty of killing her friend, and the family were split down the middle, with teenage Kim and her sisters taking their father's side and supporting him during the subsequent trial that led to OJ's acquittal.
For that reason, the name Kardashian has long been known in America. However Kardashian herself didn't become famous until she started hanging around with celebrity It girl Paris Hilton in the mid-2000s. Having been raised among the rich and famous, Kardashian seemed determined to carve out her own life in the spotlight and began accompanying Paris and her friend Nicole Richie (daughter of Lionel) on the celebrity circuit. A stunning beauty, she soon caught the eye of the paparazzi, but was still working as a stylist and "wardrobe consultant" around LA.
Then in 2007, an explicit video of Kardashian with her then boyfriend, singer Ray J, was leaked. The supposedly private adult film fell in to the hands of a pornography distributor; Kardashian sued but eventually settled for $5 million. Off the back of headlines relating to the tape, her mother Kris, now married to Olympian Bruce Jenner, pitched a reality TV show to the E! network about her family's life. In the infancy of the "scripted reality" genre, the show was a slow-burning global hit.
It's difficult to say just why 'Keeping Up With The Kardashians' was so popular; its content is largely banal and much of it obviously staged - in one early episode, Kris' daughters adopt a chimp for their mother to ease her empty-nest syndrome. Perhaps it was the family's dynamic and chemistry that attracted viewers, or maybe it was their good looks, but in the beginning their life certainly wasn't very glamorous.
I started watching the show quite early on, after a friend turned me on to it. It was the perfect switch-off-your-brain Sunday afternoon telly, and as an only child, I was fascinated by this large family and their foibles. It was like a real-life sitcom a la the 'Brady Bunch' - you had glamourpuss Kim as the lynchpin with monosyllabic Kourtney and fiery Khloe as her foils; the slightly dopey but handsome brother Rob and little sisters Kendall and Kylie Jenner, sweet and bold in their pre-adolescence.
Their sexy and slightly manic mother and famous stepdad held it all together with the spectre of their father Robert, not long deceased after a short battle with oesophageal cancer when the show started, featuring heavily.
I was personally fascinated by the sisters' very distinctive look. After years of jutting bones and painful skinniness being in vogue, Kim's voluptuous figure was a sight for sore eyes and at 22, I felt her shape was something different, more attainable. Their dark hair and full-on make up wasn't the norm in a world of bottle blondes, and there was just something relatable about them.
After the initial interest, the sisters K may have fallen by the wayside like so many reality starlets before them. However, this family is nothing if not canny and not only held on to their fame, but grew it steadily.
Kris Jenner, acting as their manager, managed to parlay her daughters' TV fame in to endorsement deals and spin-off shows. A master of media manipulation, Jenner used her connections to make sure the trio's stars ascended, most of all Kim's.
She's released fragrances and books, shilled for false tan and diet pills, and generally kept her name in the headlines through high-profile romances and spats, and of course, showing off her show-stopping figure.
Then in 2011, Kardashian announced the end of her marriage to NBA athlete Kris Humphries after only 72 days. Their wedding had been an over-the-top affair with magazine deals and several special editions of their show, so when it imploded so swiftly, the world's media locked on to the story.
Kardashian was accused of faking the relationship for publicity, something that was compounded by Humphries countering her divorce filing with a request for an annulment.
Kardashian weathered the media storm and came back stronger when she announced her relationship with rapper Kanye West. Together the pair became a power couple, with West giving Kardashian a certain amount of cache due to his A-list status. She soon became pregnant with their daughter North, and they married in Italy in 2014. Kardashian gave birth to their son Saint last December.
Nowadays, Kardashian is well known as an entrepreneur as well as a TV star and professional paparazzi subject. Her game for smartphones, 'Kim Kardashian: Hollywood', came out in 2014 and has become the fifth highest-earning game ever in the Apple App store, netting her millions. She's also launched a paid-for app and website platform where she releases exclusive material for a monthly fee.
Most of all though, Kardashian is a media power player. A shot of her wearing an elaborate outfit will undoubtedly make headlines worldwide, and she's never afraid to push the envelope to grab said headlines. She also knows how to manipulate a story to her advantage; she famously took down Taylor Swift earlier this year after the singer accused Kardashian's husband of slating her in his song 'Famous'. Just when Swift was the subject of negative attention for courting the media with her latest boyfriend Tom Hiddleston, Kardashian released a video of Swift telling West she approved of his lyrics.
So, who is Kim Kardashian? Well, whatever you may personally think, she's certainly a pop culture force. Yes, she's famous for being famous, she's a fan of shallow selfies (she released a tome of self-portraits entitled 'Selfish' in 2015) and she likes to get her kit off.
But she's also a shrewd operator who's banked millions out of people's fascination with her. And she'll be around for as long as people keep talking about her.
Meet the Kardashians
Kris Jenner, 60
The “momager”, matriarch and brains behind the brand. Divorced from Robert Kardashian and Bruce (now Caitlyn) Jenner, she lives with current boyfriend Corey Gamble, 34.
Kourtney Kardashian, 37
Kris’ eldest, mum of three Kourtney recently split from her childrens’ father Scott Disick after nine tumultuous years in front of the camera together.
Khloe Kardashian, 32
She’s recently transformed her body thanks to rigorous workouts in the aftermath of her spit from husband Lamar Odom. The most vocal (and perhaps well-loved publicly) of the bunch.
Rob Kardashian, 29
Largely reclusive until lately, he’s expecting a daughter with Blac Chyna, who has a son with half-sister Kylie’s boyfriend Tyga (got it?!).
Kendall Jenner, 20
A top fashion model in her own right, she covered the September issue of ‘Vogue’; the quietest of the bunch by far.
Kylie Jenner, 19
A social media superstar and beauty entrepreneur, she’s fast catching up with Kim in terms of popularity.
Caitlyn Jenner, 66
The Olympic gold medal winner transitioned from male to female in 2015, having lived most of her life as Bruce. Married to Kris from 1991-2014.
Scott Disick, 33
Scott’s difficulty fitting in with the famous clan, and also his struggle with addiction, have been a talking point on the show. He has three children with Kourtney.
- Vicki Notaro