Sunday 18 February 2018

Why we are all going completely krazy for Kimye couple

With newlyweds Kim Kardashian and Kanye West spending their honeymoon in Ireland, Donal Lynch takes a look at the rise of 'celebrity' family and many of us can't seem to get enough of them – though others, including Marian Finucane, don't know who Kim is

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian
Kanye West and Kim Kardashian
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West at their wedding in Florence, Italy
Kim Kardashian
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

THE images were irresistible: Kim and Kanye coming out of Centra enjoying a breakfast roll, her deep tan a contrast against the grey sky. Kim in Aldi with a turnip in her hand, looking for running gear to stretch over her luxuriously enormous derriere.

Kanye climbing up a pole in Dungarvan to mischievously rip down an election poster. The two of them waiting outside their holiday caravan in Cork while the laundry dries in the southern breeze. The caravan creaking and shaking as they make the most of their honeymoon and sire a new addition to the next generation of doe-eyed, huge-assed Kardashi.

Despite the touchingly hopeful credulity of several American entertainment reporters, none of the above actually took place – they are all figments of the Irish twitterati's imagination. There is something about Kimye – which, to be fair, sounds like a character in The Lion King – that brings out the budding reality TV producer in everyone. We'll cast them in any scenario we damn well please – and the greater the contrast between their high-sheen LA superstardom and our homely little backwater, the better.

Perhaps we were also filling a void left by want. It hardly seemed right that Kimye, the most over-exposed couple in the world, would walk amongst us and suddenly decide they were big on tastefulness and discretion. Despite all boasts to the contrary, Ireland is actually quite smitten with the cult of celebrity and we wanted to be extras in this massive worldwide syndicated event/touching private moment.

We were promised a tackiness invasion and we were hoping for at least a glimpse of side-boob or some enigmatic quotes from Kanye. What on earth could they be up to all this time? Unless they were working on a sex tape, to be released to us on their departure, then it all seemed quite unfair on us non-entities.

Valiantly, our own press tried to pastiche some human values onto the situation. Kimye may have chosen Ireland, we were told, because that was where Kim's mother, Kris, had enjoyed her honeymoon to plastic-faced former Olympic decathlete Bruce Jenner in 1991. Maybe the Kardashians just love our country! And yet the more we tried to picture Kimye getting excited about visiting the Jameson Distillery, The Blarney Stone or taking a stroll around "Eire", the more we knew it wasn't going to happen.

In our hearts, we knew that the more likely scenario was that everything was being kept under wraps so that the images could later be sold to the highest bidder – the wedding pictures have already been valued at $21m (€15m), a price tag that may have been jeopardised by the blurry from-the-back long lens snaps that made their way into several English tabloids. Whatever about Eric Cantona's fisherman, Kimye aren't in the habit of throwing sardines into the sea. But, like hungry seagulls, the world's press still follows in hot pursuit, hoping for a free meal.

In fact, that same press, fretting about the wisdom of paywalls and free content, could learn so much from Kim. She has been expensive and she has been free, but despite all accusations and appearances, she has never been cheap. Or, as Caitlin Moran put it: "She really is living in a fairytale come true. Turning a single high-res blow job into a range of linen and perfume is truly the kind of alchemy wizards of yore dreamt of."

The Kardashian family are known all over the world, but not loved, or even liked. As The Hollywood Reporter wrote in 2011: "Why, despite the eye-rolls of half of America, does the other half worship at the altar of a family that unabashedly embraces, celebrates and monetises that post-millennium cliche of being famous only for being famous?"

Possibly because ever since the decline of the Kennedys, America has been casting around for a new royal family, and the Kardashians had the breeding, the looks and the ambition to woo a country that, post Monica Lewinsky, had fully embraced the idea of sex as a stepping stone to stardom. America likes its tawdry tales with a side of class, however, and there was no doubting that the Kardashians were well-connected: their deceased father Robert was a high-priced Beverly Hills lawyer and it was his mansion that OJ Simpson left right before the famous police chase in his white Ford Bronco.

Robert would go on to be part of the football star's defence team during his murder trial. Their mother, Kris, wore maternity clothing during that trial which she had received from Simpson's wife, Nicole, shortly before she was stabbed to death. Kris, too, ran in celebrity circles. She was a television personality and boutique-owner in Beverly Hills and fiercely ambitious for her three eldest daughters, Kourtney, Kim and Khloe, and their brother Rob. Kim was born the second of three daughters, in 1980. Her childhood was fairly idyllic – she was in play school with Paris Hilton – and celebrated several of her birthdays at Michael Jackson's Neverland. In her teens, she worked part-time as a stylist for the singer Brandy and for Lindsay Lohan but was reportedly more focused on boys than business. When she was 18, she became involved with the music producer Damon Thomas and when she was 19 they eloped together – the first of Kim's three marriages. They were divorced three years later.

Thomas, who has worked with artists such as Lionel Richie and Pink, allegedly forced Kim to leave jobs and college, "poisoned" her mind against the rest of the Kardashian clan and would not let her see her friends, the divorce papers claimed. To date, it must be noted, he has been Kim's only husband to outlast the proverbial money back warranty.

The divorce came through in 2003, the same year that Robert Kardashian passed away from cancer of the oesophagus. By then, Kris had married former Olympic decathlete Bruce Jenner and Robert also had a new partner, Ellen Pearson. The relationship between the two couples was fractious, to say the least. and ended up in the courts with Pearson losing a defamation action.

By that point, Kim had already begun attracting media attention, as the sidekick of Paris Hilton, and had also begun dating rapper Ray J. This is when things started getting extremely embarrassing/massively lucrative. In early 2007, a video of Kardashian and the rapper in bed made it into the hands of Vivid Entertainment, a porn distributor. Vivid paid $1m (€735K) for rights to the 30-minute tape and soon it went viral. Kardashian quickly countered with legal action, suing for invasion of privacy. "It definitely puts you in a category that I would wish upon no one," Kim later told supermodel Tyra Banks. That category, in case you were wondering, was: multimillionairess celebrity and arse-icon. Ray J recently offered $47,000 (€35k), the amount of money he earned over the last four months alone from the tape, as a wedding gift – causing some to wonder if 'sex tape residuals cheque' might qualify as the "something old."

Obviously everyone was morto, but they soon saw the silver lining. That same year, Kris, the girls' "momager" – approached producer and American Idol presenter Ryan Seacrest with the idea of turning their family life into a reality TV show. He immediately saw the potential in the family – dominated by vacuous, argumentative, stunningly hot women – and Keeping Up With The Kardashians as well as spin-offs such as Kourtney and Kim Take New York and Kourtney and Kim Take Miami all became massive hits. Soon the girls were flogging everything from bed linen, bath mats and picture frames to "super-soft towels" and charging $25k (€18k) a pop to tweet about a product – a whole lot of kash. Before the end of the year Kim had also appeared in Playboy, whom she told that she "used to go to bed at night and pray I would stop developing."

By 2008 Kim was the most Googled woman in the world, usurping Britney Spears who had become her own cautionary tale. Previously the sole domain of rappers and footballers, Kim's rear now became a subject of global fascination. Before Kim, Kylie, in her sequinned shorts heyday, was widely reckoned to have the world's most valuable rear – valued (by God knows whom) at $3m (€2.2m). According to reports, Kim's rather more "generous" posterior was valued three years ago at $21m (€15m). "Various factors were taken into account," Grazia explained to the confused masses. "Including how much of her work is based on her behind, and how it would be impacted if it were to be damaged."

Of course none of this massively endeared Kim to feminists. "Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym-owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits," wrote Tina Fey. "The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes."

These words, written in 2008, were eerily prescient because Kim's next two beaus were indeed athletes – the footballer Reggie Bush (specialist move: doing a press-up with Kim on his back) and Kris Humphries, a basketball player so tall that it wasn't uncommon for his face to be completely out of the picture while Kim pouted and tried to look like having your own pet giant was completely normal. Their romance provided a little light relief as the global market lurched in turmoil and it wasn't uncommon for people to ask if anyone really thought these so-called "celebrities" were more important than, say, the survival of the Euro ("Yes, obviously"). They were married in 2011 in a media-blitz wedding that bagged Kim $17.9m (€13m) in rights fees and then split 72 days later, causing a global outpouring of schadenfreude.

Humphries, who was apparently not in on the whole thing, sought an annulment and claimed that the marriage was a fraud. In April last year, it was announced that Kardashian and Humphries had settled their divorce, avoiding a long-awaited trial that had been scheduled to take place in May of last year.

Already bored, the world scanned the horizon for Kim's next victim/suitor, wearily realising that given her and her family's undying love for the letter 'K' the options were somewhat limited. By now we were really down to Kermit, Krusty The Klown, Kevin Kline, Kris Kristofferson or ... . you've guessed it. Kanye West. Kim and the rapper got together in early 2012 and soon he was calling her his "muse" and, soppy old romantic that he is, writing a song about her entitled Perfect Bitch. In December 2012, the couple revealed that they were expecting their first child together – conceived apparently "amongst the renaissance paintings" in Paris. Kardashian posted on her blog, "It's true!! Kanye and I are expecting a baby. We feel so blessed and lucky."

The child, a girl, was born in 2013 and they called her North West. Kourtney tweeted that the new arrival would make a great new "angle" for the family, a word which makes grimly pragmatic sense when you understand that virtually every family event they go through, from births to marriages, is filmed with the rights sold for zillions.

Kim quickly snapped back into curvaceous shape and the pre-wedding celebrations included a dinner in France at the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles where Kimye and their friends drank nearly 1,000 bottles of champagne. The ceremony itself, described by Grazia as "the most blingtastic, 'krazy' wedding of all time", featured a bridezilla rampage that cost $75,000 (€55k) per guest. It was held on May 24 of this year in Forte di Belvedere, a historic fortress, in Florence, Italy. Kim's stepfather, Bruce Jenner, walked her down the aisle as Andrea Bocelli sang Con te Partiro. In addition to the Kardashian brood, Kimye were joined by such celebrities as Steve McQueen and actor Jaden Smith.

And so to Ireland: Perhaps the trick all along is to act like we don't care. Like we don't want us some Kim booty. Some Kanye koolness. Some porn moment that can be incorporated into a future tourism promotional package. Like that old Kit Kat ad in which the man patiently waits for the pandas to come out of their lair, we wait with our eyes trained on Munster's stately homes in hope of a glimpse of the lesser-spotted Kimye. Like the roller- skating pandas we just know the second we turn our back, Kim is going to be out – possibly with a Dubs jersey knotted around her midriff.

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