In the first episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians Kim, the second oldest Kardashian sister and then emerging socialite, described her family as such: a “modern-day Brady Bunch, with a kick.” Who would’ve known that over a decade later, the Kardashian-Jenner sisters and infamous “momager” would create an eponymous empire in their wake.
When the series debuted on E! in 2007, its blueprint was predictably reality. It highlighted a well-known family of eight –the parents, Kris and Caitlyn Jenner (formerly known as Bruce before her transition), the Kardashian children Kourtney, Kim, Khloé, and Rob, and the youngest Jenner daughters Kendall and Kylie– living in the quaint Los Angeles suburb Calabasas. There were relationship dramas, sibling quarrels, wild parties, and mischief. It wasn’t a new genre of any kind, especially with a plethora of reality shows airing in the late 2000’s, including those done by celebrity personas (remember The Osbournes and The Simple Life?) But Keeping Up With the Kardashians had a storyline and a cast that propelled it into unprecedented success.
Before the show aired the family was already known through their father and O.J. Simpson’s defense attorney, the late Robert Kardashian. Kim Kardashian-West also peaked as Paris Hilton’s friend and eventually sparked more attention with the tape. But eventually, as each episode (and later on spin off series) brought viewers closer and closer into the family’s lives, media interest grew into a full on audience invested in their intricacies. According to Forbes, early seasons held more than two million viewers.
The rise of the Kardashian-Jenners was neither a coincidence nor a lucky strike at one time stardom. The brand they cultivated was a perfect piece that fit into a growing social media puzzle. By the time platforms like Instagram and Twitter fully took off, it didn’t take long for the sisters to adapt to it – they were practically the prototype for what would be the future influencer. Curator of @kardashianvideos, an Instagram account dedicated to memes and clips of the show, believes they paved the way for “setting trends a click away from a social media post.”
With every comment or episode they made (no matter how relatable, funny, provocative, or controversial) there was a social buzz trailing behind it. From the smallest of emblems like the “K” alliteration, Blackberry cell phones, and their rhetoric (“Bible”anyone?) to their style, on-screen moments, and relationships they held a powerful virality seldom seen with other reality television personalities.
This was seen mostly with Kardashian-West, who stamped pop culture with her expressions and notorious selfies. Her IRL selfie-taking was so iconic that it was translated into a Madame Tussauds wax figurine in 2011. In 2015, she released Selfish, a coffee table book dedicated to, you guessed it, her infamous selfies. That same year, she also released Kimoji Emojis, a set of branded emoticons ranging from a coated peach to her not-so-Kourtney-approved crying face. If you weren’t her, you could at least emanate her with a simple tap.
Even the drowsy, sing-song accent synonymous to the sisters has in and of itself become ingrained in pop culture. It’s seen with the recent “Kourtney Kardashian Accent Challenge” and the “Kylie Jenner Accent Challenge” on TikTok alongside Jenner’s “Rise and Shine” wake up call. They join a list of other iconic moments such as Kris Jenner’s “you’re doing amazing sweetie” which became so widespread that she requested a trademark for the one liner last year.
To an outsider this hype may seem like a culture fad, but the show and sisters have maintained a loyal fanbase since. On Instagram, there are multiple fan accounts that amount to millions of followers together. Apart from @kardashianvideos, which has 329K followers, accounts like @kardashianclips (with 3.2 million followers) and @dashtube (with 1.2 million followers) share memes and updates on the family while profiles like @kardashjencloset track what the sisters are wearing.
Creator of @dash.universe, shares posts about the family with their 65.7K followers simply out of love for the show. “As far as I know for myself I love watching the Kardashian family and all the ups and downs in their lives,” they said. “I think they made pop culture official because of their family dynasty, fashion, makeup and cosmetics – their creativity amazes me.”
But what else could they offer besides their television personalities? With their influence on-air and through the screen, their involvement in other fields came almost organically.
They’ve been immersed in the sartorial world for the past 14 years. With their lives on almost full display, what they wore and how they wore it made the headlines. They carved out an aesthetic and style that was precisely Kardashian and asserted themselves as influential style icons with a knack for evolving with trends and eventually becoming the trend.
From their earlier days of cheetah print and wide waist-cinching belts, their evolved into a minimalist, chic, and most importantly, attainable category that has dominated social media. A neutral toned, athleisure-shapewear outfit – think tub tops and cinched sweatpants, oversized crew necks and biker shorts, or scoop neck bodycon dresses with bomber jackets (and you can never forget the stilettos) – is instantly recognizable as “Kardashian”.
This trendsetting nature gave them entry into the fashion industry where they formed connections with designers, stylists, and editors including Carine herself. They sat front row at elite fashion shows in the ranks of Balmain, Givenchy, Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Longchamp and attended high-powered events like the Met Gala.
With this much influence, it’s only natural to find fashion endeavors in their DNA. First there was DASH, a Calabasas women’s boutique run by the trio that reached its heyday during the 2010s with three additional locations (Miami and New York’s SoHo and Southampton) and a show centered around its Hollywood employees.
Despite the store’s closing in 2018, Khloé already had Good American, a size inclusive clothing brand, under her belt while Kardashian-West was in the works of creating her loungewear and shapewear brand Skims which launched in 2019. It was an influence so strong that Kendall and Kylie Jenner stepped onto the scene too, not only as runway and campaign models and fashion week attendees, but also as creators of their own clothing line Kendall+Kylie.
Beauty didn’t go untouched either. With their classic contoured and highlighted cheekbones, baked foundation, lined nude lips, and subtle smokey eye, they became the face of a new kind of everyday glam that was adopted by many.
Kylie Jenner entered beauty entrepreneurship in 2015, with the launch of her infamous Lip Kits. So connected with her brand, they sold out within minutes and led to the creation of Kylie Cosmetics, which now encompasses a range of makeup and tools, and skincare collection Kylie Skin. Kardashian-West also tried her hand at beauty, creating KKW Beauty and KKW Fragrance in 2017. Both have collaborated with their sisters on product launches.
Their popularity in the beauty-sphere is also translated on YouTube, where their get ready with me videos and beauty routines have accumulated millions of views. Just last year Kardashian-West uploaded a work from home beauty routine which we, and apparently 2.5 million other people, were interested in. Go to Jenner’s page and you’ll find similar beauty content featuring her Kardashian sisters that’ve amassed millions of views as well
However, their businesses weren’t always an automatic sell out, showing that all start-ups, even ones attempted by the Kardashian-Jenner’s, face rocky roads. As reported by Fashionista, the Kardashian trio led a makeup line Khroma Beauty, which faced lawsuits for copyright infringement and lacked the involvement from the name slapped on the products, deviating from the “authentic” branding they’re known for now.
In 2017, the Jenner sisters also faced lawsuits with their use of images of big time musicians including Tupac, The Notorious B.I.G., and The Doors across their tee shirts. More recently, Jenner’s billionaire reputation was scrutinized after Forbes retracted the 23-year-old’s title given to her by the publication. What was stated to be behemoth of financial success actually turned out to be exaggerated numbers.
Now it’s 2021 and Keeping Up With the Kardashians is facing its final season. After years of the Kardashian-Jenner’s proving their power, as a collective and as individuals, what will happen now that the origins of their fame is no longer around? Who can fill the shoes of these reality television moguls? There’s no sure telling, but their imprint on pop culture can be only described in the words of Kardashian-West: “…It’s like Louis Vuitton baggage. You always want it.”END
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createdAt:Wed, 13 Jan 2021 16:38:39 +0000
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