It was in the early 2000s that Paris Hilton started the phenomenon of ‘famous for being famous’. While Paris sustained it for a few years with A Simple Life, it was her friend Kim Kardashian, who was on the periphery in Paris’ journey, who made it her own and ran with it at supersonic speed.
When ‘momager’ Kris Jenner pitched the idea for Keeping Up with the Kardashians, it wasn’t the first reality show of its kind but what worked for the Kardashian-Jenners was its family quotient. The show has wrapped up its 14-year long run and looking back, it feels like the women who were once ‘famous for being famous’ have risen way beyond that and no one can deny the impact they had on pop culture in the first two decades of this century.
When they made social media a part of their business
The rise of KUWTK and social media was almost parallel so it was just smart business choice for the Kardashians to jump on the bandwagon even before people could realise its potential. Be it Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or any other platform, the clan made the most out of these as they pioneered the influencer culture. Earning hundreds of millions of dollars per post is no joke but the clan reached this status because they utilised it from the start.
When they were open about their romances and break-ups, and even childbirth
KUWTK made some of its highest-rated episodes with the weddings of the Kardashian women. Kim’s wedding to Kris Humphries, which infamously lasted for only 72 days, was chronicled in a two-episode special and at the time it was declared that the episodes had 10.5 million viewers (just on TV). Kim’s wedding to Kanye West was also a big ratings bonanza on the show. Khloe’s wedding to Lamar Odom, Kourtney giving birth to her first child Mason (where she literally pulled him out of her with her bare hands) all happened on camera.
The many break-ups of Kourtney and Scott, his substance abuse issues, Kylie’s romances have all been chronicled on the show. But it has to be said that while this was a show from the start, it lost some of its raw nerve in the last couple of seasons as the family got a bit protective about their personal life.
When they launched their many business ventures
Kylie’s Lip Kit, Kim’s KKW beauty products, SKIMS, and the sisters’ many fragrance and product lines have helped them create a huge business empire that made them more than just reality TV stars. The show was always a platform to promote these products and brands and that, combined with their huge social media presence, became the new model for business in the digital age.
When Caitlyn Jenner opened up to the world
In hindsight, the jokes about then-Bruce’s changing appearance that were starting to become a staple on Saturday Night Live were in poor taste. When Caitlyn met the world, KUTWK became a platform for her message, her changing relationships with her daughters and ex-wife Kris became a significant plotline for an entire season. She even had a spin-off named ‘I Am Cait’ but the show’s fate was quite like the other spin-offs (Rob and Chyna, Khloe and Lamar, among others) and it ended in just one season.
The Kardashian-Jenner clan championed Caitlyn’s decision to come out but the release of her memoir, where she bashed her ex-wife Kris, landed her in hot water with Kim, Khloe and Kourtney. Caitlyn has had very few appearances on the show since the fallout.
When they were tone-deaf about cultural appropriation and the enormity of their wealth
Kim Kardashian crying in the ocean as she loses her diamond earring is one of the most iconic memes to have come out of KUWTK and while this was hilarious to watch, with Kourtney’s witty repartee, Kardashians have received a lot of criticism for flaunting their wealth, especially in the last year. The family took a vacation for Kim’s 40th birthday last year while the US was battling with the worst of the pandemic. Even Kendall’s crowded birthday party, where phones were not allowed, found its way onto the internet. The enormous amount of wealth clubbed with the irresponsible attitude has got them criticism.
The family has also received hate for cultural appropriation and this has been addressed many times on the show. Kim was accused of donning blackface on a magazine cover which led to a lot of controversies.
Keeping Up with the Kardashians had a good long run, much longer than any of its contemporaries or rip-offs but the family is not done yet. The Kardashian-Jenner clan has already signed a deal with HULU for a new series. But even without a new show, the women of the clan know how to keep up with their fans and will continue to do so.