On Sunday, October 2, I was terrified.
I was on Twitter when I saw a video of a Kanye West show that was happening a few miles away. Knowing some of my friends were there, I clicked play, only to see him bolt from the stage citing a “family emergency.”
I was surprised by how nervous I immediately felt. I opened Snapchat to look for a story update from Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, or even Blac Chyna. Did something happen to Rob? I wondered. Only an hour or two before, I’d finished up the latest episode of Rob & Chyna and remarked to my roommate that the show was a startlingly good depiction of what life with depression and mental illness is really like. On the heels of a very public fight with his sisters only a week prior, was Rob doing okay?
[bctt tweet=”I was surprised by how nervous I immediately felt.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Kim was with Kourtney Kardashian and Kendall Jenner in Paris, I remembered. Was there another Parisian attack like the one from last year? Fashion Week would make the city more of a target than usual, I thought as I wracked my brain to remember where Kylie and Kris Jenner were the last time I’d checked in on social media. Where was Caitlyn Jenner? With a less robust social media presence, it would be harder to place her but because she enjoys living so far removed from everyone else, that could be a big problem.
I’m not a 16-year-old girl. I’m a grown-ass woman with a full-time job, great friends, and relatively normal habits and hobbies. There is no reason for me to know so much about a family I will likely never interact with in real life and yet… I do. Keeping Up With the Kardashians is my go-to gym show and I will happily elliptical my way through a rerun any day. Lip Kits are my favorite makeup product right now. My Kardashian Beauty 3-in-1 hair tool might be one of the best things I’ve ever been inspired to buy just because it was on a clearance table. The impact of these women (and the Kardashian-adjacent men in their orbit) on my life is undeniable.
[bctt tweet=”Like millions of other people, I feel like I know them.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Their impact on anyone is undeniable, for that matter. They are a force and no matter how people try to disparage them, they always come back bigger and stronger. You want to make fun of Kylie for lying about how her mouth’s inflated appearance is just the result of extra lip liner instead of admitting she got injections? She’ll launch a successful business hawking branded lip liners and lipsticks. You want to ridicule Kim’s crying face? She’ll slap cartoon versions of it on gift-wrapping paper and you’ll be using it to wrap all the Kylie Lip Kits your sister, niece, daughter, and wife asked for as birthday presents. You’ll never be free of them, so you might as well stop hating.
[bctt tweet=”You’ll never be free of the Kardashians.” username=”wearethetempest”]
They’ve largely been credited with creating a new, hands-on model of celeb-reality. Eschewing PR people for the most part, they’ve relied on ever-present television cameras, blogs, and smartphones to tell their story from the beginning. They revolutionized the way famous people and brands interact with fans by making themselves accessible. In the same way I could open Snapchat and see my friends’ perspective of the music festival Kanye was headlining, I can open Snapchat and see a Kardashian or Jenner’s perspective of Fashion Week, a lavish gala, or the preparation of a grilled-cheese sandwich.
Like millions of other people, I feel like I know them.
[bctt tweet=”I feel like I know the Kardashians.” username=”wearethetempest”]
That’s why I was so gutted when I learned that Kanye’s abrupt departure from his show was due to Kim being held at gunpoint in her Paris hotel. TMZ is reporting that she was bound and locked in the bathroom by five robbers posing as the police. The harrowing details are out there; the more sensitive ones don’t need to be repeated here. While reading them, I felt sick.
After watching a video of Kim and Kanye arriving to their NYC residence flanked by security, I felt even worse. They are people I feel close to in a really strange way and it was unnerving to see them so quiet and vulnerable.
[bctt tweet=”I feel close to Kim and Kanye” username=”wearethetempest”]
No one close to me has ever died. I never had a very strong relationship with my grandparents, none of my extended or immediate family members have yet to go, and none of the kids from my high school who have died were my friends. No celebrity that I’ve ever adored has even died. I recognize that I am lucky and can’t stay lucky forever, but today I realized that if Kim had been hurt or killed last night, I would have felt the way I observed others feeling when Prince and David Bowie died a few months ago.
Prince and David Bowie, however, did not grant their fans 24-hour access to parts of their lives that would make them feel like part of the family at any given moment. Perhaps, then, because that is my one-sided relationship to the Kardashi-clan, I would have felt an entirely different type of sadness. I would have felt that a friend was gone, not an idol.
This, then, is the logical conclusion of the Kardashian method of engagement. After creating an empire based on an open-book performance of their lives, they have become so ingrained in our lives that we don’t clock it as strange when a friend’s Snap story stops playing and a Jenner’s begins. Now, when one is hurt or — heaven forbid — in mortal peril, those of us who keep up with the Kardashians react as though a dear friend is in trouble.
In a way, this means that their decade-long branding campaign has been successful. My worried scans of Instagram accounts and Google results last night prove that they have accomplished their goal of existing in a way that projects a vision of them as everyone’s sisters.
At present, Kim has not posted any updates to her social media channels. Although I’m anxious to see from the source that she is okay, I’m surprised at how I immediately thought to myself, She definitely needs time to work through all of this.
[bctt tweet=”I’m anxious to see that Kim is okay.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Ultimately, by dismantling the traditional barriers of publicists and strictly-planned public appearances in favor of showcasing every aspect of their lives, they have humanized themselves in a very unprecedented way, which, in turn, makes their fans less demanding and selfish. Who would have guessed that having 24/7 access to a famous family would breed more empathy and less entitlement as they relate to celebrity culture?
The Kardashians would have.