Does Anyone Else's Family Gatherings Descend Into Raging Kardashian Debates?

From makeup to tequila to prison reform, the Kardashians are shifting culture and you probably haven't noticed.

Emerging from the haze of last week’s news cycle came the announcement Kim Kardashian West’s shapewear company, SKIMS, had been selected to design and supply the US Olympic and Paralympic teams with an exclusive line of undergarments to be worn at this year’s Tokyo Games.

Even to a Kardashian aficionado like myself, the news of a Kardashian deal extending beyond cosmetics and corsetry is slightly jarring. A CBS headline reads “Ralph Lauren has designed Team USA’s uniform for years. Now Kim Kardashian is designing their loungewear and undergarments”.

Kim Kardashian West's shapewear company
Team USA Athletes wearing SKIMS. From left to right: Alex Morgan, Scout Bassett, Haley Anderson & Dalilah Muhammad. Credit: SKIMS

In 2021, 14 years after the Kardashians burst onto television screens with their trademark curves and larger-than-life personalities, it’s still all too easy for broader society to reduce the Kardashian family to fame-hungry, hyper-sexualised Hollywood fixtures. 

But that begs the question: when will we, as a multi-generational society championing women in business, respect there must be more behind the Kardashians’ astronomical success than a leaked sex tape and reality television appearances?

Keeping Up With the Kardashians, E! s breadwinning reality show, aired its final episode last month after a 14-year, 20-season stint on the entertainment network.

The show garnered die-hard fans who watched sisters Kim, Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian and Kendall and Kylie Jenner navigate their foray into a celebrity with the help of their manager mother Kris Jenner (later trademarked momager).

Kardashian family
The Kardashian family from left to right: Kris Jenner, Kylie Jenner, Kourtney Kardashian, Kim Kardashian West, Khloe Kardashian & Kendall Jenner. Credit: E! Entertainment

The show chronicled weddings, births, divorces, and everyday life but the secret sauce was the magnitude of these events and the relatability of the family.

Weddings were to LA Laker basketball player Lamar Odom and rapper Kanye West; divorces were with US Olympian Bruce Jenner (now Caitlyn Jenner), basketball player Kris Humphries (famously married to Kim for 72 days) Odom and West. Even Kardashian children trended on Twitter with names such as North and Saint. 

Former E! Entertainment Programming President Lisa Berger told the Hollywood Reporter in 2011, shortly after the season 4 finale pulled in 4.8 million viewers, “It [KUWTK] has changed the face of E!, we were a place to report on celebrity; we weren’t a place to break and make celebrity, which is now the whole idea of the E! brand”.

Contract negotiations in 2017 proved the Kardashian brand had long superseded the show and the eye-watering US $100 million contract reflected that despite declining ratings as viewers drifted from traditional cable television to streaming platforms. 

When season 20 rolled around, it wasn’t only clear the Kardashians had outgrown the show, they outwardly said so…on the show.

The oversharing plotlines fans were accustomed to were replaced with sketch-like antics leading one fan on Reddit to write “I can’t believe while watching this horrible boring season, Kim is going through a whole ass divorce and we’re watching Khloe and cheat (Khloe’s on-off promiscuous boyfriend Tristan Thompson) hunt for UFOs”.

What fans did get to see consistently, however, was the birth of every Kardashian company from the coveted Kylie Lip Kit to Khloe’s revolutionary size-inclusive Good American jeans. 

The Kardashians have infiltrated almost every industry on the planet to the point where global culture has a subtle Kardashian flavour undetectable to the average person. 

In a pre-Kardashian world, beauty ideals had long hovered around the skinny, tanned bottle-blonde. Think Paris, Britney, and Christina. Think dangerously low-rise jeans showcasing washboard abs.

And then came Kim Kardashian, whose name is synonymous with show-stopping curves, and the conversation turned to celebrating a woman’s body that is beautiful without a punishing diet and fitness regime.

The newly coveted body shape reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe’s era was the perfect pairing to the rise of Instagram selfies and ballooning follower counts. A certain Paper magazine cover coined the term ‘break the internet’ with a post-baby KKW eager to show the world she was in the shape of her life. 

The notoriously exclusive fashion world embraced Kim first through Kanye West’s contacts at Givenchy and Balmain before heralding her as an icon in her own right as the muse to Yeezy, West’s futuristic athleisure-inspired line.

Nowadays, houses including Versace, Rick Owens, and Thierry Mugler leap at the opportunity to dredge up their vintage pieces for Kim. A Vogue October 2020 article honoured Kim for her 40th birthday with a 40-look spread documenting Kim’s style evolution saying “what separates [her] from the scores of expensively-dressed reality stars who’ve followed her is her appreciation for fashion as an art form”. 

Kim Kardashian Fashion Looks and outfits
My personal favourite KKW looks from left to right: Thierry Mugler, Tom Ford, Balmain, Yeezy & Atsuko Kudo. Credit:,,

Kim’s Barbie-pink one-of-a-kind Yeezy dress she wore to Kylie Jenner’s 21st birthday party in 2018 was knocked off by fast fashion brand Fashion Nova within 12 hours – a testament to the Kardashian effect.

But what separates the Kardashians from other celebrity brands, is their ability to drive Kardashian-hungry consumers away from copycats with cheaper offerings and present them with crucially authentic and high-end solutions. KKW Beauty boasts a $1 billion valuation thanks to global beauty company Coty purchasing a 20% stake in the company for $200 million last year.  

The company launched with the contour stick, a cream-based stick with a grey undertone to mimic shadows under cheekbones and jawlines – a crucial step in KKW’s famous chiselled makeup look. KKW Beauty’s sister company KKW Fragrance holds the aptly titled ‘KKW Body’ collection, a trio of fragrances described as a “narcotic elixir” in a mould of Kim’s iconic body.

Kim Kardashian West body mould
The KKW Body fragrance has no trouble standing out on your beauty counter

But here’s the catch: you cannot sample Kim’s perfumes before you purchase as KKW Fragrance is an online retailer. And yet Kim continues to sell out within minutes.

She now effortlessly straddles younger and older female demographics, alternating collections such as Valentine’s Day favourite Candy Hearts collection with the more mature 2021 Mother’s Day collaboration with celebrity florist Jeff Leatham.

Kim is still cool enough to connect with the TikToking generation and has just grown up enough to appeal to the multi-hyphenate woman. 

Younger sister Kylie Jenner, a staunch Gen Z representative
Campaign image from KKW x Jeff Leatham collection. Credit: Instagram

Younger sister Kylie Jenner, a staunch Gen Z representative, arguably holds the strongest pull in the family. When talk of her noticeably plumper lips reached morning television shows, Jenner launched the Kylie Lip Kit, later expanding to Kylie Cosmetics.

The lip liner and liquid lipstick combination were responsible for young people globally setting their alarms for eagerly anticipated launch dates only to miss out time and time again on the other 145 000 hopefuls on her website.

The lip liner and liquid lipstick combination were responsible for young people globally setting their alarms
The result of a successful 2 am alarm. 'Holy moly' was all this aspiring journo could emote.

Both Kylie and Kim are Forbes-confirmed billionaires (Kylie holding the title of the youngest self-made billionaire) with sisters Khloe, Kourtney, and Kendall well on their way with mega-successful companies Good American, wellness website Poosh and tequila brand 818. 

The Kardashian effect has long been documented by bemused journalists grappling with how a supposedly talentless (google how the Kardashians have turned that swipe into another venture) family has commanded the attention and wallets of the masses.

Dr. Meredith Jones of Brunel University in London holds a Kardashian symposium that endeavours to explain the Kardashians’ hold on pop culture. She credits their unwavering authenticity and presentation of themselves as a constant work in progress as crucial ingredients to their success.

Where the show arguably put vampire facials and lip fillers on the map, it was the girls’ heavy use of social media that made the results of those procedures aspirational.

Vogue UK reported seven of the most-liked Instagram posts of all time to belong to Kylie Jenner, known for sultry mirror selfies, spurring a 3, 233% increase in “lip fillers” searches in 2015.

Between 2000 and 2018, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported a 256% increase in butt lifts. And following Kim’s SKIMS launch, searches for waist-shaping garments leaped by 45%. 

But in the midst of such materialistic growth, Kim experienced a traumatic Paris robbery in 2016 which she attributes to a complete overhaul of her values. On a 2017 episode of the Ellen Show, Kim told host Ellen DeGeneres “I’m such a different person…I really feel like things happen in your life to teach you things. It was probably no secret, and you see it on the show, I was being flashy…I’m so happy that my kids get this version of me and that this is how I’m raising my kids. Cause I just don’t care about that stuff anymore. I really don’t”.

Kim is currently working on her third attempt to pass the ‘baby bar’, the first-year test for Californian law students learning through an apprenticeship instead of college.

Her work in prison reform is gaining traction where Kim can harness both her celebrity power and trademark workhorse determination. She was instrumental in lobbying for the First Step Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation passed in 2019 which aims to reduce recidivism in ex-prisoners. 

Younger sister supermodel Kendall Jenner is also a mental health champion. She’s just wrapped a mini YouTube series with Vogue, Open Minded, sharing her experience with anxiety and offering a Kardashian-sized platform to mental health experts.

The videos covering social media addiction as well as generalised anxiety in a pandemic boast more than two million views, compared to Vogue’s usual 400 000.

Mentioned here and also in the KUWTK reunion special, Kendall calls out the public’s readiness to pick on her family. “There are going to be those that say, ‘what does she have to worry about? What does she have to be anxious about?’

And I’ll never sit here and say I’m not fortunate…but I’m still a human being at the end of the day. And no matter what someone has or doesn’t have, it doesn’t mean they don’t have real-life feelings and emotions”. 

In the time it’s taken for me to write this, Kim has since announced her SKIMS Team USA undergarments will be available for the public to purchase next week. She’s also tapping into the gardening market, appearing on Martha Stewart’s Discovery+ series Martha Gets Down and Dirty.

You don’t have to like Kim Kardashian or any of her family members for that matter, but if you come away from this piece making a conscious decision to respect them for who they are: businesswomen impacting our culture, we are one step closer to putting a tired stereotype to rest.

My mum has quietly spritzed Jasmine Air from the Mother’s Day Jeff Leatham x KKW collaboration; the sculptural bottle, reminiscent of Kim’s Axel Vervoordt-designed museum/mansion, is now perched on her bedside.

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