From V79 The Travel Issue, V Magazine Fall 2012
WATCHING KIM KARDASHIAN LIVE THE LAVISH LIFE IN L.A. HAS BECOME AN INTERNATIONAL PASTIME. AND JUST WHEN IT SEEMED LIKE HER BUBBLE HAD BURST, SHE BOUNCED BACK—WITH A NEW BOYFRIEND AND A SLEEK NEW STYLE, HAVING LEARNED A LITTLE PRIVACY GOES A LONG WAY
Photography Nick Knight
Fashion Ellie Grace Cumming
Text Patrik Sandberg
“Hello.”The voice that purrs on the other end of the line belongs to Kim Kardashian, though it could easily be mistaken for that of a Disney princess…or a phone-sex operator. The reality, as is often the case when it comes to Kim, is more surreal than fiction: over the past five years and through seven seasons of her hit cable reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians—along with several spin-offs and an over-the-top wedding special—the doe-eyed, supernaturally beautiful girl from Calabasas, California, has blossomed—no, ballooned—into a megawatt celebrity, TV star, branding impresario, retail CEO, and ubiquitous media fixation whose every move is documented by either paparazzi or her own camera crew, everywhere from Dublin to Dubai. Today, she’s back in Los Angeles following a whirlwind trip to Europe (and a stop in Atlantic City) with her new boyfriend, Kanye West.“I had to make sure I was here for when Kourtney was going to give birth,” she says, referring to the arrival of her older sister’s new child, a baby girl named Penelope. Conversing with Kim feels laid-back and familiar; when discussing her relatives she offers first names only and no additional explanation—but who would need it? Episodes of the family’s serial docudrama rake in upward of three million viewers a night (not to mention both legal and illicit online downloads), and the story lines are supplemented by a neverending chronicle of their activity across social media platforms and in the tabloids. In other words, even if you haven’t been keeping up with them, they’ve probably somehow found their way to you. “We’re all so exhausted by the end of a season, especially this one,” she says. “So it feels good to just chill out and not really do much. I finished filming the day I went to Paris, it was the perfect little trip to get away. Paris is one of my favorite cities and it’s always been a dream of mine to be out there during fashion week, so I was just kind of soaking it all in.”
Not long ago, the thought of Kim in the front row of the Paris couture shows seemed a bit of a stretch. Fashion hasn’t been quick to embrace reality TV stars, many of whom vanish into obsolescence as swiftly as they arrived. On top of this, the recent controversy surrounding Kim’s larger-than-life 2011 wedding and subsequent 72-day marriage to NBA player Kris Humphries had many writing her off as an attention-seeking stunt queen…not the type of press the famously insular fashion world is interested in courting. But her connection to budding fashion designer/megaproducer/hip-hop impresario West has her back in the meme cycle— the public has spoken: they are “Kimye”—and many noticed a subtle transformation when Kim debuted a sleek, sophisticated new look at the Cannes Film Festival and around town in London. Gone were the hair extensions, false eyelashes, and skintight ensembles, replaced by a straight, shoulder-length haircut, natural makeup, and simple yet stunning pieces by Lanvin, Céline, and Givenchy. Photographer Nick Knight was one of the first to take notice, and the story seen here is the result.“I met Nick in London,” Kim recalls. “He came to one of my boyfriend’s concerts, the Watch the Throne tour. He took out his iPhone and snapped a picture of Kanye and me, and even on a little iPhone camera he captured the moment so perfectly. We hit it off and we were like, We need to do a real shoot and not just a shoot on an iPhone!”
While the media has speculated that the evolution of Kim’s look can be attributed to the influence of her new beau, she explains that its roots run deeper than that. “It came from me taking time away at the end of last year and the beginning of this year and really simplifying my life,” she says. “I went and stayed at my mom’s house for like four months, and I didn’t bring any makeup, high heels, or anything. I just brought sweats, workout clothes, and pajamas. It was so refreshing to me! Spending more time in Paris and traveling has broadened my fashion horizon and my palette of what I want to wear. I love makeup. I love the glitz and the glam, but I think there are just different ways to go about it now.” Still, she admits, there is a ’Ye factor. “Obviously having a stylish boyfriend who has helped introduce me to things and opened up my vision has been an inspiration and has helped me change it up a little bit and become more sophisticated. Being with him, designing and doing things, that’s been motivating to me and has taught me a lot. I’m just thankful.”Another aspect of Kim’s new relationship is the mutual appreciation for respite from the public glare. “Before, I wouldn’t have valued privacy as much as I do now,” she says, alluding to her turbulent year. “I think anyone I’m in a relationship with can really appreciate the things I’ve gone through to bring me here, because I probably wouldn’t have fought for that privacy before. Being with someone who’s more private but who understands public life, we have an understanding. It’s a good balance.” Believe it or not, fashion is where Kim’s career started out. “I think that some people think we opened our store, D-A-S-H, on the show, but when we got the show offer we were thinking of it as a way to promote our store. Styling and fashion have always been my number one job, or obviously my first passion. Our goal had always been to promote the store by doing the show, and then we realized our dream life would be to have our own clothing line. Never in a million years did we think that we could go way more mass with it and have a Kardashian collection at Sears and a QVC clothing line. We weren’t even thinking that big.” She doesn’t bother to mention her five fragrances or the cosmetics line that she and her sisters are launching for the impending holiday season. Kim and kompany are so big, in fact, they’ve inspired an impressive pop-cultural iconography, the pageantry and specificity of which is normally reserved for the most monumental of stars. When it comes to encountering renderings of herself and her family, whether in spoofery, drag, or professional impersonation, Kim says, “I find it super flattering. My friends and I joke, we’re like ‘Oh, that’s so 2007 Kim K.’ The tight dress, the curls, the wavy hair parted in the middle with the nude lip and the smoky eye—they tend to go with that look. I get it and I’m flattered by it, but I don’t think that it’s accurate. I look at my wax figure and I’m like, Oh my God, I would never dress like that. But it’s kind of cool. Immortalized as a waxed figure? It’s definitely an honor to have that.” Indeed, anything from a dress to a pair of earrings to a hair flip can be labeled “very Kardashian” by the pop-savvy public; the family name and brand has become its own adjective. The user-generated slang website UrbanDictionary.com includes “a beautiful nobody” among other offensive and more vulgar definitions.
“It’s always funny to me when people say that I’m famous for being famous,” Kim says, frankly. “I think it’s fascinating, because it’s still entertainment, you know? It’s fun to see the progression of that idea. I don’t take offense to it at all. I’m not naïve to the fact that I’m not a singer or an actress or anything like that. I’ve never claimed to be anything that I’m not. I think [reality] is still a new form of entertainment that was kind of an unexpected thing.” Perhaps this sensibility, too, reflects the influence of Kanye. She offers a curious analogy: “It reminds me of rap music.”“When rap music first came out, people were like, We don’t understand this, what is this, it’s just a fad. But rap music is definitely here to stay, and I think reality shows have proven they are as well. But when something is newer, people don’t really understand it.” As more television genres go the way of the analog tube, why shouldn’t there be room to explore the potential of a new family dynamic? “You can see that soap operas aren’t on the air as much anymore. I think reality shows are taking over that genre, but I think the draw to our show is that we are relatable. I get it all the time, people saying, ‘I don’t have any sisters, but you make me feel like I’m part of the family,’ or, ‘I have four sisters and it reminds me of you guys!’ I think it’s just a new world with social media. The interaction I have with my fans and the access is so much fun to me. I love that connection.”
When asked if she can see herself earning enough respect to one day be revered like television greats such as Lucille Ball or Susan Lucci, Kim grows impassioned. “I think there was a quote where somebody said that reality stars will never get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. So, of course I’m so competitive that I think that it would be a huge achievement and a goal that anyone would want. I would love to break that mold.”Whether or not Hollywood comes around, Kim is, apparently, coming to Hollywood. For her next feat, she’ll tackle a featured role in the upcoming Tyler Perry movie, The Marriage Counselor. Will acting for the screen really prove to be that different from simply living on it? “It’s a departure,” she says of her role as a therapist. “In real life, I’m definitely not a marriage counselor. I shouldn’t be giving marriage advice to anyone! It was pretty ironic, especially at the time that I was filming it, but it was therapeutic. It’s sort of my motto in life that I’ll try anything once that is outside my comfort zone, and if I don’t like it I won’t do it again. But acting, I liked.” With her show renewed for three more seasons, there will be plenty of time to catch more of Kim, though this may be the last time the family signs on the dotted line. “To have more episodes than were shot of I Love Lucy and more seasons than The Andy Griffith Show will be such an accomplishment. But we’ll reevaluate after ten seasons, and if it’s not fun anymore or if we’re just ready, we’ll let it go,” she says. “I don’t think any of us would have a problem with that. We’d all probably enjoy a little bit of privacy.” That’s so 2012 Kim K.
For a video from the shoot go to showstudio.com!