Anyone who’s watched any of the reality shows that follow the Kardashian family will know nothing is off-limits – from toilet habits and catty comments to all-out pathetic brawls, the Kardashian clan lets it all hang out. So much so that, after watching them for four years (the first episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians aired on October 14, 2007), many of us know more about them than we do our own families.
This explains why this Armenian-American family is now rumoured to be worth more than Dhs3.6 billion: watch them spend Christmas together and their medley of step-families, disgruntled husbands, famous fights and convincing hugs makes us feel a) better about our own family and b) involved in an ultimately loving and very modern one – something that’s attractive for expats in Dubai who miss their own brood back home. It’s downright addictive, yet admittedly slightly mind-numbing stuff.
Yes, they have no particular ‘talent’ – but we dealt with that in the Andy Warhol era. Besides, saying they have no skill is like saying Richard Branson isn’t shrewd: they’re entrepreneurs and they sell themselves very, very well. Don’t buy it? Switch them off; it won’t bother them, there are still millions of people worldwide (in fact 4.8 million people viewed the finale of season four of Keeping Up With…) who will lap them and their products up.
Kris Jenner – the ultimate ‘soccer mom’
It’s Friday morning and I’m in Atlantis, after being surprisingly worried about what to wear. My first interview is with Kris, and as I arrive at her room (they’re staying 12 floors away from each other, if we were a gossip rag we would claim a rift) her bouncer booms over me to the public relations exec: ‘Kris is only doing five minute interviews now. Her request.’
‘Great,’ I think, ‘she’s in a bad mood.’ But as I step into her Atlantis suite she drawls, beaming, ‘How are you [pronounced “yooooou”]?’ She’s disarming and charming and happily poses for photos, in front of branded signboards only, of course. It’s instantly clear that this ‘momager’ is the neck that turns the family’s head. As we sit down to chat she, unusually, plops a blanket over her lap – ‘my dress is a little short’ she titters. Her and Kim’s trip, she tells me, while looking up and adjusting her spider-leg-like eyelashes, has been in the pipeline for three months. And contrary to their Gold Souk trips and cavorting-with-camel press shots, it’s no vacation. ‘It’s non-stop. Not that I’m complaining,’ she continues, face straight.
‘It’s my passion.’ And work they do: in just four days in the UAE they make countless appearances, sign many hundreds of autographs and meet with gaggles of media – in fact, a friend in public relations told me their work ethic was the best she’d come across while working with celebrities in Dubai.
‘I have to work,’ points out Kris, ‘Nothing’s been handed to me on a silver platter.’ Indeed, she met her first husband, Kim’s dad, the late Robert Kardashian – who was OJ Simpson’s defence lawyer – when working as a flight attendant in 1978. ‘I work for every single thing we’ve got as a family.’ After successfully meeting with picture-perfect media mogul Ryan Seacrest in 2007 to see if they could run a show on the E! Network, she has forged a TV and product empire out of her six children (Kourtney, Kim, Khloe, Rob Jr., Kendall and Kylie) and their glamorous lives.
But is it the real ‘them’ we see on TV? ‘We don’t have a preconceived notion of what we’re going to do. Every day changes. It’s like life.’ That ‘like’ is telling. After my dictaphone is turned off, Kris is distracted by someone’s Louboutins – ‘I have to have those,’ (I’m sure she’ll get them) – and is discussing ordering a pizza to her room from Ronda Locatelli for lunch. She turns to see me still sitting there. ‘Oh, you’re still there? I totally thought you were just part of the family now!’ she exclaims.
Kim Kardashian: she likes to power nap
After I leave Kris’s room (craving pizza and wondering what it would be like to be a Kardashian), I head to Kim Kardashian’s three-storey suite. I’m ushered to a holding room, where we’re told to be very quiet as they’re filming for one of Kim’s E! shows downstairs. After 15 or so minutes of staring at the sharks in the aquarium (surreal), I’m asked to go downstairs and meet the star (also surreal).
‘I just want to have a nap,’ she says as she comes around the corner – tiny, petite, curvy and flawlessly made up. It’s 11am. ‘You’re a napper?’ I ask straight off. ‘Yes – I take power naps.’ ‘The classic 20 minutes?’ ‘No, more like seven minutes. Give me a blanket and put it over my head and I can fall asleep in about a minute-and-a-half, 12 is ideal but seven will do.’ I’m tempted to ask her to prove this theory, but have a hunch that may get me kicked out.
For starters, unlike in Kris’s room, I’m now surrounded by cameras, lights and about five crew members. Kim is less engaging than her mother – that said, she’s by no means rude. She sits, hands on her lap, face poised, answering questions concisely, but in a way that would make a publicist proud: ‘Dubai’s glamorous, beautiful and welcoming’; ‘Middle Eastern women’s style is amazing’; ‘My passion is designing, for my Belle Noelle jewellery collection or the Kardashian collection.’ But she’s giving me the kind of smile I give a waitress when I’ve been waiting half-an-hour for my food. I get the feeling she is very tired.
‘On an average week I work six days, and 12 to 16 hours a day.’ Do you notice the cameras when filming the shows, I ask? ‘It’s kind of hard not to notice them because there’s a lighting guy and a sound guy and three camera guys. But you do become more comfortable with yourself.’
Kim Kardashian, for someone who has put it all out there, is far less forthcoming than her mother. But then she’s just doing her job, and we all have bad days at work.
As I leave, so does Kim, and in the seconds it takes her to get to the elevator, three groups of people – Indian, Arab and English – gasp and point. She keeps her head down. Stepping into the lift she routinely moves behind her bodyguard, her tiny frame concealed. She’s on her way to The Dubai Mall to open the new shake bar, Millions of Milkshakes. Thousands of screaming fans are about to turn up just to get a glimpse of her. And after that she has several more appearances to make and hands to shake. I walk away surprisingly glad that I’m not in her size seven shoes.
True or false...We test Kim’s Dubai knowledge.
Time Out: The Palm Jumeirah was originally meant to be a pineapple.
KK: I have no idea. True?
No, that’s false. Next one – Dubai has the world’s largest dragon shaped shopping mall.
True [said quietly].
You’re right there.
KK: Oh, okay... [unimpressed].
The world’s largest doner kebab was recently constructed in Dubai.
KK: True [said with confidence].
Right you are. Now, last question – Tom Cruise recently abseiled down the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower.
KK: False [equal confidence].
No, that’s true!
KK: Oh I was going to say true to everything... that’s very cool.
The power of the brandWhat did the Kardashians ‘just love’ when they were in Dubai?
During their four days in Dubai Kris and Kim publicly applauded many of Dubai’s products and services. We get the feeling this isn’t a cheap exercise.
They both told us they loved this DIFC eatery, and social media was abuzz with news of them being there on the Thursday night of their visit: ‘The truffle pasta at Caramel last night was just great,’ Kris told us.
Millions of Milkshakes
They were here to launch this celeb-loving shake chain in Dubai, which was founded by Hollywood media mogul Sheeraz Hassan, who has his finger on the celebrity pulse. Kim Kardashian ‘created’ her
very own milkshake – including a version that is the most expensive in the world: ‘the proceeds of that one will go to charity,’ Kim assured us.
Kris and Kim were spied (well, happily snapped) wearing custom-made abayas after a logistically-nightmarish trip to the Dubai Gold Souk: we imagine this wasn’t a marketing exercise for the particular brand of abaya, as we still don’t know it’s name. Search ‘Kim Kardashian Caught in a Burqa’ on YouTube to see the shots.
The ladies held most of their press events here, stayed in the most luxurious rooms and were snapped riding camels on the hotel beach. They ate at Nobu – one of Kris’s favourites: ‘the artichoke salad in Nobu is so good’.
Kim launched her new perfume in this department store, and fans who spent Dhs750 or more at the store in the lead-up to the event (which had to include a bottle of her perfume) had the chance to win a meet and greet. Canny.
Symphony Style and Temperley
Kris Jenner tweeted (to her 1.4 million fans) that both of these Dubai Mall stores were just gorgeous and thanked them for the beautiful dresses. Now, that’s one heck of an endorsement for a boutique.