As I’ve never watched Keeping Up with the Kardashians (KUWTK), the fly-on-the-wall series that propelled the family to mega-fame, Kim Kardashian West seems to me to have appeared out of nowhere. One day she didn’t exist; the next day she was front-page news, the talk of all social media channels, on the cover of Vogue, melting the internet and attending Paris Fashion Week. After a fair bit of research, I’m still not really sure why she’s reached this level of fame. A lot of the headlines concern her relationship with rapper Kanye West. The rest refer to her behind, which, it’s fair to say, has eclipsed Beyoncé’s as the celebrity derrière du jour.
If you were to create a time capsule of 2014, you’d do well to chuck Kim into it – a woman who commands 24.4 million followers on Twitter and enjoys one of the world’s largest followings on Instagram. Kim has managed to translate her fame into massive wealth, and her massive wealth into even more fame – via an extravagant wedding, extravagant outfits and an extravagantly attired baby, all of which fuel the promotional fire.
I witness the phenomenon first hand when I arrive at Claridges hotel in London’s Mayfair to meet her. She’s in town to promote Kardashian Kollection, a new range for women’s fashion brand Lipsy. Kim is in hair and make-up and a roomful of her people are enthusiastically debating the merits of various false eyelashes, while I quietly wait my turn.
‘First of all, you’ll do your picture, and then the interview can begin,’ I’m told by a smiley American woman. Erm… what picture? A team is in place to ensure that a professional-grade selfie of me and Kim is taken before we start to talk. ‘Everyone asks for one, so we’ve just streamlined the process.’ The assistant is cheery, but very firm. Never mind that I didn’t ask for one, nor that I don’t particularly want to kick off an interview with a snap of my rictus grin next to the nearest thing the world has to a professional selfie-taker. Resistance is futile. I’m ushered into a plush suite and seated against a Kardashian backdrop. Then Kim arrives for our close-up.
It is to my detriment that the first thing I do is have a look at the famous derrière. Or rather, have a look for it – the camera has added 15 pounds to the rear alone. Kim is tiny, neatly proportioned and, hair and make-up aside, probably the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, with Disney princess eyes and a rope of swooshy, shiny hair. But she’s the first to admit it all takes work. Doesn’t she find it wearying, the endless preparation? She wriggles her (naturally Lipsy-mini-dress-clad) behind on her seat. ‘Oh, I’m up for it,’ she enthuses. ‘I love it. It’s my time to relax in the morning. Since I’ve had my daughter, my time’s been pushed – I used to give them two hours, now it’s just like an hour and a half.’ An hour and a half? Every day? ‘No, just when I’m working, but when I had my daughter I had almost a year at home with no make-up. I had to stop, because I wanted to kiss her, and if you have make-up on, it’s really hard to kiss and snuggle and not get it on your baby.’
Prior to the interview, team KK imposed numerous injunctions against asking Kim personal questions, yet it has taken her just seconds to bring up her famous baby. She’s full of surprises like that and very likeable too; no Proust, but no idiot either. Kim tells me that despite her own taste for designer fashion, she’s doing a cheap clothing line, ‘I know my fanbase. I know that not everyone can afford the really high-end designers and I don’t expect it’. She’s also open and generous with her private life, as shown by the candid KUWTK series. Kim tells me how Kanye gives her style advice. Not only does he ‘hate it’ when she wears make-up, he has sign-off on her outfits. ‘There was this yellow suede jacket that I wore. It did not look good on me,’ she laughs. ‘Every time we’re getting ready now, he’s like, “Wait wait wait, let me make sure you look okay before you walk out the door. You do not want a yellow jacket moment.”’
The two are fixated with style. Kanye has rather sweetly tried to penetrate the luxury end of the fashion market, interning at Fendi, courting Vogue editor Anna Wintour and successfully entering the sportswear market with trainers for Nike, Adidas and APC. The pair are frequently pictured dolled up to the nines, exiting luxury boutiques. With a combined estimated net worth of Dhs569 million in May 2014, they can knock themselves out in any store in the world. But, Kim says, she’s prudent. ‘Absolutely. On the way here, Kanye and I stopped at this store, and there was this blouse I wanted so badly. He was like, “You have to get it.” And I was like, “It’s too expensive!” I had gotten other things. We decided that if we’re going to get the blouse we have to not get this purse. We have a house, we have to furnish it, so we can’t do everything.’ I ask Kim if, with her almost unlimited means, she still gets the guilt after a ten-bag splurge? ‘Yes. I still feel guilty that I got that blouse.’ Her incredible eyes flicker with concern, but only momentarily. She doesn’t need a big wardrobe, she tells me, because she clears it out once a month on eBay. ‘A portion of the proceeds goes to charity, and with the rest I put myself on a budget and spend on clothes only what I sell that month.’ So one in, one out? ‘That’s my goal.’
After the interview, I find her eBay account. Near the top of a list that includes several boxes of Spanx is one yellow suede jacket, bidding at Dhs231. Critics have been brutal about Kim’s sartorial transgressions. When she turned up at New York’s Met Ball, heavily pregnant, in a floral Givenchy dress, a ‘who wore it better?’ meme between her and a chintzy sofa swept the internet. But she’s finally learned what suits her, thanks in part to Kanye, to whom she’ll text pictures of herself before she goes out. Her fashion line, created with her sisters, is all flatteringly skin-tight silhouettes and nipped-in jackets. If she hadn’t become a massive figure of meta-fame, she might have been a designer, she thinks. ‘And if that didn’t work out, maybe a make-up artist. I just love make-up.’ She pauses, then floors me with a curveball: ‘But more than that, I would love to be a forensic investigator.’ Wait, what? ‘I’ve literally asked attorneys to intern on a case, a big murder trial. I know I can help solve it.’ She’s laughing. I suggest she look into being a funeral make-up artist and marry her two great loves. ‘Right!’ she giggles, knowing that she’s just given me a quote that will eclipse anything about her new fashion line.
Her voice then lowers as her publicity team hastily steer the conversation back to business. ‘I’m obsessed with murders. I don’t really understand why someone would kill someone. I just feel so sad for people.’
I had expected Kim to be dead behind the eyes, but she is far more lively and engaging than many media-trained personalities. And behind the fluttery lashes, there’s a tantalising hint of darkness. I’d rather examine that than any photo of us, but our time is up. And on that peculiar sombre note, we part – Kim to accept her Woman of the Year award from GQ, me to hunt down and destroy our selfie.
Kardashian Kollection is now available at Lipsy, various locations including The Dubai Mall (04 325 3552).