Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Kardashian Memoir vs. The Kardashian Exposé

[dropcap]They've[/dropcap] been called harbingers of doom and ushers for the fall of Western civilization. I'm talking, of course, about the Kardashian/Jenner clan, the family that's dominated entertainment headlines for almost a decade now. It's easy to think that, at this point, these family members have exposed themselves completely, but it's become more and more apparent that their open image is really a carefully curated facade.

I've been watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians (KUWTK) and its subsequent spin-off shows ever since they first aired.  My interest in the show ebbs and flows, but I can say that I'm pretty well-versed in Kardashian lore. However, there have always been details that niggled at me.  Is this family really as tight-knit as they profess to be? Despite their policy of overshare, do they have any secrets? How do they truly perceive themselves?

This past week in the summer of 2016, right off the tail of Kim Kardashian's Snapchat exposure of Taylor Swift, I decided to do some digging. Why not? On my reading list was the 2011 memoir of Kris Jenner, Kris Jenner... And All Things Kardashian, and also the recently-released exposé, Kardashian Dynasty, by Ian Halperin. These books, two versions of the same story, were going to go head-to-head.

An Overview of Kris Jenner's Memoir

kris jenner cover

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] was expecting this memoir to be a bit of a hate-read for me, because above all other Kardashians and Jenners, Kris Jenner repels and baffles me the most. Mothers like Kris seem to be getting more air-time lately on reality television, but when KUWTK first debuted, I found Kris Jenner to be freshly shocking and twisted.

For one thing, Kris is intent upon how much she values family (her main claim to virtue), but common-core "family values" are most definitely not part of her maternal agenda. In the first season of KUWTK, Kris made viewers' eyes pop with her gleeful negotiation of a nude Playboy photoshoot on behalf of her daughter, Kim. As Kim's manager, Kris got a 10% cut from the deal. On camera, Kim's sister, Khloé, called their mom's involvement "sick," and I and other watchers grimly agreed with the assessment. Kris is a very different kind of mother, as she showed time and time again.

But on the opposite foot, Kris comes across as extremely devoted to fulfilling her vision of happiness and success for her children. I have to concede some ground at that point. There's something truly compelling about a woman whose singular goal is family greatness. It's Cersei Lannister level stuff. So I wondered, would Kris's story, in her own words, change my mind about the woman in any way? As it turns out, yes and no.

From a young age, Kris made steps towards fame and fortune by connecting herself with loaded, older men. First was a PGA golfer, when she was still a teenager. Then she cheated on said golfer with Robert Kardashian of the wealthy Kardashian family, who she later married at twenty-two. After she'd produced four children with Kardashian, she was discovered in a serious infidelity, which ended her marriage.

Now, I found Kris's description of her self-proclaimed lowest point, when Kardashian cut off all financial support, to be highly fascinating and very enlightening. Kris was accustomed to living lavishly and shopping a tear, but she had zero knowledge of the family's finances. Kardashian, she insists, controlled everything and volunteered nothing about the state of their accounts. So when her husband cut the pursestrings and cancelled her credit cards, Kris was broke. At one point, she recounts taking her children out for pizza and then realizing that she couldn't pay. She had to borrow sums from family and friends to get by. Kris says those moments were turning points in her life and influence her driving need for financial independence to this day.

When she married Bruce Jenner shortly after separating with Kardashian, the new couple had to start from the ground up. Underground up, even. Bruce had $200 in his bank account and $300,000 in debt from his failed business endeavors. What a turnaround from her gold-digging days! But Kris was a new woman. Quickly, she appointed herself Bruce's manager and wound up being very, very successful at that job. After booking Bruce tons of speaking gigs and endorsements, the couple started raking in cash. They bought a home in luxurious Calabasas, California, and popped out two more kids.

Tragedy struck when Nicole Brown Simpson, wife of O.J. Simpson (best friend of Robert Kardashian), was brutally murdered. A huge chunk of Kris's memoir is dedicated to her friendship with the Simpsons, the murder, and the investigation and trial. Kris writes that she was "extraordinarily close" with Nicole, but had no inkling that the domestic abuse was occurring within the marriage... no knowledge until it was all too late. Only after the murder did all the clues start coming together to spell O.J. as a fiend.

Jumping forward, Kris's explanation of how her daughters, especially Kim, rose to fame is fairly discordant with public record. For instance, she makes no mention of the sex tape which is regarded as the catapult that launched her daughter into notoriety. Instead, Kris credits her own negotiation of a reality show with E! as the impetus which launched the Kardashian empire.

What the Exposé Revealed

kardashian dynasty cover[dropcap]For[/dropcap] a while, Ian Halperin's Kardashian Dynasty just seemed like a rehash of everything Kris had dished in her memoirs, with only small callouts. For instance, Halperin challenges the veracity of Kris's story of holding hot pots of coffee over lecherous men's crotches during her brief stint as an airline stewardess. "In those days, however, sexual harassment was part of the job and she wouldn’t have lasted long had she employed this tactic. But it makes for an empowering anecdote," he writes. Jesus Christ. You call that an exposé? 

But things got juicy eventually. To my relief, Halperin majorly calls Kris out for insisting that she had no idea that Nicole Brown Simpson was being abused prior to the murder. It had struck me, while reading Kris's memoir, that it was weird for her to have been so oblivious to the pain and suffering of so a close friend. But it felt bully-ish to think like that. Maybe Nicole was just very secretive. Maybe Kris was just very... clueless. But then Halperin pointed out that pictures of Nicole, severely battered, had been published in newspapers before the murder. There was no way that Kris was unaware of O.J.'s abusive habits. Much more likely is that Kris was dazzled by O.J.'s fame, charm, and influence, like many of his acquaintances were, and she gave him a pass. Sad and horrible, but likely.

Another red flag... Kris states in her memoir that she ultimately reached an agreement with Robert Kardashian where she received nothing in the divorce proceedings. "I entered this marriage with nothing, and I left with nothing," she writes. She insisted that she called her elite divorce attorney and told him she changed her mind and wanted zip. But Halperin points out that this was false. She actually received $5,000 a month following the divorce. Damn, Kris. Why not just say so?

And about that sex tape that Kris mentions zero times in her memoir? Halperin went undercover as a porn peddler to find out the truth. All he discovered, really, was that it's highly likely that both Kim and her partner, Ray J, approved the release of the video prior to its release by the porn distributer, Vivid Films, and negotiated a deal where they'd each take a cut of the profits. Halperin argues that the Vivid's policy is to not release, for legal reasons, a tape where each partner had not signed off. Publicly, Kim sued Vivid, but they reached an out-of-court settlement with five million dollars being awarded to Kim. Also agreed upon in the settlement — the sex tape was to be taken off the market in 2007. Halperin checked though, and the tape is still up for sale on Vivid's website, now, in 2016. I didn't bother to fact check that one, but it seems a glaring breach of agreement for the meticulous Kris Jenner to pass over.

Also highly interesting to me, is how the Kardashians are obsessive about making the people around them sign nondisclosure agreements. Apparently Kris keeps a stack of the blank contracts on a foyer table in her home, along with a little framed poem about keeping your mouth shut. "WHAT WE SAY HERE, WHAT WE SEE HERE, LET IT STAY HERE, WHEN WE LEAVE HERE." Halperin ran up against several nondisclosure blocks when researching for his exposé, encountering quite a few employees of the Kardashian's and Jenner's who claimed they'd get their ass sued off for more money than they'd make in a lifetime if their lips wagged.

I thought this was particularly fascinating because KUWTK is a show based upon over-sharing. There is serious, gross-out TMI on that show. So what have they got to be shy about? I get that the family doesn't want people blabbing all the time about them, that makes sense, but the intensity of their off-camera secrecy intrigues me. What could the Kardashians and Jenners possibly want to hide from us?

One such skeleton that Halperin mentions is the much-touted theory that Khloé is not Robert Kardashian's bio-daughter at all, but the result of another affair of Kris's. Duh. But Halperin runs down the wrong rabbit hole! He believes that Khloé is O.J. Simpson's daughter, when everyone knows it was Kris's hairdresser, Alex Roldan, that Kris screwed around with, resulting in Khloé. The resemblance is striking, even with Khloé having done a lot of work to her face. On top of that, a while back it was reported that Kris made Roldan sign... a nondisclosure agreement! According to the agreement, if Roldan speaks to the press concerning the Kardashian/Jenner family, he has to pay Kris a staggering thirty million dollars.

With all earnestness though, I know that genetics are so random and Khloé's differences in appearance from her twin-like, Armenian-esque sisters might mean jack diddly. And true parentage has nothing to do with biology and everything to do with who loves and cares for a child. Robert Kardashian is, by all rights, Khloé's dad.

So What Did I Discover?

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] had three questions about the Kardashians/Jenners when I started reading these books.

Despite their policy of overshare, do they have any secrets? 

The answer is yes. Through writing her memoir, Kris actually shined a spotlight on many of her secrets once Halperin came along to call her on things. Apparently, she doesn't want people to know she received alimony from Robert Kardashian, though who knows why not. She'd prefer it if we thought she was a good friend to Nicole Brown Simpson. I do get that one. The idea that she failed in helping her friend escape an abusive marriage, which ended in that friend's murder, doesn't look wonderful. And there are also possibilities that Kris had more lovers than her one, admitted extramarital affair. Oh yeah, and Kim may have sold her own sex tape for millions of dollars and notoriety.

Is this family really as tight-knit as they profess to be?

This question wasn't really explored too much in the exposé. But according to Kris, the family sticks together through thick and thin, no matter what. However, Kris does not speak with or see her only sister, Karen Houghton. They've been estranged for a few years now, sometime after Kris wrote in her 2011 memoir, "Karen and I are part of each other's lives to this day." Make of that what you will. And there's been lots of in-fighting among the Kardashian siblings of late, particularly between the daughters and Rob. For several seasons, Rob was borderline estranged from Kim, Kris, and then even Khloe. They seem to slowly be mending ties, but who can forget Rob's social media post where he shared an image of the bloodstained, psychopathic narcissist, Amy Dunne, writing the caption, "This is my sister, Kim, the bitch from Gone Girl."

How do they truly perceive themselves?

And this. This is a mystery that will never be solved. In the beginning of her memoir, Kris compares the allure of her family to Mona Lisa's enigmatic smile. People just want to know all about us! But no. I don't want to know how many ounces of breast milk Kourtney expressed on Tuesday morning or when Khloé and Lamar's unisex fragrance, Unbreakable, will be in stock in stores.

I just want to know...  what they are thinking?


  1. I remember reading an article a while ago (I wish I could link to it!) that talks about how Kris is kind of a genius when it comes to marketing her family. After all, the public at large seems to have the attention span of a gnat. How is it that we are STILL fascinated by the Kardashians (or abhor the fascination... everyone has SOME kind of feeling) for over a decade. Even Paris Hilton faded into blah-ness within a few years.
    They use their 'secrets' to boost the show and their ratings (such as Kim's pregnancies, Kylie's lips, Kim's marriages, etc). They even kept quiet about Bruce (now Caitlyn) on the Diane Sawyer special to protect their 2 part special exclusive on the subject.
    I will say that since I am used to them over-sharing, it annoys me that they have now started to reel themselves back. I felt absolutely cheated when we couldn't watch Kim and Kanye's actual wedding.
    And I want to know wtf is going on with Kylie and Tyga.
    BUT WHY DO I EVEN CARE. It's such a problem...

  2. I just don't get the appeal, or anything really, when it comes to these people...

  3. I'm just impressed by how much money they've made out of this.

  4. I can honestly say i have not spent one minute of time watching anything on TV about the Kardashians. I hate the idea of people being famous for being famous not because they have done something good to deserve their fame.

  5. Oh God. I can't even deal with this. I blocked all of them on Twitter and Facebook because I don't want to see them on my timeline through osmosis. So I definitely would not waste my time reading a book about them. Lol.

  6. I'm one of those people who have a love-hate relationship with the Kardashians. I kind of think they're absurd and don't quite understand why they're famous but I do seem to watch them all the time anyway.

    I'm not surprised Kris' book glosses over the bad and tries to show herself as a survivor. I'm not saying she's not but I think she's fairly brutal and wouldn't put anything past her.

    It's an interesting contrast - the memoir and the biography. I never would have thought to read them back to back like that and compare them.

    What a great idea and a great post! :D

  7. I totally understand you Joy. I respect you, too. Very deeply, in fact! However, I got in too deep, too young. I can't help but be interested in this controversial family!

  8. Thanks so much, Kate! I really had a jolly time reading these books. Kris's memoir was a great hate-read and the expose was a dishy, fun counterargument to many things that Kris said.

    Like you, I have a love-hate relationship with the Kardashians. They're funny and honestly, fascinating, but also grotesque and horrible in many ways. Like it or not, they really have a foothold in U.S. pop culture.

    Thanks so much for stopping by! :D

  9. I applaud you, Anne! Part of me is regretful that I'm in kind of deep with the Kardashians, but I'm also genuinely intrigued by them.