10 Ways Kim Kardashian Changed The Pop Culture Game Forever

Photo: Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images.
Kim Kardashian West can be pretty divisive. It seems most people either really love or really hate the reality star. We saw this phenomenon come to life recently, after she was tied up and robbed in a Paris hotel room earlier this month. The mother of two received both an outpouring of love from fans — and a slew of nasty comments from critics claiming she deserved what she got. (Some even theorized that it was a publicity stunt, or that Taylor Swift was behind the whole thing.)

Regardless of our culture's feelings toward Kim (and trust us, we know not all of you are fans of hers), one thing is undeniably true. Since the debut of Keeping Up With the Kardashians in 2007, Kim Kardashian has become a major pop culture influencer, business trendsetter, and trailblazer. Just when we start to think perhaps her reign might be slowing down, she sparks another round of headlines or reveals her latest business plan.

So, in honor of Kimmy's 36th birthday, we've rounded up 10 ways she's changed the game — whether, in your opinion, that's for better or worse.


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Photo: Swan Gallet/WWD.
She opened the door for a new career path: "personality."
Of course, Kardashian isn't the first person ever to be famous for being famous. Zsa Zsa Gabor was known simply for her status as a socialite and for being the wife of different powerful men. And of course, just before Kardashian made it big, her friend/nemesis Paris Hilton was in the spotlight simply because of her name.

But Kim may be the first person to truly create an entire career without a single identifiable "talent," paving the way for other "personalities" like Nicole Polizzi, Nene Leakes, and even her future sister-in-law, Blac Chyna, to parlay their reality TV roles into full-blown careers built on endorsement deals, business products, and even acting gigs.
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Photo: Attila Szilvasi/Newspix.
She and her family made E! relevant.
When KUWTK premiered in 2007, E! was a lesser-watched cable network, mostly known for E! News and E! True Hollywood Story. Then the Kim-led KUWTK became the network's most successful franchise ever, paving the way for series like WAGS and The Rich Kids of Beverly Hills — plus of course, popular KUWTK spin-offs like Rob & Chyna.

"It has changed the face of E!" Lisa Berger, then the network’s executive vp of original programming, told The Hollywood Reporter back in 2011. "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."
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Photo: Gregory Pace/REX.
She helped normalize conversations about pregnancy obstacles and infertility on television and in the media.
Throughout both her pregnancies with daughter North, 3, and son Saint, 10 months, Kardashians openly discussed her struggles, keeping it real about how uncomfortable pregnancy can be as well as her diagnosis of placenta accreta.

She told C Magazine last year: "[Trying to get pregnant] takes the fun out of it. I’m like, 'I’m ovulating, get home now!' [Kanye] would be like, 'Wait, I’m in the studio.'"
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Photo: Victor Boyko/Getty Images.
She revived the concept of celebrity as fashion muse.
Opinions of Kardashian's style aside, there's no doubt that she's become an inspiration to designers like Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci and, most notoriously, Balmain's Olivier Rousteing (pictured here). We haven't really seen the merging of fashion and celebrity on such a large scale since the days of Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn. Other designers have followed suit by openly expressing their love for their famous inspirations beyond the red carpet, like Michael Kors and Zendaya and Tommy Hilfiger and Gigi Hadid.
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Photo: John Shearer/Getty Images.
She made celebrity social media clap backs acceptable in the mainstream.
When Kardashian released audio on Snapchat proving that Taylor Swift had approved — and even liked! — Kanye West's controversial "Famous" lyrics, she gave other celebrities the courage to air their dirty laundry. Soon after #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty came the #JustinDeactivatedParty, when Selena Gomez called out her ex on Instagram. Even Kardashian's brother Rob is no stranger to getting petty on the internet. It looks like Kim started a trend that could provide fans with enough tea to sip for years to come.
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Photo: Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.
She made mobile games cool again.
Aside from Candy Crush, mobile games weren't really ever a part of the pop culture vernacular. That is, until Kim Kardashian: Hollywood hit the scene in June 2014. The game has since earned more than $140 million and has been downloaded 40 million times; the game's success sparked other stars to follow suit, including Demi Lovato, Katy Perry, and Kardashian's younger sisters Kendall and Kylie Jenner.
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Photo: Samantha Nandez/BFA.
She made it okay for women to self-document their lives in a public way.
One word often used to describe Kardashian is narcissistic, especially following the release of Selfish, her book of selfies, in 2015. But the book was a surprise critical success and its impact is sure to be felt for years to come. Snapping dozens of selfies may seem like simple self-obsession, but in a way, Kardashian has turned the selfie into a means to empower and celebrate one's self.

Her self-documentation has even prompted the question: What is art? Last year, New York magazine's senior art critic Jerry Saltz debated the significance of the book, which he called "brilliant." Frida Kahlo, arguably the progenitor of the selfie, is perhaps best known for her multitude of self-portraits. Many at the time may have considered the paintings self-involved, but a century later the works have come to be regarded, by women especially, as revolutionary.


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Photo: Lacroix/Getty Images.
She paved the way for Snapchat, Vine, and YouTube users to become stars in their own right.
The near 24-hour accessibility that Kardashian and her family offer fans feeds into the voyeurism of our digital age. The concept of peeking into a regular person's life — who has no specific talents, other than just, well, living — has snowballed into entire social media platforms like Snapchat and Vine. These platforms have launched the careers of internet personalities like Jenna Marbles (who makes more than $350,000 via YouTube posts each year!) and King Bach, who makes thousands of dollars for just one Vine.

Would we have cared so much about a random, unfamous individual's ramblings on social media — and would companies be paying them big bucks to do so — in a pre-Kim Kardashian world? The answer is debatable, of course, but it's a valid question.

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Photo: Kim Kardashian Instagram.
She's sparked important conversations about women, the media, and body-shaming.
Kardashian is often criticized for her sexuality, most commonly about the fact that her career was created on post-sex-tape buzz, and also for her tendency to pose nude. But last March, one clothes-less photo in particular (pictured here) sparked outrage from the internet and critics like Piers Morgan, Chloë Grace Moretz, Bette Midler, and more.

Kardashian addressed the controversy in a letter on her website last International Women's Day, raising some interesting points about a woman's right to show off her body as she pleases.

“I am empowered by my body,” she wrote. “I am empowered by my sexuality. I am empowered by feeling comfortable in my skin. I am empowered by showing the world my flaws and not being afraid of what anyone is going to say about me. And I hope that through this platform I have been given, I can encourage the same empowerment for girls and women all over the world.”
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Photo: Courtesy of iTunes.
She took emoji culture to the next level.
If there's only one point in this roundup of Kardashian's pop culture influence that cannot be argued, it's that she has successfully shown the world how to market one's self. So much so that she even figured out a way to turn her entire life into its own language via downloadable Kimoji, poking fun at herself in the process with icons of her infamous crying face, of herself taking selfies, and more.

And the success of Kimoji — which crashed the Apple store upon their release last year, and at one point earned Kardashian an estimated $1 million per minute, according to the New York Post — didn't stop with her. Kimoji inspired other famous folks like Steph Curry, Amber Rose, Justin Bieber, Blac Chyna, and more to carve out their own slices of the emoji pie.

So pro-Kim or anti-Kim, wherever you stand, there's one thing we know for sure: In the world of Kim Kardashian, she's always ahead, and everyone is just trying to keep up.
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