Mid-way through the trailer for Life Of Kylie – the latest spin-off to materialise from E!’s reality TV juggernaut Keeping Up With The Kardashians – its title character turns to the camera. “This is like a therapy session,” she suggests of the show, absentmindedly stroking her hair, her voice devoid of even a flicker of emotion. There is seemingly no sense of irony at the fact that therapy sessions aren’t normally conducted under the thousand-watt glare of studio lighting, with a production team presumably crowded around a playback monitor in the next room. But then again, you don’t watch Kylie Jenner for her grasp on normality – and I should know.
By many measures I fall outside of what I imagine Kylie’s target demo to be, given that I’m not a teenager, have little interest in waist trainers or ‘detox’ teas, and am (generally) a fan of keeping my body fully clothed in public at all times. And yet, to my eternal surprise, I find myself following the ins and outs of Kylie Jenner’s life – from her constantly changing appearance and relationship status, to the never-ending stream of holidays and petty friendship dramas – with a curiosity and dedication that I imagine others reserve for friends, or lovers. I say ‘surprise’ as, generally speaking, I’d like to think myself above the manufactured drama of the Kardashian-Jenner media circus.
Don’t get me wrong, I love celebrity drama as much as the next person – but the tried-and-tested Kardashian formula of overblown scandal followed by cryptic tweets and later, a dedicated KUWTK episode, feels especially calculated. The contrarian in me balks at rewarding such shameless courting of media attention with the clicks that fuel the beast but in spite of myself, I can’t stop watching Kylie Jenner – and I’m clearly not alone in that, as any one of her 95.7 million Instagram followers will likely testify to.
The youngest of the Kardashian-Jenner clan, that Kylie’s popularity might eventually grow to eclipse that of her older siblings was, until fairly recently, far from a forgone conclusion. Whether within the scripted confines of KUWTK, or during public appearances and interviews, Kylie lacks the personality or deadpan wit of Khloe and Kourtney, who at the very least can reliably serve up memorable (and memeable) one-liners; nor does she embody the high-fashion appeal of couture and catwalks that has become Kendall’s shtick. Still, she’s ascended to the lofty position of second most-googled member of the Kardashian-Jenner clan – Kim being first, for now – a hierarchy mirrored by the sisters’ respective annual earnings, and Instagram followings.
For me, and doubtless many others, the compulsion to keep up with Kylie is born almost entirely from a slack-jawed fascination at the notion of so much wealth in one still so young. While I spent my teenage years and early 20s familiarising myself with TfL’s inner workings, upgrading in recent years to a guilty Uber here and there, Kylie’s default mode of transport has long been a fleet of Bentleys and Porsches, her Instagram feed an homage to a lifestyle where private jets, expensive jewellery and designer labels are the norm. There is something entirely mesmerising about such ostentatious materialism, showcased with a nonchalance that belies its extravagance.
Then, of course, there’s her appearance, and dramatic – seemingly overnight – transformation from pretty but unremarkable-looking teenager, to a young woman in possession of measurements not dissimilar to those of a Bratz doll. With the exception of admitting to lip fillers, Kylie has otherwise denied any surgical enhancements to her figure, her pneumatic curves variously attributed to “puberty” and “hormones”.
The irony of Kylie raking in a small fortune off the back of her signature lip kits, while simultaneously relying on the helping hand of a surgeon’s knife to achieve her own voluptuous pout seems to have deterred no one – clearly authenticity is not a necessary component of her appeal. With every new article or Instagram post that surfaces, I find myself scrutinising her appearance, watching to see what else will change overnight.
It’s not hard to see why the teenage girls that have built Kylie a Forbes-worthy business empire are enthralled: were I 15 again, I too might be in thrall to the Instagram feed of a fabulously wealthy teenager with an unfathomably glamorous lifestyle that appears to feature little in the way of homework, or curfews. Ever mindful of the fans that underwrite her lifestyle, the Life Of Kylie trailer sees Jenner float the dubious idea that the show is “a gift for my fans”. No doubt it’ll be full of the kind of carefully parcelled-out disclosures that are a Kardashian-Jenner speciality – revelations designed to give the veneer of authenticity and make the family’s fans feel closer to their idols, while of course stage-managed with all the precision of a military invasion. Whether the show will address many of her recent controversies, including allegations of ripping off a black-owned clothing brand, and a misguided attempt to co-opt the memories of Biggie and 2Pac for her joint clothing line with Kendall, remains to be seen.
Still it’s unlikely these recent slip-ups will leave Kylie feeling too flustered – a graduate from the Kris Jenner School of Celebrity, she’s in possession of the trademark Kardashian knack for turning lemons into lemonade. When her infamous “Like, realising stuff" video went viral at the end of 2015, making her the butt of a thousand jokes, Jenner simply waited a few months before coolly capitalising on the video’s traction, slapping the phrase onto a T-shirt and charging shoppers $35 for the privilege.
Clearly the only thing that matters to Kylie is that we keep watching – whether we’re laughing with her, or at her, isn’t important. Either way, she’ll be the one laughing all the way to the bank.