A drawing of the Kardashians shows the famous family against a green background with question marks floating next to their faces
Illustration by Shannon Czerpak, University of the Arts

Why Do We Care so Much About the Kardashians?

We can’t seem to get enough of the uber-famous family. But why do we keep up with their every move?

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A drawing of the Kardashians shows the famous family against a green background with question marks floating next to their faces
Illustration by Shannon Czerpak, University of the Arts

We can’t seem to get enough of the uber-famous family. But why do we keep up with their every move?

Every week, it seems like a member of the Kardashian family has a new headline written about them. Whether it’s Kim’s messy relationship with Ye (who used to go by the name Kanye West), Khloe’s newborn baby boy or the outcry that occurred when Kylie Jenner was labeled “a self-made” billionaire by Forbes Magazine, the Kardashians are never far from the limelight.

The family is, in short, a cultural powerhouse. The space they take up in pop culture is truly astounding, and they got there without taking the typical route — they are not singers, actors, athletes or even businesspeople.

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So how did the Kardashians become one of, if not the, most iconic and recognizable families in all of pop culture?

Well, it really all started with Kim.

For a time, the Kardashians had some degree of prominence but mostly flew under the radar. Robert Kardashian — the father of Kim, Khloe, Kourtney and Robert — acted as O.J. Simpson’s defense lawyer during his murder trial in 1995. For this reason, the name Kardashian was known by some, but the family was not at all as influential as it is now.

This all changed in 2007. At the time, Kim was dating Ray J, the R&B singer legally named William Norwood. Norwood and Kim went on a vacation in Mexico and made a sex tape while they were there. This tape, which is commonly known as “Kim Kardashian, Superstar,” went viral.

Kim claims that she did not consent to the release of the tape. Though some people have called the legitimacy of that claim into question, there is no real way to know whether she staged the moment for her own chance at fame. What is certain, though, is that she — alongside her mother, Kris Jenner — used the otherwise humiliating moment to make the Kardashian family a cultural institution.

Kris Jenner made her move within just a few months of the tape hitting the internet. Realizing that her daughter’s sudden spotlight could benefit the whole family, she decided to pitch the idea of a reality television show with the Kardashian-Jenner bunch at the center. Ryan Seacrest was interested, and he worked with Kris to create the show “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” The show was an instant hit and lasted 14 years before eventually coming to a close.

Fast forward 15 years from Kim Kardashian’s initial brush with fame via “Superstar,” and the Kardashians have become far more than just a family of wealthy, silly socialites with a television show. Each and every one of them has managed to leverage “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” for their own personal gain, transforming from mere reality show stars to cultural icons even outside of the screen.

Kim, for starters, makes headlines on a regular basis thanks to both her romantic entanglements and numerous business ventures. In addition to her long-term, recently concluded relationship with Ye, she also exited a relationship with “SNL” star Pete Davidson back in August of this year. Both breakups garnered a significant amount of attention from the press — her divorce because of Ye’s erratic and sometimes threatening behavior, and her relationship with Davidson because both its start and its conclusion seemed to come out of nowhere.

Over on the business side, Kim has seven different companies that she either created, co-founded or is seriously involved in. Among these ventures is KKW Beauty, which shut down in 2021 after being valued at $1 billion, and Skims, a shapewear brand that has gained somewhat of a cult following, especially among influencers.

Kim’s sisters have made a name for themselves individually as well. Prior to 2018, oldest sister Kourtney, alongside Kim and Khloe, ran a set of clothing boutiques called Dash. She owns her own wellness lifestyle brand called Poosh and has collaborated with fellow celebrity Gwyneth Paltrow through the brand. Kourtney also recently launched a supplement line called Lemme, adding to her many entrepreneurial endeavors.

Khloe, the youngest sister of the three from Kris’ marriage with Robert, has a body-positive clothing brand called Good American. It has a size range up to Plus-Size 32, and, perhaps most noteworthy of all, Khloe does not allow stores to sell Good American products unless they agree to carry the entire size range offered by the company. Though her business portfolio is not as extensive as those of her sisters, she has still carved out a space for herself in the field.

On the Jenner side of things, Kylie and Kendall have followed their half-sisters by extending their reach beyond “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” Kendall has had a very successful career in modeling, becoming the highest-paid model in the world as of 2018. And while she has stuck more to modeling than entrepreneurship, she has her own tequila brand that has made a steady stream of income in addition to her other work.

Kylie, the previously referenced “self-made” billionaire, has a series of businesses as well. Kylie Cosmetics, the most famous of her brands, has been immensely successful since its launch in 2015. She also has a skincare line, a swimsuit brand and even a line of baby products. Her net worth took a hit during the pandemic, but she’s now the second-wealthiest Kardashian behind older sister Kim. However, every member of their immediate family is immensely wealthy and well-known, even though Kim is the only billionaire right now.

With all of this being said, it’s easy to see why society cares so much about the Kardashians: It’s because they’re literally everywhere. Even those who aren’t particularly interested in their exploits can’t escape their reach and influence. They permeate every corner of the internet, every magazine and social media app in equal measure. In short, we care about the Kardashians because they don’t give us a choice in the matter. And given their success with this strategy thus far, it seems unlikely that this will change anytime soon.

Writer Profile

Jo Stephens

Georgetown University
History major, Journalism minor

Jo Stephens is originally from Columbia, South Carolina, but is now a student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She's studying history and journalism and hopes to one day become a sports journalist.

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