Caitlyn Jenner lifts lid on Kardashians’ meteoric rise to global fame & how they built multi-million dollar empire
THEY are one of the most famous and glamorous families in the world – and daughter Kim is the most famous and glamorous of the lot.
But the success of the Kardashians is all down to the hunger for money and stardom of matriarch Kris, according to her ex-husband.
The Kardashians are international superstars thanks to matriarch Kris JennerCredit: PA
Caitlyn Jenner opens up on the Kardashian family’s rise to global fameCredit: Rex
Caitlyn Jenner, 73, who was married to 67-year-old “momager” Kris for 23 years, provides the no-holds-barred insight into the superstar family in bombshell Sky documentary House Of Kardashian.
In the three-parter beginning this weekend, she reveals: “Kris started with absolutely nothing, and today she has a multibillion-dollar business. She built the dynasty.
“Kris liked being in control of everything, as in the celebrity world everybody tries to control their own narrative, and Kris knew how to play the game.
“In fact, nobody has done it better than she has.
“She didn’t know the business world, the numbers side, but she enjoyed the social side. She would have meetings with people and wine them and dine them and say all the right things.
“So we were doing well, and she controlled the finances, 100 per cent. We did a job, I got paid and then the money was gone and I never saw it again.
“She loved the money.”
The Californian clan shot to fame in 2007 with their Keeping Up With The Kardashians TV series.
The show revolved around key members of the family — Kris and her children Kim, Kourtney, Khloe and Rob from her first marriage, as well as Kendall and Kylie Jenner, the daughters she had with Caitlyn, formerly known as Bruce.
‘No parts off limits’
By the time the series ended after 20 seasons two years ago, they were all insanely wealthy, thanks to a fistful of advertising deals and business ventures.
Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, Kendall and Kylie are believed to have a combined wealth topping £1.6billion.
Along with Rob, they are all managed by Kris.
They have created dozens of their own brands, including lifestyle site Poosh, 818 Tequila, KKW Beauty, Kylie Cosmetics and clothing line Skims.
By any reckoning the family have reached dizzying heights, but the new documentary questions whether there is a less glossy side to their success.
The fact that Caitlyn has taken part is likely to be unpopular with controlling momager Kris.
The couple, who divorced in 2015, have not seen or spoken to one another in years.
But Caitlyn is a crucial part of The Kardashians’ story.
Kris married Caitlyn, who was then Bruce, in 1991, becoming the former Olympic athlete’s third wife.
They both already had four children each.
Kris immediately took over the family’s business deals, firing Caitlyn’s manager and setting up a small empire making infomercials and TV talk shows.
Caitlyn says: “I wasn’t broke, but it’s not like I had millions of dollars in the bank, and Kris was the same, her work was the house and the kids. She struggled, so we needed to do something quickly.
Kim has become one of the world’s most recognisable starsCredit: Getty Images – Getty
“I had a manager named George that I’d had for 17 years, and Kris came in. She took over the meeting and said, ‘Hey George, you’re fired’. I was willing to take a risk and see what she could do.
“We were able to put together a real strong team. Me walking in the door and her taking care of the business, and then we were doing very well.” Kris was an air hostess when she met her first husband, wealthy lawyer Robert Kardashian.
They married in 1978 but split 13 years later after she had an affair.
She was cut off financially.
By the time she met Caitlyn she was already business savvy and Caitlyn was happy for her to take the reins.
Caitlyn says: “I had no idea what was in the bank. I always had a couple of little toys, a nice car or a small aeroplane, so the relationship worked very well that way.”
But that was never going to be enough for ambitious Kris so she spearheaded the creation of Keeping Up With The Kardashians as Hollywood’s answer to US sitcom The Brady Bunch.
Caitlyn explains: “Kim had this desire from a child, she wanted to be in the celebrity world. She calculated from the very beginning, ‘How do I become famous?’.
“And for a successful reality show you needed a couple of things — a lot of storylines, and certainly we had that, and you need likeable people.
“There may be controversy but you’ve got to like the people to invite into your home every week.”
The concept for the show centred on Kim, who was best friends with socialite heiress Paris Hilton, who had her own reality show.
Kim had also found herself at the centre of an internet scandal when an X-rated tape with boyfriend Ray J was leaked by a person still unknown.
Even at this early stage there were signs that the Kardashians were not going to let anything stand in their way.
In the documentary, former family friend and talent manager David Weintraub says: “They got their dreams accomplished. Was there a little bit of sex and nudity involved? Yes.
The TV star struts her tiny figure in skintight outfitsCredit: Getty
“But Kris Jenner would do whatever it took to protect, promote and maybe exploit.”
Jeff Olde, head of E! TV programming, where the show originally aired in the US, warned: “The deal you make with the devil is that there are really no parts of their life that are off limits, the highs and the lows.”
There have been real lows too, from Kim’s break-up with controversial rapper Kanye West to Kourtney’s relationships with basketball players Lamar Odom and Tristan Thompson, who both cheated on her.
Then there was Rob sharing “revenge porn” images of his former partner Blac Chyna, Kylie lying over lip fillers and accusations of cultural appropriation flying about.
It has led many of their former fans, colleagues and associates to echo a question that was asked in a 2017 interview on the Today show in the US: Are the Kardashians a force for good or evil?
In the documentary, US broadcaster Zoey Tur says: “The Kardashians are everything that’s wrong with America.
“These people have more money than God and what have they done with their money?
“Built homes, bought private jets, bought more clothing than any of us can ever imagine, lived vacuous lives and have contributed zero to social issues of our time.”
Lisa Bloom, attorney for model Blac Chyna, adds: “They make us more materialistic, more consumerist. It’s a cycle. They change the culture, the culture rewards them and it keeps going endlessly.
“It’s not really their brand (to be feminist), they may see it as unsexy, unappealing — how are you going to sell make-up and underwear if you’re talking about these issues? The other explanation may be that they just don’t care. But I don’t see them as feminists or advocates for women, they are just advocates for themselves.”
Others argue that Kris and her daughters suffer from the lazy sexism that male success stories do not have to deal with.
Celebrity agent Jack Kirby explains: “I nicknamed Kris the Velvet Hammer.
“You wanted to do business with her but you knew she was extracting the last dollar in your pocket, and then more.
“There was a perception in Hollywood at the time that if a woman was a hard negotiator, she was a bitch. If a man with the same characteristics navigated the same deal, he was a negotiator but no, she was a bitch.
“Kris disarmed you and persuaded you, and I believed she would have a successful career in Hollywood.”
And while Caitlyn always sus- pected that cracks would eventually appear in the Kardashian empire, she is not worried for their future as she trusts Kris will manage to spin in favour of the family.
She concludes: “Could any family do what our family has done? No. Kourtney, Kendall, Kylie, Khloe, Kim and Kris, they are like a team.
“They are a team to be reckoned with.”
House Of Kardashian begins on Sky Documentaries and Now from Sunday.
Caitlyn says the success of the family is down to her ex Kris JennerCredit: Instagram/ Kris Jenner
The family remain close despite their fame. Pictured: Kris and KhloeCredit: Instagram/khloekardashian