Kim Kardashian West is one of a small handful of celebrities who is famous for little to no apparent reason. She’s on red carpets, many would argue, simply due to lots of luck, being the stepdaughter of a former Olympian, and flaunting truly bangin’ good looks. She is not infamous for killing, for committing some highly publicized crime, or for leading a cult. She’s not famous for any particularly great talent at acting, singing, computer programming, or professional gaming, for example. Hell, she isn’t even considered one of the best models out there. But what is she famous for, then? How did she become the mega-star she is today, surrounded by paparazzi and married to top rapper-producer Kanye West? Whether or not you like her, you know the name of her show is Keeping up with the Kardashians. Whether or not you wanted to, you’ve probably seen clips of it and smiled or laughed. You probably know that her daughter’s named North West. You probably know Kim Kardashian West was one of the most supportive daughters in the face of one of the largest celebrity controversies when her stepfather, formerly known as Bruce Jenner, transitioned into a woman named Caitlyn. Kim Kardashian West is beautiful and famous. She could own, do, or say anything she wants. In short, she has power and freedom. It’s inarguable that there had to be some amount of genius involved to get where she is today. It turns out Kim Kardashian’s got some brain power underneath those thick, shining, brunette-or-blonde-depending-on-the-day locks. Let’s look at why.
She More Than Recovered From A Big Fat Sex Tape Scandal.
Kim Kardashian West was once solely known for a sex tape she made with then-boyfriend rapper Ray J. As she told Oprah, “That’s how I was definitely introduced to the world. It was a negative way, so I felt like I really had to work ten times harder to get people to see the real me.” The real Kim, for example, drinks only every three years—five shots of vodka in Vegas.
In 2007, Vivid Entertainment, a large porn company, got their hands on the tape and paid $1 million for it. They promoted the video by calling it Kim Kardashian Superstar. As Kim responded on the Tyra Banks Show,
It definitely puts you in a category that I would wish upon no one. Your reputation is all that you have, and if people prejudge you over something that you did, then that kind of sticks with you a long time.
What’s unique about Kim—compared to childhood counterpart Paris Hilton and numerous others—is that her sex tape didn’t stick with her all that long. It’s been gone so long no one talks about it anymore. Kim herself is done with it. As she told Rolling Stone in July 2015, “I don’t really think about it. I thought about it for a long time. But when I get over something, I get over it.” BOOM. Kim is done with her rocky past and the people who tried to betray her. Whoever they were, she won’t say. The drama ended shortly after it had begun with a $5 million settlement just three months after the video’s release. Does it take a genius to recover from a sex tape and ruined reputation? Well, it can’t hurt.
Kim’s Been In Business For A Long Time.
Sure, she probably had support from her parents, but Kim got started at a young age working in retail as a teenager. Long before Keeping up with the Kardashians, Kim Kardashian West was already in business on her own, making money with one of her favorite of all hobbies: shopping. According to the Business Insider, Kim says,
I discovered eBay and I loved shopping. I had to be on a budget. I didn’t have credit cards. How do I figure out how to make this a business? I remember I bought these Manolo Blahnik shoes that were $700. He [Kim’s late father, Robert] let me buy five pairs. I had to pay him back plus interest. I sold every pair on eBay for $2,500. I became so obsessed with seeing that return, I would sell off the things I wouldn’t be wearing.
To this day, Kim uses her old username at http://stores.ebay.com/kimsaprincess to sell her hand-me-downs to countless willing buyers.
Still, it may be argued that this doesn’t take much smarts. Anyone can sell something on eBay, right?! Wrong. Compared to her family members, Kim Kardashian West has sold a remarkably high amount of items. From 2013 to 2014, she sold 1,288 items for a grand total of $212,096.14. Second place goes to Kourtney at a mere 222 items for $26,228.67. With luxurious descriptions and an eye for what’s in and trending, Kim has the eBay business down. It might just take a genius to do as well as she’s done.
Kim’s Business Sense Didn’t Stop At Ebay. She’s Got More Endorsement Deals Under Her Belt Than You Can Count.
The Observer has compiled an expansive list of Kim’s various endorsement deals over the years. Kardashian GLAM Silly Bandz, Tria at-home hair laser removal system, Sketchers Shape-Ups, oh my! Kim Kardashian West has endorsed more products than we can begin to count, more products than most models, actors, actresses, singers and songwriters can lay their hands on! The Sugar Factory once sold Kardashian lollipops. Fusion Beauty has her face plastered across their ads. Opi nail polish sells a “Kim-pletely in Love” color. There was Midori liqueur, there’s the Kardashian Kollection at Sears, and even Shoedazzle.com (a company Kim also cofounded, by the way). A jewelry line called Belle Noel. A Carl’s Jr. ad for salad. Swimwear, sportswear, watches, fragrances, tanner, acne treatment, candles! If there’s a product, chances are there’s a Kim-version somewhere on the shelves.
Kim has put her face on so many products we can see her all over the mall, billboards, and TV commercials. Some people call this selling out, but in Kim’s case, there’s plenty of her still available—she hasn’t “sold out” quite yet. She might just be the queen of personal branding, of creating oneself into something that can be sold in forms ranging from bracelets to candies to clothing to candles.
She Turns Her Life Into Money With Products That Are Simply Genius, Like Hollywood.
According to Matter on Medium, Kim Kardashian West’s video game Hollywood is the most important video game of 2014. Kim’s video game is genius in that it creates a game out of Kim’s very life, just as Keeping up with the Kardashians created a show of her family life. Kim takes what she has been given, what she simply has, and creates an empire out of it. Hollywood’s premise is simple: you’re a D-list kid hoping to rise to the likes of the A-list. The game’s goal is fame for the sake of fame, and nothing else. Creating this game took little creativity, but that’s the genius of it: Kim looked at the route she took—various endorsements building up to companies and powerful connections—and made a game out of it for her loving followers to live away virtually just as she did, just as she rose to her own uniquely American form of fame.
The long trek to fame is uncomfortable, tedious, and slow-going in Hollywood. This drives the “I want it and I want it now!” culture we have crazy, so those desperate to level up can simply purchase power-up packs. People get out their credit cards to live a life as glamorous as Kim’s on their little screen, and before you know it, Kim’s got a cushy $200 million from a video game with remarkably simple, colorful graphics. You could say it doesn’t take a genius. But have you done it?
Kim Kardashian West Is The Queen Of Selling Herself In A Culture Of Self-Absorption And Celebrity Obsession.
In a culture of selfishness, Kim Kardashian has the cultural practice down pat. She has 46.5 million followers on Instagram, 35.4 million followers on Twitter (for less than 20,000 Tweets), and over 26 million likes on Facebook. All of this is people following Kim to see what she does with her everyday life. Compare this to Kanye West: 384 thousand followers on Instagram, 14.6 million followers on Twitter (granted, he only has 233 Tweets so far), and only 198 thousand likes on Facebook. Kim Kardashian West, famous simply for being famous, has a whole lot more followers than her arguably talented and undeniably powerful rapper-producer hubby.
The power of selfishness and self-branding goes far beyond these stats, though. Check out her book. Kim didn’t even have to write a book to sell one. All she did was plaster photos of herself all over one. Her limited-edition, signed version of Selfish sold out almost immediately and proceeded to sell on eBay for over six times the original price at a whopping $400. Kim knows how to get buyers. Maybe if she’d printed thousands she wouldn’t have had such success. Instead, she used scarcity to her advantage, printing only 500 copies of the limited edition version. The regular edition flew to #1 Best Seller on Amazon’s Portrait Photography category before it was even out due to great marketing—a preview and pre-order available beforehand.
The woman is a self-branding and marketing genius.
She’s Got Mo’ Money Than She Knows What To Do With!
Kim Kardashian is rolling in the dough. She could make cookies for the whole neighborhood and then some with the kind of dough she brings in. She made $28 million just in the past year, much more than any of her other sisters in the Kardashian clan. So how’d she do it? We know she has had plenty of practice with her eBay company and countless endorsements while climbing the ladder, but how does she keep it up now?
It’s probably not what you think. Kim makes more money from simply showing up places—clubs, parties, events—than she does for parading about on Keeping up with the Kardashians or any other television appearances. She’s famous for being a “personality” or “reality TV star,” and the best way to make money out of that is to simply show up and show some skin. Kim’s got it.
Another source of income is the family fashion companies which brought in up to $600 million in 2013. There’s the Kardashian Kollection in Sears, Kardashian cosmetics in CVS, Kardashian tanners, and, of course, DASH, her chain of boutiques with clothes imitative of her own sexy style. The key to making money in Kim Kardashian West’s world is spreading herself out and entertaining the world simply with who she is, a personality.
She Even Got An Endorsement From TIME.
If we’re arguing that Kim Kardashian West is some sort of genius, it helps to have TIME Magazine on your side, a magazine which has published the largest names in American and international history. Kim Kardashian West made Time’s 100 Most Influential People list in 2015 as the “first lady of #fame.”
TIME looks at Kardashian and sees what we all cannot deny: she’s made it. Kim Kardashian West is famous, and very famous at that. Why is she so famous? According to TIME, she’s
Beautiful in an exotic, totally exaggerated way, Kim exudes energy, sexuality, drama, determination, impetuousness and happiness. But she and her famous, entrepreneurial siblings—shepherded by a savvy, tireless matriarch—have also expanded the very definition of family.
The Kardashians are a totally modern construct. They are a blended family, of Armenian descent, with biracial pairings (Kim is married to Kanye West) and a reportedly transgender parent. They work hard, and they stick together through thick and thin.
It’s Kim’s ability to personify modern America that makes her truly genius. She understands and shows what the American Dream and American Personality are all about: wealth, family, open-mindedness, and the relentless yet joyful pursuit of happiness.
She Gives Back.
One mark of a true genius is the knowledge that one is indeed not the center of the universe. Another is to realize you can use your talents not only to benefit yourself, but to benefit others who do not have the same luxuries and privileges. You might feel jealous or disgusted with how much money Kim is making, but she’s also taking steps to give back.
Lookingtothestars.org, an organization that tracks celebrity giving and charity support cites that Kim Kardashian West supports 17 charities. Specifically, she asks various other celebrities to donate their old clothes to charity auctions for Dream Foundation, “a wish-granting organization for adults suffering from life-limiting illnesses.”
True geniuses extend their reach to help others. Kim Kardashian West has shown she is doing this.
Is it crazy to argue that Kim Kardashian West is a genius by invoking her bodacious bod? Not necessarily. With her hyperbolized, womanly body, her curves and gorgeous Armenian features, Kim shows that the typical tall-blond-bimbo beauty has taken a back seat, or at least we’ve opened ourselves up to more than one type of beauty. And that’s, well, beautiful.
As Kim tells Rolling Stone, she’s a feminist by nature, just by being herself.
I’ve never really been one on labels, and I don’t like to push my view. If I feel something, it’s how I feel. I never say, ‘I feel this way, so you should feel that way.’ Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I just am who I am. But yeah. I think you would call me a feminist.
Kim may be slightly coy about calling herself a feminist, but plenty of people are right there with her.
As Liz Henry of The Broad Side argues, Kim Kardashian actually may symbolize the next step in the evolution of feminism. Here are a few reasons why, according to Henry:
- “The Kardashians are a woman-centered enterprise without any XY puppet master. The Kardashian-Jenner women fill an entire binder needing no introduction.”
- “Kardashian’s provocative self-promotion [could be] a point on the continual evolution of women and sexuality. Kardashian embodies the madonna/whore complex seamlessly and without irony, daring the public to choose one or the other, like we’ve always done to women. But we can’t with her because she’s too damn shameless.”
- As Henry concludes: “To discount the open door because it came with a beautiful body and in-your-face vanity misses an opportunity for the sake of misplaced righteousness. That’s right — feminists need Kim Kardashian.”
There you have it. Kim Kardashian West is leading the new feminist brigade. Genius? Whether or not she knows it, yes.
She’s Come Out As One Of The Largest Supporters Of Her Stepfather During His Transition.
It isn’t easy for anyone to come out, but imagine doing so when your family is plastered on television screens daily across the world. Bruce Jenner faced numerous tabloids and critics when he finally decided to come out as Caitlyn Jenner, revealing his true self after decades of hiding it. This must have been difficult for his recent ex-wife Kris, and it may have been even more difficult for his children. Kim, though, came through for her stepfather from the very beginning. When she discovered him wearing a dress at the ripe age of 22, Kim kept her lips zipped at his request, but she never left his side. When he decided at last to tell the world, she remained supportive. As she says on the Today Show:
I’m really happy for him, that he is living his life the way he wants to live it, and that he has found inner peace and pure happiness. That’s what life is about. I don’t know what life would be like if you always felt like you weren’t yourself. And I know it’s not something that you or I could really fully understand, but I don’t even think we have to. I think as long as he is happy and he wants to live his life, however he wants to live it that just makes me happy. And I support him 100%.
She also tweeted:
Caitlyn Jenner for Vanity Fair Annie Leibovitz! How beautiful! Be happy, be proud, live life YOUR way!
How beautiful is that? Kim Kardashian West is smart enough to let her stepfather make his own decision to become Caitlyn Jenner.
A Genius By Any Other Name
How do you measure genius? Is it found in the numerous folds on Albert Einstein’s brain? In the brushstrokes of Picasso’s great works? Perhaps there’s a little genius in all of us, when we find our strengths and make them work within this society and world. If Maslow’s hierarchy of needs peaks at self-actualization, Kim Kardashian is quickly climbing her way up. She’s taken advantage of the privilege she grew up with, she’s honed her skills in business and marketing, she’s used her curves to her advantage, and she’s socially and politically opened her mind. She is not famous for any miraculous brain power, and it may be a stretch to call her a genius in that sense, but in the everyday slang form of “Wow! That’s so genius!” or “How genius of you!” Kim’s got it. She may even have some of the big-g Genius in her. How else could you become so famous for nearly no reason at all?
As Rachel Syme eloquently puts it,
Whatever code there is to being an entertainer, Kardashian has cracked it. In the parlance of our tech overlords, she has disrupted fame. She sees the tubes inside of it, how it works. She may understand how to be famous in 2014 better than anyone else alive. Whether or not this means she is a brilliant schemer or simply feeling her way through the fabric of our culture by pure instinct is beside the point.
It’s not Kim’s brain that reflects her genius. It’s her action and her rise to fame and power. Lana del Rey sings, “I want money, power, and glory!” Kim Kardashian West has garnered all three.