When Kim Kardashian hit decade No. 3, she didn’t balk at coast-to-coast birthday parties. But a diamond-encrusted cake? Thanks, but no thanks.
For all her high-flying, designer-laden, uber-glam living, Kardashian kept it real … at least real enough for her sisterhood of fans. The reality-show star declined the cake, blogging, “Making a million dollar birthday cake is just ridiculous! I’d rather they give me a cupcake and donate the rest of the money to the homeless!” Commenters hailed her as “humble” and a “humanitarian.”
America’s reality royal
Bejeweled cake aside, she cemented herself in 2010 as America’s reality royal, along with her family, in “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” Through good looks, breeding, and a can-do spirit that has launched perfumes, boutique stores, and a MasterCard, Kim has worked all her assets to get to the top. Devoted legions follow her on her blog, Twitter, and Facebook. And the chipper brunette stayed away from petty Hollywood-style sniping: Criticism, such as the sniffy fusillade from “Project Runway” host Tim Gunn, was heard but cheerfully disregarded. (And when that prepaid Kardashian Kard turned out to be predatory, she and her sisters Killed it.)
Being “ordinary” proved the welcome counternarrative to stories of celebrity talent wasted, such as those of Britney (on the mend) or Lindsay (still a mess). Kim had the right amount of privilege, compared with, say, Paris Hilton, who was spoiled by too much of it. And throughout the Kardashian mythology is the saving grace of sisterhood.
Kardashian family values
Those family values have helped sustain the reality show “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” to its five-year mark. The brainchild of Ryan Seacrest and Kardashian’s mother, Kris Jenner, the show enjoyed record premiere numbers (4.7 million viewers). From family fights and cellulite confessions to romantic breakups and sibling squawking, all was fair entertainment for addicted viewers.
Although Kim is child No. 2 (she has three sisters, one brother, 2 half-sisters, and a number of step siblings), she ruled the Kardashian kingdom. Older sister Kourtney’s single motherhood and Khloe’s whirlwind marriage provided plenty of gossip fodder, but Kim trumped them with the “newly single” card. Her breakup with footballer Reggie Bush made her TV’s most eligible bachelorette.
Knowing her place
In a “Larry King Live” interview, Kardashian lay the TV series’ success on the family’s early commitment to the show being, as she says, “100 percent real. And I think that’s what’s come across to the audience.” Only in America: authenticity as brand. (A case study of failure would be “Jon & Kate Plus 8,” even after Jon was neatly excised.)
And Kardashian knows her role. She explained in a W magazine profile: “I play into the perception of me, but it’s not really me. And the show reveals that.” In that same article, the magazine sums her up: “As a celebrity, Kardashian gives good value.” And 2011 will be an even better two-for-one-deal, with her spin-off “Kourtney and Kim Take New York” debuting January 11.
Yahoo! Year in Review editorial lead for four years running, Vera H-C Chan dissects news events and search trends and shares the “why” behind what’s Web-hot in online media. Before Yahoo!, she worked as a features/A&E reporter for Sn Francisco Bay Area newspapers and magazines. On Yahoo!, her writing can be found on Buzz Log, News blog, TV, Movies, and her Shine blog Fast-Talking Dame.