For once, I actually care about and agree with something uttered by talk-show host Wendy Williams.
From People magazine:
On Tuesday’s episode of The Wendy Williams show, the host delivered a spirited tirade on [Kim] Kardashian West’s racy photo shoot during her ‘Hot Topics’ segement, and elicited a lot of ‘oooohhhhhhhhhs’ from her audience.
‘Kim it’s clear Kanye has nothing for you except dribble and dribble and feeble conversation,’ Wendy began. ‘It is clear that Kanye does not pay attention to you. It’s clear to me that you’re desperately trying to stay in the spotlight.’
The very blunt host did not stop there, continuing to take down the 37-year-old reality star mogul and her husband Kanye West.
‘Kanye makes money, Kim makes more, why are you still doing this? It’s not even about the mother thing, forget the mother thing, because a lot of people will say, ‘Oh, she’s a mother.’ It’s about, she doesn’t have to do that anymore,’ Williams continued. ‘That would be like Cardi B returning to the poll on a Saturday night or something like that. There were a lot of racy pictures; We saw full boob… sure she has a beautiful body, but so what. Between taking filtered selfies and the 25 hours it probably took to braid your hair that way’
I know why Chicago’s mother is famous. We all do. A lot of us have even seen the infamous video. And some of us probably know about her father, Robert Kardashian, the Bel Air lawyer whose main claim to fame was helping his buddy O. J. Simpson beat a double-murder rap in 1995, in the same month that the future Mrs. West turned 15. Kim first caught our eye as the rather dumpy sidekick/stylist of another pampered American princess, Paris Hilton, and she probably would’ve remained a sideshow to a sideshow were it not for what happened in 2003.
That year Kim’s father died of esophageal cancer at the age of 59, and it was in that same year that Ray J, the younger brother of singer-actress Brandy and Kim’s then bae, recorded the notorious sex tape. The video was “leaked” to the public in 2007 and officially launched Kim’s career as a famous-for-being-famous celebrity. Kim sued the distributor of Kim K Superstar but eventually settled for a cool five million dollars — which I guess technically marked the start of her other career as a self-styled businesswoman.
Interestingly enough, a few years before Kardashian became synonymous with sex tape, Kim’s former boss/friend Paris saw her own notoriety break into the stratosphere when a video with the raunchy title 1 Night in Paris was leaked in 2004. As with Paris, Kim’s sex tape appeared only months before the premiere of her first reality TV show, the cultural phenomenon that is Keeping Up with the Kardashians. The show, now in its fourteenth season, features all of Kim’s immediate family members, who are now themselves famous for being famous. (To be fair, Kim’s stepfather, Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce, is the old-fashioned kind of famous: for winning the decathlon at the Montreal Olympics in 1976, and for very publicly coming out as a trans woman in 2015.)
Kardashian’s initial wealth and celebrity were inherited by her father, but nearly all of her subsequent gains spring from her sex tape — that and her rather appreciable derrière. (When Kim began dating football running back Reggie Bush a few months after the video was released, the tabloids quickly dubbed the pair “Bush and Tush.”) Sure, much of the success of Keeping Up comes from the public’s eternal fascination with the lives of the rich and famous in general, along with girls’ and young women’s equally constant eagerness to learn what Hollywood deems fashionable. And I can already hear a number of the women in my life arguing that the show really is entertaining, funny, even interesting.
Yet still, it was Kim’s sex tape that first brought viewers to the show. As Kim and her family members leveraged their fame and fortune to accumulate even more by starting business ventures and dating other wealthy celebrities (mostly athletes), viewers of the show became fans, and these fans find the show entertaining and interesting only because they know who Kim, Kourtney, Khloé, Rob Jr., half-sisters Kendall and Kylie Jenner, and their mother Kris are. If the public didn’t already know them, and the people they know, no one would give a crap about a Kardashian.
Kim, judging by her recent grabs at attention, seems to realize as much. Because she grew up in its midst, she hopefully understands the Hollywood circus. Somewhere deep inside, behind all the boutique designer clothes, make-up, botox and tucks, she must know that she is little more than a clown, certainly in the public’s eye. And for over a decade the public has watched as she, her family members and their guest stars juggled, took pies to the face, made us laugh and cry, and, most of us, kept us watching. That’s what clowns do — namely, anything to keep butts in the seats.
Eventually the act gets old, however, and the audience starts to lose interest, which in Hollywood terms means they go looking for someone else to idolize. In financial terms it means Kim’s purse starts getting lighter. It’s then that, like Rose in Titanic, she begins to feel the pressure to link herself to a firmer source of wealth and prestige (enter Yeezy) and, like any veteran performer, to come up with a new act, or at least a new gimmick (enter Kim’s bare ass). But we’ve already seen that too, back when she “broke the internet” with her risqué photo shoot for Paper magazine in 2014.
Maybe you would publish lewd pictures of yourself if it earned you a million dollars and fifteen seconds of fame. Maybe you would do it for less, or know somebody who would. But Kim Kardashian is already super famous and, compared to the rest of us at least, super rich. (CelebrityNetWorth.com puts hers at 175 million dollars, bringing the combined net worth of the Kardashian sisters plus their hustler of a mother at 378 million dollars.) And while I like to think I wouldn’t debase myself for any amount of money, I can confidently say that were I Kim K. — famous as she is, worth as much as she is, married to a hip-hop genius whose worth a lot more — I wouldn’t go ass out for anybody.
That she still does today, so many years since the sex tape, suggests that she understands the game she’s been playing ever since powdering Paris’s rhinoplastic nose. She understands that she’s famous for being famous — and rich because of it — and if she believes the public wants to see her bare behind, which a lot of people still do, then her bare behind is what she’ll show them. But no one’s personal dignity should be at the mercy of supply and demand. It’s sad really — not just her stunts, but the whole spectacle, including the people watching it — and more than a bit sickening.
The saddest bit of all, however, is that I actually concur with a Wendy Williams comment.
Featured image: Surian Soosay/Flickr