By 11:30 a.m. the line was already out the door and down the street. “That’s good,” Kim Kardashian said calmly as she looked at the ever-enlarging crowd of people waiting to see her at Nordstrom in Santa Monica. She watched from behind the tinted-glass safety of her black SUV, as the driver turned the corner into the underground garage. Kardashian, who was dressed in a low-cut, sheer cream blouse tucked into a belted short black skirt, with bare legs and her trademark sky-high platform pumps, looked, as she usually does, both exotic and comic-book curvy. Kardashian is a master of proportion: The tightness of her clothes highlighted and elongated her hourglass body, and her long black hair, which was curled and smoothed and teased into a waist-length fall, set off the smoky Cleopatra makeup on her catlike brown eyes.
As a celebrity, Kardashian gives good value: She is the star of a reality show, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, which means she is famous for being herself. On the show, and in life, she has defined that persona as a glamorous It girl who is close to her family, a wealthy but hardworking beauty who is not skinny, a single woman (almost 30!) looking for her soulmate. Kardashian takes her role seriously. She’s willing to reveal her life in all its simple complications to the millions who watch the show; the millions who follow her on Twitter; and the millions who read her blog on her website, asking questions and seeking advice on how to be all things Kim. Like a classic movie star with a knack for new technology, she meets and greets with poise and perfect hair.
“I’m wearing the lip gloss,” Kardashian told me as the driver searched for the security entrance. She was at the mall on a bright Saturday morning in September to promote FusionBeauty cosmetics, a company known for its lip-plumping products; to meet Kardashian a customer/fan would have to be among the first 200 patrons to spend $75. Kardashian checked her phone and typed something in. “I wanted to remind my fans that I’m here,” she said. “They’re always asking me what lip gloss I’m wearing on the show, and I wanted to make sure to share my beauty tips. I wrote, ‘Lip plumper is a lot better than plastic surgery!’”
This is part of Kardashian’s every-girl approach. She may look like a pinup, but she’s also practical and at least theoretically faces the same challenges as her mostly female fans. She has no particular talents—can’t sing, can’t dance, can’t act—but she has something that appeals: Kardashian represents possibilities, a goal that may be attainable. She’s genuine and colorful, which is why, after five seasons and a spin-off, Keeping Up With the Kardashians shattered records at the E! channel, garnering 4.7 million viewers for the premiere episode this August. That installment, like all episodes, had several storylines; wisely, Kardashian shares the spotlight with her entire family. Her mother, Kris—who is also known as the “momager,” since she manages the business affairs of every member of the family—is married to Bruce Jenner, the Olympic athlete. With her former husband, Robert Kardashian, who is best known for representing his friend O.J. Simpson at his trial for murder (its own kind of reality show), Kris had four children—Kourtney (31), Kim (29), Khloé (26), and Robert Jr. (23). With Jenner, who had four children from previous marriages, Kris had two more daughters— Kendall (14) and Kylie (13). “People used to say we were like the real-life Brady Bunch,” Kardashian told me. “So many crazy things would happen. People would come over and say, ‘Where are the cameras?’ Everyone always said it was like a sitcom at our house! We also knew that while we had the glitz and the glam for an audience to vicariously live through, we are such a normal family that everyone can relate.”