If anyone can be said to embody the American Dream, it’s Kim Kardashian West. It’s almost hard to remember a time before she and her sprawling mega-family—mother Kris Jenner and ex-stepfather, Olympic champion Caitlyn (née Bruce) Jenner, sisters Kourtney and Khloé, half-sisters Kendall and Kylie, brother Rob, and various friends, husbands, boyfriends, and exes—invented a new kind of tabloid fame, one based on access rather than aspiration. Back in 2007 the affluent Kardashian-Jenner clan was known mostly for their patriarch, a gold-medal-winning decathlete, and for Kardashian West’s late father, the businessman and attorney Robert Kardashian, who served on the defense team at the O.J. Simpson murder trial. Kardashian West popped up as a member of Paris Hilton’s entourage on the hotel heiress’s reality series The Simple Life. But then, of course, Kardashian West and her mom took a gamble with an E! docuseries, and the rest is history.
A decade into Keeping Up With the Kardashians, the show has evolved from covering Brady Bunch antics and innocuous drama to serving as a rooted-in-real-life mirror to what the American family looks like today, bringing up topics such as race, gender, and, more recently, trans identity. Kardashian West, now 36, has grown up in front of the camera, getting remarried, divorced, remarried again (to rapper Kanye West), and having two children, North and Saint West. (It has been reported that the couple is expecting a third child via surrogate.) Kardashian West has, in the process, built an extremely lucrative personal brand, listed by Forbes as earning over $45 million a year, based entirely on being herself.
Though critics continue to scoff at how Kardashian West originally clinched her notoriety (by now, we all know the origin story), she’s laughing all the way to the bank. There is her Kim Kardashian West Official App; the mobile game Kim Kardashian: Hollywood; and Kimoji (a set of Kim-themed emojis and GIFs that expanded into physical products). There are her modeling campaigns for brands such as Balmain, and her role as the perma-muse for her husband’s fashion line, Yeezy. There’s her newly launched cosmetics line, KKW Beauty, which sold out its first wave of contour and highlighting kits in less than three hours, and a fragrance, slated for release next month. And then, of course, there is the never-ending fascination—fed via Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat—with her bronzed, impossible beauty. As Kardashian West herself says in conversation with Janet Mock, “Not bad for a girl with no talent.” Kardashian West recently got on the phone with the writer, journalist, and trans rights advocate to discuss what it’s really like to be the most famous woman in the world.