Perhaps it is fitting that the Kardashians first came to public attention thanks to one of the most notorious celebrity murder trials ever to be staged. No one had heard of Kris Jenner, the matriarch and so-called ‘momager’ of the clan, until her close friend, OJ Simpson, stood in the dock accused of killing his wife. Nor had they come across her lawyer husband Robert, who was part of the legal team that defended the disgraced star.
It seems there is almost no publicity – good, bad or frankly atrocious – that the Kardashians cannot turn to their very lucrative advantage. Today Kim alone is said to be worth more than £41 million, with her younger sisters not far behind.
Yet for all the sunny optimism of their reality TV show, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, and for all their light-hearted if decidedly downmarket antics – it is not long since the girls were filmed discussing the respective size of their genitalia – there is something troubling about the unstoppable rise of Kim, Kourtney, Khloe and the rest.
Using unrivalled Hollywood contacts, including friendships within the family, I have established that their tawdry soap opera follows a hard-nosed and mercenary script – and at the heart of it lies a cynical refusal to let anything stand in the way of Brand K.
My new book, Kardashian Dynasty, discloses that not only has Kris orchestrated two of her daughter Kim’s three marriages to increase ratings for the show, but confirms what has been rumoured for many years: she also arranged the release of her own daughter’s infamous and degrading sex tape. It was also she who persuaded a reluctant Kim to pose naked for Playboy.
Yet there is one piece of manipulation that should cause even the most ardent Kardashian fans to pause, and that is the treatment of 66-year-old Bruce Jenner, the Olympic decathlon hero, second husband to Kris and stepfather to Kim, 35, Kourtney, 36, and Khloe, 31, and their brother Rob, 29.
Today Bruce goes by the name of Caitlyn and is the most famous transgender woman in the world. He has felt the need to live as a female for years – certainly throughout his 25-year marriage to Kris.
Yet I can reveal that Kris, 60, a fervent evangelical Christian, pushed Jenner into having controversial – some might argue potentially dangerous – Christian therapy to ‘cure’ him of his urges. This, I have been reliably told by family insiders, was because Kris feared Jenner’s wishes might damage the famous brand.
They said her actions delayed the gender re-assignment her ex-husband had craved for many years. Family and friends believe Jenner was so desperately unhappy he might even have resorted to self-harming.
Kris has previously denied all knowledge of Jenner’s desire to be a woman. The truth, however, is that she knew from the outset because she had caught her ex-husband dressing up in women’s clothing.
A close family member told me Kris believed the only way to ‘bring Bruce right’ was through the church. So, she told him to ‘pray’ for guidance and he would be helped. This sounds suspiciously like conversion therapy, the discredited method used by some religious believers to suppress homosexuality. It is based upon the assumption that homosexuality is a mental disorder or it can somehow be ‘cured’.
Kris has long been a disciple of evangelical Christianity and used to lead prayer services with controversial preacher and singer Pat Boone. She is also a founder member of the Calvary Community Church in Westlake, where the family regularly worships. Sources close to the Kardashians say that she kept her ex-husband ‘hooked’ on the church like it was a drug.
The family and other sources told me she orchestrated a concerted campaign to keep Jenner as a man. Otherwise, they believe Jenner would have made the ‘transition’ long ago. This extended to ensuring the Kardashians did not mix with the liberal, secular Hollywood crowd as might be expected for such a freewheeling family, because she feared they might encourage Jenner towards self-expression.
Instead their friends were Republicans, though more traditionally conservative than radical Right-wing. Jenner had been taking hormones for years before they met at a charity golf tournament at the Riviera Country Club, hosted by basketball legend Michael Jordan.
The decathlete turned actor and racing driver was one of the celebrity players. Kris, a divorced mother of four, spotted him coming out of the clubhouse and was instantly smitten. She told friends she was ‘awestruck’ by the all-American smile and long hair of Jenner, a hero of the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
This surprised her because a bitter break from husband, celebrity lawyer Robert Kardashian, (who died in 2003) had left her avoiding relationships to concentrate on being a mother and businesswoman. Jenner also had four children from two failed marriages and wanted to be part of a big family.
He thought Kris was ambitious, outgoing and smart. Despite her two breast augmentations, she reminded him of the kind of wholesome TV wife promoted by television shows such as The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family.
The sexual chemistry was instant and mutual. Their first date was attending a lavish cocktail party in honour of Ronald Reagan.
Jenner told her he liked wearing women’s clothes before they got married. But Kris was not only in love; she saw the possibility to make money from her new husband’s reputation as a sporting legend. Her only real job had been a two-year stint as a flight attendant but it soon became apparent that she had a flair for business. She was determined to revive Jenner’s career and she set about the task in earnest.
Almost immediately, she came up with the idea of a Bruce Jenner clothing line; fitness equipment; vitamin supplements; and a new round of endorsements. Within a short time, Jenner was hot again and the money came rolling in.
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