tFor the past 14 years, it’s been the Kardashians-Jenner world and we’re just living in it. I’ve never watched an episode of the Kardashians reality series. Yet by process of cultural osmosis, I can tell you that Khloé is the tall funny one; Kylie is the one with the lip fillers; and if your diamond earring falls into the ocean, get a reality check, Kim. Kids are dying. Your tragedy is just a sliver of extreme privilege in the vast seas in a cruel world.

Such is the phenomenal impact of Keeping Up with the Kardashians (KUWTK) that short of living in an underground bunker for the past decade, there’s very little chance you would have escaped the Kardashians, and by extension, Jenner tsunami. 

They debuted in 2005. Before that, reality TV was focused on the lives of moderately famous people. They were on the tail end of the fame cycle, highlighted for shenanigans. Anyone remember The Osbournes and The Simple Life? But with the introduction of KUWTK, reality TV instead became a place where if not stardom, then serious coin, can be made. Harper’s Bazaar estimates that the five sisters together are worth close to a whopping US$2 billion dollars as of April 2021.

Here’s a look back at the good, bad and ugly from 14 years of keeping up with the Kardashians. 

The unapologetic evolution from sex tape leak to lifestyle queens

Despite the popular conspiracy, Kris Jenner did not actually release her daughter’s sex tape for publicity. The family was already famous-adjacent from Kim’s friendship with Paris Hilton and Kris’ former husbands (defense lawyer of O.J Simpson; the other, former Olympian, Caitlyn Jenner). 

Image: Cosmopolitan UK

According to the oral history of the event, the tape was released by Kim’s then-boyfriend as a means to bolster his popularity. In our current generation of OnlyFans, Kim’s decision to sell her the footage might not seem like a big deal. But in the ‘00s, when Christina Aguilera was branded the devil incarnate for the suggestive nature of her Dirrty video, Kim’s bold move deserves to be recognised for being ahead of its curve. 

She cast off the victim reins and decided to control her narrative. This is all to the tune of a reported US$5 million payout. It would set the template for their career to come, but we’ll get into that later. 

For this is also a career that has given a platform to the Armenian genocide (thanks, Kim),  mental health awareness (hope you’re okay, Kendall), gender identity transitioning (your politics though, Caitlyn), and that 40-year-old single parents can still have a flaming hot dating life (get it, Kourtney). 

Wikipedia informs that each sister has gone on to carve a niche in the intersection of celebrity, beauty and entrepreneurship. Whether it’s Kylie’s multimillion-dollar beauty line, Kim’s mobile game and various clothing lines, or Kendall’s tequila foray, it’s clear that the Kardashian family is far more than “famous for being famous”. 

The Kardashians’ legacy of impossible and unhealthy beauty standards 

Here’s the rotten issue with adopting an ‘everything has a price tag’ philosophy. If what you prioritise is the number of zeros behind a dollar sign, it sets a questionable legacy for the values you plant. 

The Kardashian family are transparent about many things in their lives. However, the truth about their body augmentation remains largely a question. A variety of slimming teas, contour kits, and video editing apps later, the Kardashian family and their ‘momager’ Kris, have sold a standard of beauty that is unattainable for the average person and largely unhealthy for the general psyche.

We know that Kylie Jenner denied having lip implants for years, until eventually confessing to fillers. Her admission in 2015 resulted in “lip fillers” going up 3,233 percent in search trends. Scientists have yet to discover a conclusive amount of squats a person needs to do daily to achieve something akin to Kim’s booty. But the American Society of Plastic Surgeons can confirm that butt lift procedures increased by 256 percent between 2000 and 2018. 

To be clear, there’s no shame in plastic surgery or a person’s choice to edit their body. The danger is in lying by omission. Selling a false narrative – that you can have fuller lips just by buying lip kits or that detoxifying teas can give you an hourglass figure – without acknowledging the external work done means that a fan could go chasing an impossible reality. It’s irresponsible and harmful, frankly the most insidious legacy of KUWTK.

@residualdatabefore u comment “why do u care” please watch the whole thing🤎 #celebritea #celebgossip #celebnews #beautystandard #retouching #sheesh♬ MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name) – Lil Nas X

The Kardashian effect

KUWTK may no longer be with us, but their effect is seen in social media stars chasing multi-platform fame. It can be seen in the verisimilitude portrayal of women. Women can be aspirational, messy, hopeful, manipulative, resilient and deceitful in one breath. For better or worse, women are powerful creatures, capable of so much growth and potential. The world just needs to keep up, for we’re stopping for no one.