In October 2007, a relatively unknown family stepped into the spotlight changing the course of reality TV and subsequently, pop culture forever.
The concept for Keeping Up with the Kardashians (KUWTK) was simple, following a chaotic blended family from Los Angeles. There was mum Kris — a savvy businesswoman and former wife of Robert Kardashian, the man who represented OJ Simpson during his murder trial; her then-husband Caitlyn Jenner, a former Olympian and their biological children Kendall and Kylie and Kris’ daughters and son from her first marriage — Kourtney, Kim, Khloe and Rob.
Their story began after E! News host and producer Ryan Seacrest went on the hunt for a family “like MTV’s The Osbournes” and after hearing about the Kardashian family he sent a cameraman to their house.
“I remember perfectly: [the cameraman] called me from their house Sunday afternoon and said, ‘It’s absolutely golden; you’re going to die when you see this tape. They’re so funny, they’re so fun, there is so much love in this family and they’re so chaotic — they throw each other in the pool!”‘ he said in an interview with Cosmopolitan Magazine US in 2015.
After the series premiered, the Kardashians quickly became the most talked-about family in the world — of course, it helped that Kris’s second child, Kim, had made a sex tape with her ex-boyfriend R&B singer Ray J, and was already friends with Paris Hilton.
Now, after 14 years and 20 seasons, Keeping Up with the Kardashians is drawing to a close, with its final season airing in early 2021.
As Kim put it in her announcement posted to Instagram (below), she and her family would not be where they are today without the success of the TV series and its multiple spin-offs. But what is not as evident, is that we as a society — who is so heavily influenced by popular culture — would look very different without America’s unofficial First Family.
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To our amazing fans – It is with heavy hearts that we’ve made the difficult decision as a family to say goodbye to Keeping Up with the Kardashians. After what will be 14 years, 20 seasons, hundreds of episodes and numerous spin-off shows, we are beyond grateful to all of you who’ve watched us for all of these years – through the good times, the bad times, the happiness, the tears, and the many relationships and children. We’ll forever cherish the wonderful memories and countless people we’ve met along the way. Thank you to the thousands of individuals and businesses that have been a part of this experience and, most importantly, a very special thank you to Ryan Seacrest for believing in us, E! for being our partner, and our production team at Bunim/Murray, who’ve spent countless hours documenting our lives. Our last season will air early next year in 2021. Without Keeping Up with The Kardashians, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am so incredibly grateful to everyone who has watched and supported me and my family these past 14 incredible years. This show made us who we are and I will be forever in debt to everyone who played a role in shaping our careers and changing our lives forever. With Love and Gratitude, Kim
We are voracious consumers and voyeurs into other peoples lives — and the Kardashians, while wealthy beyond belief, live lives that are messy, chaotic and wild. We watched on as they had babies, struggled with infertility, went through multiple break-ups and weddings. They handled drug addiction and alcoholism, and brought viewers in for Caitlyn Jenner’s gender transition — bringing awareness to two incredibly important conversations/topics. We saw the aftermath of Kim’s Paris robbery and her husband Kanye West’s own mental health issues. They even often portrayed the grief that comes with the loss of a parent. While not all at once, people all over the world could relate to certain aspects of what the family was going through. While some of the filler storylines are contrived, the rest is completely real. And viewers don’t seem to be bothered when they flit between the two.
They also had/have incredible power and influence when it comes to branding. Starting at day one with their Dash boutiques (which have since closed down).
Foodwise, the salads and the ice tea they drank also started a movement. Over the years, the sisters must have shaken thousands of chicken salads from Health Nut in LA — putting the Californian chain on the global map.
Each sister has branched off and started their own mini empires (check their individual Insta bios to see their businesses and what takes up most of their time now) and Kendall is one of the highest earning models in the world.
But it’s not only fashion, beauty and health that the world’s most famous sisters have influenced. Kim has also been working hard on prison reform on the US. Studying to become a lawyer and using her platform to help prisoners get out of jail. It’s her least publicised work, but her most meaningful to date.
Steering the ship, is Kris Jenner — ‘momager’, media mogul and businesswoman, who doesn’t get the saying: “Devil works hard, but Kris Jenner works harder” for nothing. Jenner is the backbone of the family and literally created something out of nothing.
Not only has the Kardashian-Jenner brand changed the course of the beauty and fitness industries, but their bodies also redefined what it is to be “womanly”. Previous to Kim’s curves, the media normalised waif-like figures of Kate Moss, Sienna Miller and Nicole Richie (post The Simple Life) — bodies that were unattainable for most post-pubescent women. Kim standardised a curvy physique, a large bum, small waist and voluptuous breasts. All of the sisters became known for their bodies as much as their personalities. They epitomised body positivity and confidence.
Khloe struggled more than her sisters when it came to her self-image, but a healthy overhaul of her body after her public breakup with Lamar Odom gave her the confidence she was lacking. Not only did she find it in herself, but paved the way for millions of fans around the world.
The Kardashians also redefined what it meant to use social media as a platform. As they learned to use new technologies like Snapchat and Instagram, so too did the population. They made filters famous, shared family photographs and if they share a product, you can bet it flys off the shelf. Their influence has no bounds.
Because of the series, several college courses in the US might not be available. We saw in one episode of KUWTK where seven students were taking part in a seminar called Keeping Up With Keeping Up and at the University of Southern California, there is even a #SelfieClass, which is a history of the self-portrait, including an exploration of the medium made famous by Kim. (She even released a booked, Kim Kardashian Selfish, full of selfies).
Even though Keeping Up with the Kardashians will no longer be on our screens, this is not a farewell to the family, as we’re sure the Kardashians will continue to influence for years to come.
I for one am sad to see the series go as I’ve become accustomed to the lives of the family. I’ve loved seeing their children grow, their empires flourish and their stories intertwine.
The Kardashians ultimately redefined what it means to be famous. They created reality TV as we know it and because of Kris, Kourtney, Kim, Khloe, Kylie, Kendall, Kaitlyn, Rob, Scott, Kanye, Mason, Penelope, Reign, North, Saint, Chicago, Psalm, Dream, True and Stormi, pop culture will never be the same again.