As Kim Kardashian confirms that she and husband Kanye West are undergoing IVF treatment to give daughter North West a sibling, revisit the exclusive ELLE UK December 2014 cover interview in which the TV icon first discussed her problems conceiving.
Who does Kim Kardashian-West Think She Is?
She gets 20 new twitter followers a minute. Last year, she made $3,000 every hour. 2.41 million people ‘liked’ her wedding picture. It’s Kim’s world, we just live in it.
Words: Louise Gannon
On the day that private nude photos of Kim Kardashian West have been leaked online, she is calmly wandering through the lobby of The Dorchester hotel in London at the appointed hour of our lunch date. We were due to meet in a private suite, but she has slipped away from her security team and instead chosen to meet me in the busy restaurant. ‘I like to bust out on my own now and again,’ she says, taking her seat. ‘I’m fine. I can take care of myself.’
The most famous woman on the planet is tiny (5ft 2in), minimally made-up and dressed casually in black trousers and a sleeveless black top. What is more striking is how she carries herself: both at ease with and indifferent to the swivelling heads, a Mona Lisa smile completing her look, she moves unhurriedly through the room. I have never met a star more comfortable with themselves and their fame.
But there are some things even an iron-clad confidence can’t protect you from: the leaked photos, stolen (like those of Jennifer Lawrence, Kirsten Dunst and Rihanna) by cyber hackers. She shrugs: ‘I feel violated because these are private pictures. I didn’t choose for them to be out there. But I’m also realistic. I’m on covers of magazines practically naked, so I can’t go crazy about it. The only choice I can make is to not let it shake me up. I’m not having that choice taken away from me.’
Since the reality television series Keeping Up With The Kardashians started seven years ago, Kim, her two sisters Kourtney and Khloé, her brother Rob, her ‘momager’ Kris – plus, latterly, half-sisters Kylie and Kendall Jenner – and all their other halves have become cultural phenomena. But none more so than Kim. Love her or hate her, she has courted attention – documenting everything not captured on the show on her Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds (total following at the time of going to press: 70,745,416 and counting) – and captivating not just the public but some of the most powerful figures in the fashion world. She’s worth an estimated £40m, has appeared in films, in cartoons and at the Met Ball, and her Kardashian Kollection at Lipsy clothing line is a sell-out. On top of that, there is her chain of clothing stores, DASH, and the Kardashian Khaos outlet in Vegas, along with make-up lines and a new app, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, which made £27 million in its first three months.
She has also become mother to baby North and married rap king Kanye West in a ceremony played out in Paris and Florence with an extravagance not seen since the days of the Medicis. ‘You think so?’ she asks. ‘I just wanted to celebrate. Though it probably did seem very over the top, the day itself was really intimate: 150 family and friends.’
Kim is the ultimate example of an Andy Warhol vision – pop art in permanent performance. We are transfixed. But why? Sitting opposite her, I have to concede that a lot of it has to do with her looks. She is Cleopatra beautiful: perfect skin and the sort of face you want to keep looking at. More than that, though, is an innate self-possession. It’s clear that Kim doesn’t really care whether I – or anyone else – thought her wedding was over the top. Like she doesn’t seem to really care about the topless pictures or that some people believe she has been constructed entirely by plastic surgeons. ‘I’ve had Botox and fillers,’ she says. ‘I haven’t had a nose job or a facelift. I’ve not had any implants – why on earth would I want an even bigger butt? I haven’t had my waist made smaller. I’ve been like this since I was 11 years old.
‘It’s taken me a long time to be happy with my body and for my confidence to grow to what it is today. I grew up when the body to have was the tall, slim, supermodel one, like Cindy Crawford’s. No one looked like me. It’s good to break the mould and recreate one. I’m an Armenian girl, I have shape, and it turned out people liked that. That makes me feel good about myself and about other women for being so supportive. I am a confident woman, but I didn’t just arrive confident – it has built over the years and that is a big part of who I am now.’
Kim is easy company. There is something relaxing (and refreshing, for someone who interviews a lot of celebrities) in the way she talks so openly about herself – rarely with any form of self-analysis. She has learned to filter out negativity in the same way she has learned only to go out in a bikini on overcast days: ‘It’s a trick of the light. There are paparazzi everywhere, that’s a fact, so if I go out in bright sunlight all my cellulite will be lit up and visible. If it’s overcast, you can’t see it. I know it’s there, but you won’t.’ It is the point of view of someone whose life is entirely lived in the public gaze – and who is entirely accepting of that fact.
Ask her what does bothers her and she says two things: ‘One is the fact that when anything goes wrong in any of my relationships, or my sisters’ relationships, my family gets the blame. And the other thing that bothers me is that I’m not pregnant. That’s what bothers me most. I want to be. We’re trying really hard but it isn’t happening. A few years ago I was told I could never get pregnant. Three different doctors told me the same thing, which is why I wanted to have my eggs frozen. I was just about to do that when I found out I was pregnant with North.
‘The whole experience was so strange because it was like it wasn’t supposed to happen. I wasn’t expecting it and my body just went crazy. After five months, I swore I’d never get pregnant again. I got so huge and it felt like someone had taken over my body. Sometimes I’d be sitting there, nearly 200lbs, crying and swearing this will never happen again, and sometimes I’d actually be laughing about it. I’d think God was doing this for a reason. He was saying: “Kim, you think you’re so hot, but look what I can do to you.” And then as soon as North was a few months old, I just wanted to get pregnant again. I love being a mother, I love everything about North. I love how it’s changed me, how we are a family, how strong I feel. I want a boy and another girl; I want it to start happening straight away. I loved being part of a huge family – and I want that for North. We’d do IVF if nothing happens, but we both want to keep trying naturally.’
Kim seems unaltered by fame, whether she’s in public or in private. It is, perhaps, the reason she has cultivated a devoted following. ‘I am very much who you see,’ she says. ‘I don’t have two personalities.’
And she relishes the exposure. ‘When I was 12, the first reality show came on television. It was called The Real World and I loved it. I made my best friend swear that when we were 18 we’d do audition tapes for it. She said no, but that I should do it and she should be my manager. Twenty years on, I’m on a reality show and she manages artists.’
Despite growing up in Beverly Hills and being friends with girls like Paris Hilton, Kim’s father Robert (who split from Kim’s mum Kris in 1991, and died of oesophageal cancer in 2003, age 59) was strict with his four children. ‘We couldn’t go out on Saturdays because we had to eat together, and it was church very early on Sundays.’
Her late father was a huge influence: ‘My dad was obsessed with documents and contracts. At Christmas, we would have ‘gift’ documents in our stockings with ‘A One Hour Talk With Your Father About The Meaning Of Life’ written on. At the time we’d all moan about it. He loved to talk big stuff with us. Now that I have lost my father, I’d give everything I have for one of those hours.’
She tells me a story that helps to explain her self-confidence. ‘When I was 13 [two years after her parents divorced], my father wrote me a letter. I was unhappy with my body – I developed really early. Every night I’d sit in the bath and cry, and pray my boobs would stop growing. I wanted to be Kourtney, who was flat-chested. He told me that I had a body not many girls have, that later it would lead to attention from men, but that the most important thing was that I was a wonderful girl and I had to understand my self-worth. In my 20s, I’d let guys cheat and friends treat me badly. I’d never let that happen now.’
Kim first came to the attention of TV producers when she appeared occasionally in Paris Hilton’s show The Simple Life. But in 2007, a sex tape she’d made four years earlier with her then-boyfriend, singer Ray J, was leaked – making her the centre of an internet storm. It was around this time that producer Ryan Seacrest approached the Kardashian clan to document the minutiae of their daily lives.
‘When the idea for our show came up, we were all up for it. We’d opened [DASH] and all thought it would be great exposure. We didn’t think it would last beyond the first series, and now here we are ready to do season 10. I think people love that, underneath everything, we are a family.’
Kim’s current passion is the clothing line she designs with Khloe and Kourtney: Kardashian Kollection at Lipsy. ‘I’m passionate about girls wearing great affordable clothes that just look good on them and suit their shape. I used to follow fashion and so many trends didn’t work on me. [The range] different shapes so women can find their style […] and stick with it, which is what I do.’
Kim’s younger half-sister Kendall Jenner is also breaking into the fashion world, so I ask if it is true that there is rivalry between the two: Kendall spent Fashion Week walking for Chanel, Givenchy and Sonia Rykiel. ‘I didn’t know there were those rumours,’ she says. ‘But then I read that the other models were putting cigarette stubs in Kendall’s drinks and bullying her. I rang her in a panic and she told me it was all nonsense and that she’d been having a ball. I think she will be a huge star. I definitely think she will be bigger than I’ve ever been.’
I ask her if there have been moments on the show she’d do differently. She nods: ‘The worst time for me was when I divorced [for the second time, after a 72-day marriage to basketball player Kris Humphries in 2011] and the public reaction was terrible. I was blamed and shamed; no one wanted to see any other side. My confidence fell to pieces. I took four months out; surrounded myself with family. By the end, my attitude had changed: I felt I was just going to get on with my life; not worry about what people thought.’
Her relationship with Kanye isn’t like her past marriages, she says. ‘It’s different. We’re a team. We are opposites in so many ways, but we are also two peas in a pod. He was my friend for years before we got together. I always liked him, he always liked me. I’m no expert, but if I have one piece of advice for marriage, it is to be friends first.’
Kanye ‘gets’ her – her strength, and her vulnerability. In the months after North was born, she stayed with her mum, Kris, and beat herself up about her pregnancy weight.
‘One day, I came downstairs and in my mother’s hall were rails and rails of clothes. There were shoes, coats, dresses and trousers. Kanye was putting more of them out on rails. He said: “Babe, I went shopping for you. You’re going to try everything on and we’re going to see what looks great on you. The rest you can send back.”
‘I was so touched, but I also felt totally overwhelmed. Kanye was so patient. And he’s got this natural confidence that has rubbed off on me. That helped me so much on so many levels. He’s become my stylist. A lot of the clothes he’s picked out for me are the ones that the fashion people have really loved. Bottom line: he just cares; he gets me.’
In the flesh, Kim looks less ‘done’ than she often does on TV. ‘Since North, I wear less make-up. I used to wear a lot and I think that was why I looked like I had work done. I just wanted to be skin to skin with her, no make-up in the way. Kanye loves me more natural; I think all men like less make-up on women. I think it is sexier.’
I wonder how she feels about North growing up on KUWTK and whether Kanye wants her to scale back. ‘In my life, no one has to do anything they don’t want to do, and no one is told what to do. There’s a myth that Kanye controls me or my mum controls me. I’ve always made my own decisions. North will be part of the show, but she’ll just be in and out, like Kanye is.’
Three days ago she was in bed, on steroids, because her back went after a long-haul flight from Australia to LA with North and Kanye. Then, in an overexcited attempt to kiss her mummy, North accidentally split Kim’s bottom lip. ‘I was in bed icing my back, icing my mouth, knowing I had to get back on a plane to come to London in two days and I was in agony.’
I ask her why she bothered. At 34, a multimillionaire herself and wife of one of the richest stars in the world, Kim no longer needs to do anything, let alone promote a fashion range or meet up with a charity to counter cyberbullying (‘I want to put myself out for that cause. I hate that there are kids killing themselves over cyberbullying’).
She raises an eyebrow. ‘But I wanted to come to London Fashion Week. I wanted to come to London. I love this life I have; I’m having a blast. Nothing is going to stop me.’
The Kardashian Kollection at Lipsy is available in stores and online at lipsy.co.uk now.