For those of us who grew up in an era in which fame and success was the result of a particularly outstanding skill or talent – a gift for business, perhaps, or a beautiful singing voice, magical guitar skills or supreme athletic prowess – it can be difficult to accept the new breed of celebrity that seems to have emerged over the last decade: the ‘famous for being famous’.
While we’ve come to love and loathe such big names as Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, these celebutantes pale in comparison to the powerhouse dynasty of the Kardashians, a family who have rarely left our screens, magazine covers and gossip features since they burst onto the national stage in 2007.
It’s easy to dismiss Kim Kardashian and her clan as just another in a long line of celebrity fads that will be forgotten and replaced by tomorrow, and at first glance it’s not easy to muster any respect for this family who seem to embody everything about modern culture that we claim to dislike.
A closer look, though, can result in a few surprising conclusions that point towards the reason this unusual, seemingly talent free family have dominated our screens for the last five years and have today become one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in entertainment. Here are a few things to consider…
1. Disaster into Triumph
Kim Kardashian, the first of the family to achieve notoriety, shot to infamy in 2007 when a tape starring herself and R&B singer Ray J was bought by Vivid Entertainment for $1million. The subsequent lawsuit saw Kim take the limelight before eventually settling for a $5million payoff.
While most of us would be mortified to find ourselves the unwitting stars of a explicit tape, Kim beat her embarrassment and went on to establish herself as a media darling. While others may have searched for the deepest hole they could find Kim Kardashian’s resilience proved invaluable. Without the will to push past the embarrassment Kim and her family would have been forgotten in short order. You need a hard head to succeed.
2. Strike While the Iron is Hot
In a point connected to the first, the Kardashians – most notably Kim herself – weren’t at all afraid to capitalize on their 15 minutes of fame. Kim knew that her time in the public eye was brief, and she was savvy enough to use her notoriety to wedge herself into the TV schedule with Keeping Up with the Kardashians, the springboard the family needed to cement themselves as a cultural force. It takes a shrewd business person to make such a move at exactly the right time.
3. Connect With the Customer
At first glance the Kardashians seem to be not at all relatable to the man and woman on the street. Excessively privileged and living a lavish lifestyle, the family are as far from the average American family as it’s possible to imagine. However, beyond the mansions, sports cars and lavish weddings the family themselves are eminently relatable.
KUWTK focuses on the real life issues of the family, showing their problems and challenges as well as their successes. We see hardworking people who love their family and strive for the things we all strive for: love, marriage and happiness. It’s these qualities we identify with, and it’s the reason we keep tuning in (and paying the enormous Kardashian paycheck) each season.
4. Don’t Put Your Eggs in One Basket
At the heart of every successful business is flexibility and the willingness to experiment. While KUWTK is still going strong after six seasons the Kardashians continue to expand their empire with such spinoffs as Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami, Kourtney and Kim Take New York and Khloe & Lamar. Beyond the screen there are also books, fashion lines, fragrances and endless media appearances, all designed to expand the Kardashian empire and dig into the very roots of American culture. There is strength in diversity.
5. No Substitute for Hard Work
Finally, while there are any number of criticisms that could be levelled at Kim Kardashian and her media hungry family, laziness certainly isn’t among their faults. Their work on KUWTK, the numerous TV spin offs, products endorsements and constant media appearances suggest a family who work harder – much harder – than most to maintain and expand the influence of their empire. In 2010 the Kardashians reportedly earned in the region of $65million, and that figure has surely only grown since then.
At the heart of it we reach and interesting conclusion. Critics of the Kardashians would no doubt point to them as a symptom of the collapse of society; that they’re parasites feeding off the fetish the public seems to have with celebrity, and that they offer no redeeming qualities at all.
However, I challenge you to point out a family that better embody the American dream. I challenge you to find a family more hard working, determined and devoted to the pursuit of happiness (and wealth) that we hold so dear. Kim Kardashian and her family, it seems, are great role models in business.