Social media megastar Kim Kardashian has brought the phenomenon of being “famous for being famous” to new heights of hype, repeatedly “breaking the internet” with her sexy selfies.
The world’s highest paid reality television star, 35, was a lucrative target for the gang who robbed her at gunpoint in Paris early Monday, making off with millions of dollars worth of jewellery.
Love her or hate her, it is almost impossible to ignore the US model and socialite, who keeps 84 million Instagram followers enthralled with endless posts featuring celebrity friends, rapper husband Kanye West, and her scantily-clad self.
Having first come to public notice as the stylist of “It girl” and hotel chain heiress Paris Hilton, she quickly surpassed her old friend as the star of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” and a notorious leaked sex tape with her former boyfriend, singer Ray J.
The controversial reality show about her rich Los Angeles family’s search for fame has divided America.
While the Kardashians and their Jenner half-sisters have won millions of fans who follow their every moment in the limelight, critics have condemned the show as the nadir of bad taste and of “self-absorbed” celebrity culture.
US President Barack Obama even called her conspicuous consumption “a bad influence” for American youth.
The Washington Times, meanwhile, claimed that the Kardashians’ narcissism and constant shopping “illustrates our nation’s moral, spiritual and cultural decay”.
– ‘Break the internet’ –
That has not stopped their show becoming the longest-running American reality series ever, now in its 12th season.
Kardashian was also quick to see how her television fame could explode further through social media, splashing her accounts with naked and nearly-naked photos.
She became a truly global star in 2014 with a cover shoot for Paper Magazine headlined “Break The Internet, Kim Kardashian”, featuring heavily oiled buttocks and a fizzing champagne bottle. The look has spawned thousands of internet memes.
Kardashian has shrewdly monetised her notoriety, making $71.8 million alone last year from her mobile game “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood”, and millions more from her social media endorsements, according to Forbes magazine.
But it was her staggeringly ostentatious marriage in 2014 to West which sent her fame stratospheric, with the New York Times calling the brouhaha surrounding the ceremony a “historic blizzard of celebrity”.
They first flew to France for a pre-wedding “rehearsal” at the Palace of Versailles, where they arrived in a gold-plated carriage before flying on to tie the knot in Florence.
– Kimye –
The couple now have two children — North and Saint — and are collectively known as “Kimye”.
Their shared passion for fashion means they are often in the French capital, and are — for the paparazzi at least — the king and queen of the catwalk front rows.
But despite being one of the most photographed women in the world, Kardashian remains very much in control of her own image.
On Sunday alone, six carefully selected photos in various outfits at Paris fashion week were posted to her Twitter feed, as well as three from her facial.
Many in the French capital are now asking whether the robbery will end her love affair with the city and its fashion world.
Kardashian is known to be a close friend of Olivier Rousteing, creative director of Balmain.
Both she and West — now a designer himself — are also big fans of Paris fashion’s star of the moment, Demna Gvasalia, and his Vetements brand.
Kardashian was photographed wearing thigh-high boots and an off-the-shoulder raincoat designed by Gvasalia for Balenciaga on Sunday, hours before she was robbed.
And it was French photographer Jean-Paul Goude who was behind Kardashian’s notorious oiled bottom photo shoot.
The public fascination with the Armenian-American Kardashian clan began during the 1995 murder trial of former American football star O.J. Simpson, a close friend of Kim’s late father Robert.
Simpson even rang the lawyer and businessman from his Ford Bronco while he was being followed by police along 60 miles of LA highways, with the car chase broadcast live on television.
He sat next to Simpson throughout the trial and was the centre of conspiracy theories over the mysterious Louis Vuitton bag he carried out of Simpson’s home the day after Nicole Brown, the football star’s ex-wife, was found stabbed to death.