Friday, March 31, 2023

Kris Jenner . . . And All Things Kardashian by Kris Jenner


No, your eyes aren't deceiving you. I just gave Kris Jenner's memoir a whole four stars. I just couldn't help myself, okay? Even though I'm not a fan of the Kardashian family and I've never been able to bring myself to watch a full episode of their show, it truly is amazing how they built up their empire and basically turned the influencer lifestyle into an extremely lucrative, full-time job. I wish someone would fly me around on private plans to do brand deals and escort me into Coco Chanel's personal Parisian suite for a private tour. I'm fucking jealous.

Kris Jenner's memoir starts out with a cringey prologue about her and Kim going to Paris to see the aforementioned suite. But then it drops back about four decades, to her modest upbringing in San Diego/Oxnard. We learn about her alcoholic father, her alcoholic stepfather, her hatred of all things abalone due to her stepfather's abalone job (I didn't know abalone burgers were a thing but apparently Kris hates them), and then, her mother's humble candle business. To make matters worse, her stepdad's business partner ran off with like $12,000, which was a seriously fuck you amount of money back then.

It's obvious she always had some money coming in, and through her boyfriends and marriages, she quickly began rubbing elbows with the rich and famous. I had no idea that she and Robert Kardashians were such close friends with O.J. and Nicole Brown Simpson. A huge portion of this memoir is actually about that relationship, the domestic violence she thought she witnessed, and her absolute horror and despair following the murder and the trial. This was actually one of the more interesting parts of the book because it portrayed such a human side of her. I saw a couple reviews saying that she was milking it but I really didn't get that impression at all. She seemed conflicted, guilty, and horrified. Especially at how she "failed" her friend by missing red flags that seemed all too obvious in retrospect.

I was surprised that Kim Kardashian's sex tape wasn't mentioned at all (nor did she pay lip service to Ray J). A lot of people credit that tape for causing the interest in the Kardashian show so it was interesting that it was omitted here. Likewise, she mentions her anger at finding out that Kim Kardashian married her first husband as a teenager-- in secret-- as a teen and she basically had to Google it to find out. I looked him up and apparently his name was Damon Thomas (he's not mentioned by name here, rather pointedly). This actually made me wonder if Kris Jenner was super pissed with these guys (I mean I would be) and if this omission was a sort of "no clicks for you" middle finger. Especially since she talks about Kim's middle school boyfriend, TJ Jackson (Michael Jackson's nephew) quite a bit. Apparently she was a big fan of that guy.

Other things I found interesting: 

-Her openness about cheating on Robert Kardashian with a guy ten years younger than she was (apparently she was looking for passion, like something out of The Thorn Birds specifically-- rookie mistake, Kris).
-O.J. flipped out about her cheating and told her she should have just bought a vibrator. Then he called up the guy she was cheating with and yelled at him.
-Kourtney was not Bruce Jenner's fan when they first got engaged and made a point of wearing all black whenever he came over, like she was in mourning or something. Hilarious.
-Kourtney and Kim caused a bomb scare on a plane when they were teens after a bombing of a nearby stadium freaked them out, and they got the plane turned around.
-If you give Kris something and she finds it emotionally meaningful, apparently she will keep it literally forever. This includes the transistor radio her father gave her when she had leg cancer as a kid, the lingerie set she received from Anna Nicole Brown, and Lalique glass she purchased with her late husband.
-If you want a hit reality show, it helps to have Ryan Seacrest on speed dial.

The book ends with her neck surgery (anti-aging not because of anything wrong) and her family gathered around her like she's a sacrifice laid out on a bier, and she talks about how happy she is to have everything she has and her understanding that this is a privilege-- even though she worked for it, dammit. It was simultaneously everything I expected and also so much more. I guess I wasn't expecting to like Kris Jenner so much. Bar the well-I'm-actually-so-rich-I-may-as-well-exist-in-a-different-reality-from-thou moments, she comes across as halfway likable. Even though she does the thing where she kind of paints this I-hoisted-myself-up-by-my-own-bootstraps mythos that a lot of the nouveau riche do to convince the public that they deserve their newly gotten wealth, she's self-aware enough of her own bullshit that it doesn't come across as offensive as people who wholeheartedly consume their own bullshit (like Donald Trump).

If you're curious about Kris Jenner and, especially, if you like the show, I think you'll enjoy the book. The O.J. section is long and painful to read but I thought she portrayed it in a really somber and respectful way, which is in stark contrast to her obvious glee at managing Bruce Jenner's brand and comeback in the '90s and the surging popularity of her TV show in the aughts. This was very well written and I checked in the acknowledgements and she had the help of a "collaborator." Not sure if that means a ghostwriter or just a really hands-on editor, but either way, Mr. Mark Seal did a great job making this memoir highly readable with neat transitions and compelling pacing. This was almost a five star read for me and I'm still kind of mentally blown away by that.

4 to 4.5 out of 5 stars

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