“Mom, what’s a Kardashian?”
The first two women standing underneath the “Khloé Line Starts Here” sign at BookCon in the Javits Center on Manhattan’s West Side are in their mid-30s: one wears mom-washed Levi’s, the other’s dressed in a sharp black spandex outfit, straight from SoulCycle. They’re talking to a woman whose neighboring booth has been overrun by barricades, security guards, and screaming kids, all of which are here on account of an appearance by Khloé Kardashian, who’s promoting her new memoir/self-help book, Strong Looks Better Naked.
“The things we do for our kids,” says the Levi’s mom, anxiously twirling her VIP pass around her neck, although she doesn’t look too put out. The woman running the booth next to Khloé’s seems unfazed by the swarms around her as well. “My 7-year-old son was watching TV and someone mentioned, ‘Khloé Kardashian.’ He asked, ‘Mom, what’s a Kardashian?’ and I thought to myself, ‘How the hell do I describe to a 7-year-old who a Kardashian is?’”
Whether or not they can actually articulate who or what a Kardashian is, there are plenty of people here who are seemingly happy to simply be around one. Khloé’s book won’t be published until the fall, and there aren’t any physical copies to sign today, so everyone’s gonna go home with a pre-signed sticker instead. Once they’ve navigated the line (there are actually more than a half dozen “Khloé Line Starts Here” signs throughout the convention center), fans have less than 30 seconds to pose, hug, talk, and grab a sticker.
Not that it seems to diminish anyone’s enthusiasm. A tween dressed in black cutoff shorts, dirty Converse, and a T-shirt with “MY HEART BELONGS TO KHLOÉ” ironed on the front has brought flowers and a signed Kardashian tote bag. She runs one of Khloé’s biggest fan accounts on Instagram, “Kayla Kardashian,” and later today she’ll post a photo to her 11,000 followers showing her crying into Khloé’s chest with a caption that ends with “You always give me the most amazing experience and treat me so amazing! I can’t be more thankful for the relationship we have!”
Of course the only people Kardashians have real relationships with are, well, other Kardashians. This tends to happen when camera crews have followed you around 12-16 hours a day, six days a week, six to eight months out of the year for the past eight years of your life. As this story went to press, the tally for the various Khloé shows reads like this: Keeping Up With the Kardashians (142 episodes), Kourtney & Khloé Take Miami (30 episodes), Kourtney & Kim Take Miami (20 episodes), Kourtney & Kim Take NYC (20 episodes), Khloé & Lamar (20 episodes), Kourtney & Khloé Take the Hamptons (10 episodes), plus eight episodes of the forthcoming Dash Dolls. The family doesn’t really watch the show—in part because they’d have to revisit forgotten fights, but mostly because they’re already living it, almost 24/7.
Still, there’s something about Khloé that’s different. There’s the obvious: at 5'11" she towers over her sisters, Kourtney and Kim. She’s always looked different, too, with curly, light locks and a completely different body shape than her petite older siblings. But she’s also the most open and honest, and in the midst of her family’s various dramas, she’s often at the center of the storm (although she’s anything but calm). The strength she displays is both honorable and threatening to anyone who tries to test her family.
Over the last year or so, she had to take that strength and get stronger. She filed for divorce from her husband and former NBA all-star Lamar Odom in December 2013 after rumors of Odom’s drug abuse and infidelity plagued their relationship, which was documented in their own series, Khloé & Lamar. While readjusting to the single life, Khloé had a fling with rapper French Montana and moved out of the home she owned with Lamar and into a new Calabasas, Calif. mansion with her brother, Robert, who has shied from the public eye for the last year or two. On top of that, her stepfather Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Bruce) transitioned to become a woman. This is Khloé’s real life, and it’s eagerly watched every week by millions of viewers.
A week earlier, I meet Khloé at the Polo Lounge of The Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles. The Pink Palace won’t let paparazzi linger outside, and the waitstaff knows what iced tea Khloé likes and how many Splendas she might need. Khloé looks the same in real life as she does on TV, sporting matchstick light-washed jeans and a skin-tight white long-sleeve shirt, with her wavy blonde locks symmetrically draped over each shoulder. On newsstands around L.A. that week, the cover of In Touch features a picture of Khloé with her sister Kim and half-sister Kylie Jenner under a headline that reads “The Ultimate Betrayal; Kourtney to Scott: You Slept With My Sisters!” But inside the Polo Lounge, there are no cameras, no paparazzi, just Khloé.
[Ed. note: This interview took place before Caitlyn Jenner’s transition was complete. The pronouns used reflect that.]
Over the years, you’ve been the most protective sibling—you stick up for everyone.
I am a lion and these are my cubs. Don’t fuck with my cubs ’cause I will rip your head off.
Do you ever have tweeter’s remorse after going in on someone?
Normally we’ll throw it on a group text and I’ll say, “Unless you guys calm me down I’m tweeting this in five minutes.” Ninety percent of the time they talk me out of it. The amount of things I want to tweet that I get talked out of? It’s probably four times a week. I’m very hotheaded.
The most controversial was your spat with Amber Rose. Do you think you slut-shamed her?
I just feel like it was unnecessary for her to say anything, and I used her own quote back. It was from her talking about when she became a stripper so I’m like, “How are you judging and saying Kylie should have a curfew?” What I thought was crazy was she was telling my sister to act a certain way or have a curfew, but [she wasn’t] doing the same. So just don’t comment. How was I slut-shaming by saying don’t throw stones at glass houses? There was no slut-shaming. I am not one to slut-shame, I have done slutty behavior myself.
You’re maternal with your younger sisters and you’ve gone to bat for Kylie a lot recently. First off, what’s going on with the lips?
Sometimes things bother her. When it comes to her lips, I knew it was one of her biggest insecurities. She used to always take pictures covering her mouth. I didn’t even know when she first did her lips. It wasn’t noticeable, then it started getting bigger and bigger. I guess that was something she just wanted. I always wanted a boob job and I wear a padded bra all the time.
Why haven’t you gotten one yet?
I went to a consultation when I was 18 and my dad found out and got so mad at me. He died shortly after, and I remember just being like, “Well, he doesn’t want me to do it.” I wear push-up bras anyway. I’m all for stuff if it’s for you. If you want to get plastic surgery, I’m for that, but getting your lips filled in, that’s temporary, too.
The criticism is that Kylie is only 17 years old.
Kylie might be 17, but from what Kylie has been through and the life she lives, she’s not a normal 17-year-old.
Do you feel that the criticisms of Kylie and Tyga’s relationship are fair?
I think at 16 I was probably fucking someone that was in their 20s, for sure. I wouldn’t say I was even dating, probably just sleeping with them. But again Kylie is not a normal 17-year-old. You’re not gonna say, “Hey, so what are you doing this weekend?” and have her say, “Having a slumber party at my girlfriend’s,” or “Going to prom.” That’s not what Kylie does. Kylie is taking business meetings and bought her first house, or she’s going on a private plane with Karl Lagerfeld to take a meeting. That’s not even what people do in their 30s. It’s a rare circumstance, so let’s treat this as a special case.
The About Bruce specials just aired. What’s been the reaction?
That was the only show I had full-blown anxiety for. I don’t know if I’ve used appropriate terminology; I don’t know if I’m offending anybody. I’m learning as we’re filming, so even my reaction is so aggressive and so protective. I’m so…I’m angry, I’m sad, I’m confused. You try going through that in real time, and see what your reaction is. You don’t know. You can’t control it.
During the specials, you took the announcement of his transition the hardest, but it seemed to be because you felt out of the loop.
None of us ever knew about his transition, and that’s what got confusing on the special. He spoke to us about six months prior and said that he’s always dressed up in women’s clothing. We used to find them. I just never told my mom because…we all didn’t know. There were always rumors that he was a crossdresser back in the ’80s. That was a different time; we didn’t know if it was some Studio 54 thing. But he never said he was transitioning. In his soul, I think he knew. He’s been the most amazing parent to any of us. When my dad was alive, we would pray for [Bruce] and say how great it is to have a stepdad who loves us like we’re his own kids. [Bruce and I] are the closest out of the Kardashian kids. I think what hurt me the most was that we as a family wanted to be a part of his transitioning. I could imagine that it’s so lonely. Don’t you want people to support you and be there with you? But then I don’t know if that’s a selfish request.
The scene where he and Kris speak at the table was the most hard-hitting. It was so genuine and emotional.
She wants him to be happy, she wants him to be who he feels in his soul that he needs to be. I think she just wants to make sure that her life for 25-plus years is still valid. She was questioning, “Were you really in love with me? Did you really want to have sex with me every time?” I think the hardest part was feeling like so much was happening and we were the last to know. It’s a different relationship. It’s a different personality.
You’ve all been watching the specials together. What was it like watching Bruce’s reaction? We’re so much happier. We watched the Diane Sawyer special together, and we were so scared. I think our biggest fear was that people would be mean to him. I didn’t want anyone to hurt him. I was happy we watched it together.
How has your relationship with your siblings changed over the years?
Kim and I are way more understanding of each other, but Kim being married to Kanye is a completely different Kim. Kim is so at peace with herself. At my own wedding, I was so calm. At the Humps’ [Kris Humphries] wedding Kim was crazy. Then I saw her at her wedding to who I always said should be her husband, and she was so calm. No one else in the world could have the conversations that those two have.
Why did you always think Kanye should be her husband?
Every time I went to a basketball game and he saw me, he would come out of his way to find my seat and give me a hug. Every time I would see him, it was all about Kim. It was so endearing and so cute and genuine. What I love about Kanye is that he wants to build her up instead of take her down. Kim is so gorgeous and also a gorgeous person and people don’t really see that because they’re blinded or distracted by all of this. I think men want to break her down so they can control her.
You’ve become closer to Scott over the years, too.
We’re sleeping together, apparently. But yeah, we’re the best of friends, but what’s crazy is how much I hated him before. Overall I love his progression and growth. You can’t deny how much he loves Kourtney, and I do think he tries. We’re very much involved in each other’s lives.
What’s your relationship like with French Montana now?
We haven’t dated in a few months. I’m friends with him. I talked to him recently because his best friend was just murdered. He’s a great guy, super funny, a sweetheart.
Would you consider him a rebound?
I don’t know if I believe in rebounds, unless you just sleep with someone for a night or two. They’re just people you can laugh and have a good time with. My life is so serious, or always moving so fast, it’s fun to have that outlet to enjoy and let your hair down and not worry about things.
And you guys seem to be cool even if you’re not together.
When you fuck someone, why would you not…. Like, if someone has seen my vagina, I think it’s OK that I say hi and give him a hug hello.
Do you think you weren’t ready to be in a relationship yet?
For sure. I don’t think I was ready at all to have a serious relationship at the time. I needed time on my own to digest everything that’s happened. I went from Lamar to just distracting myself. Not to discredit French at all. I was very honest with French about that—I feel bad. I don’t think it’s fair for me to lead somebody on, or for me to act like I’m in this perfect headspace if I’m not. With love you don’t mislead or play around, so if you’re not perfectly clear, just be honest about it.
What’s your relationship with Lamar like?
I talked to Lamar this morning. I talk to Lamar as often as I can, which is inconsistent, but not on my terms. When you genuinely feel like that was the right relationship, you’re supposed to give it all you can. That’s what marriage is about. It’s not, “Let’s see if it works, if not we always have divorce.” I am not one of those girls. You took a vow before God and you’re supposed to abide by that. I’m not rushing into my divorce because I’m not looking to get married tomorrow, so I don’t have a deadline. I’m not rushing it. So when it’s time and it’s supposed to happen, it will.
Lamar is genuinely one of the best people I’ve ever met, and everyone says that when they meet him. I think Lamar’s gonna always be that person [for me] but that’s what made it so special. Even if I had it for five years or whatever, it was the best ever and I’m grateful I did. Some people don’t get that ever and I had that magic for a long time.
Do you miss it now?
Oh my god, I miss him every day. I miss what we had—things we got to do together are just memories. I like looking back and holding on to that stuff. I definitely miss it, and there’s times I’ll get so sentimental and so sad, but this had to happen for some reason. I’ll figure it out over time, someone will give me that answer eventually. I think it would be very fucking weird if I didn’t miss it.
How has your relationship with your mom changed over the years? On the show it always seemed a little volatile.
It’s weird, you would think I would be nicer to her on camera—I’m nicer to her off camera. It’s almost as if on camera, I feel like she’s turning up a notch, so I’m turning my bitch up a notch, too.
What’s it like to see her dating again?
My mom is living the good life right now. When I found out she was dating, or even texting back and forth, it was so weird to see her giggly. I’m like, “How do you flirt? Like, what do you guys say?” And it is disgusting. It’s awkward. Why is a 32-year-old, or whatever he is, why is he talking to a 50-fabulous-something woman? That’s just—and I say it to her all the time—weird. Hearing them have sex is wild and I’m traumatized.
Oh, Kim and I did.
Where and when?
Well at her house, thank god. We were downstairs, and we just heard like [claps]. It’s really a traumatizing thing. And the headboard just going....
Did you know what it was at first? Were you just...
—we were hitting each other like, “NO!” Kim was like, “Wait, shh.” And then it was dead silent and then they went again for round two. I was like, “OK, check please, I’m gone.” That shouldn’t happen to anybody, but it’s happened to me a few times with my mom. When I was younger, I was hiding under my mom’s bed for some reason, and her and Bruce started having sex. I was there and I couldn’t leave. I had to stay until it was over.
The day before, Khloé’s photo shoot is interrupted by a visit from Kim, who says she’s arrived to be the “creative director” for the shoot, which apparently involves her asking how much nipple we’re allowed to show.
“Can we take off the belt? It makes it look not sporty,” Kim says, directing Khloé’s hair stylist to move over. “You look so good,” she tells her sister. It’s reminiscent of the scene in Season 1 of KUWTK where Kris visits Kim’s 2007 Playboy cover shoot (“Sweetie, you’re doing great”), except now the power dynamic has changed. Kim’s in the Kris role, and Khloé’s now Kim, ready for, in Kim’s words, “her sexiest shoot yet.” [Ed. Note: Sorry Kim, we don’t show as much nipple as Playboy.]
Kim’s style is very hands-on. She halts a shot, and positions the KUWTK camera crew in front of Khloé, who’s spread-eagle in a white Moschino bra and high-waisted black spanx shorts. “Can we wet the nipples more? Can I do this?” Kim shuffles over, grabs a bottle of water, and douses Khloé’s already wet body, soaking her white bra.
After her sister leaves, Khloé poses for a new setup. Nicki Minaj’s The Pinkprint, an album about heartbreak and bouncing back, is blasting on the speakers. Even with her confidence shining through the other shots, her nerves were on high during the entire shoot. “I don’t know if I’m ever gonna feel like ‘Daaamn, you look good,’” she tells me the next day. “But I’ve never felt as comfortable in my own skin than I do now.” This look is her most revealing: a strappy black bikini, with her abs greased down and butt propped up. Khloé faces a mirror, the camera focusing on her, as she focuses on herself. “Feeling Myself” comes on, and she pouts, does a quick hair fluff, and looks herself up and down for the last shot. There’s no doubt whose moment it is now.