In the last 10 years, the Kardashians have ruled fashion trends, of course, helping to popularize contouring, lip fillers, waist trainers, and monochrome athleisure. But they’ve also made billions by starting their own companies, and their off-the-cuff tweets have tanked the stock of major corporations. Kim’s successful advocacy around criminal justice reform and American recognition of the Armenian genocide led political reporter Ben Jacobs to call her — not entirely unreasonably — “the most successful policy advocate during the Trump administration so far.”
The story of how the Kardashians went from D-list nobodies to A-list stars who feature regularly on the covers of Vogue and Forbes alike is a remarkable tale of American self-reinvention and self-definition in the digital age. It’s more complicated than you remember and more surprising than you’d expect. A stay-at-home mom, an Olympic athlete decades past her prime, a girl with a big butt and a sex tape, and a gaggle of siblings stepped into the culture and made space for themselves. Not only that, but with the help of evolving technology and their own unerring instincts, they remade parts of culture in their own image. Once written off as little more than a sideshow, these days, the Kardashians are celebrities that no one can afford to underestimate — let alone ignore.