Before Kim Kardashian broke the internet, before Kendall Jenner became the highest–paid model in the world, and well before the world was obsessed with Kylie Jenner’s lips, the Kardashian–Jenner clan were just a wealthy family living in Calabasas, Calif.
Keeping Up With The Kardashians first aired in 2007 with just under a million people tuning into the pilot. The premise of the show was simple: an all–access reality TV show following the lives of matriarch Kris Jenner and her then–partner Caitlyn, an Olympian athlete turned motivational speaker. Along with the happy couple, the show focused on their children Kendall and Kylie, who were just 12 and 10 years old at the premiere, as well as Kris’ children from her previous marriage to O.J. Simpson’s defense attorney, Robert Kardashian Sr.: Rob Jr., Kourtney, Khloé, and of course Kim Kardashian.
After over a decade of KUWTK, the Kardashians announced on Jan. 8th, 2021 via Instagram that they had filmed their last episode. No one expected the show to take off, but after 14 years, 20 seasons, ten births, three on–screen marriages and way too many spin–off shows to mention, the Kardashians have come a long way since their 2000s beginnings. As the show grew in popularity in the 2010s, they were part of a cultural reset. The Kardashians revolutionized what it means to be a celebrity and have undoubtedly impacted many of our lives in ways we might not even realize.
The Age of Reality TV
Given the success of KUWTK, it’s no surprise that countless other reality TV shows tried to emulate the show with similar formats. This includes shows such as Bravo’s The Real Housewives franchise and VH1’s Love & Hip Hop franchise—but none of these shows have even come close to its success. Even KUWTK’s own spin–offs such as Rob & Chyna and Life of Kylie struggled to compete, and both were quickly canceled. Although the show is now on its final season, viewing figures remain healthy—2.4 million tuned in to watch the Khloé and Tristan Thompson cheating scandal unfold throughout season 16.
The OG Influencers
When Instagram first launched in October 2010, the early influencers posted blurry photos of sunsets and breakfasts. When Kim Kardashian joined the app in February 2012, she had already been sharing intimate details of her life via KUWTK for a couple of years, so posting a candid photo of herself in her pajamas wasn’t exactly off brand for her. In the years that followed, Kim and the rest of the Kardashian clan quickly became the queens of Instagram.
Of the top 20 most–liked Instagram posts of all time, eight of them are Kylie’s, who has the most followers out of all six sisters at a massive 215 million followers. In May 2015, when Kylie admitted to using lip fillers to achieve her iconic pout, lip filler demand increased by 70%. In February 2018, after tweeting about not using Snapchat anymore, the company’s market value decreased by $1.3 billion.
Some of the most viral Instagram moments of the last decade include Kim’s ‘break–the–internet' cover of Paper Magazine in November 2014, Kendall’s record–breaking Instagram post of her hair in the shape of a heart, and of course Kylie’s surprise birth announcement which previously held the title of the most–liked picture on Instagram of all time.
The Faces of Fashion and Beauty
Nobody has been as influential in the fashion world over the last decade as the Kardashians, from infiltrating high–fashion powerhouses like Fendi and Balmain to fast–fashion brands PrettyLittleThing and Fashion Nova. Throughout the 2010s, the Kardashian–Jenner influence on what was currently trendy was unavoidable; after all, they managed to make latex dresses, chunky sneakers, and cycling shorts the pinnacle of fashion.
In the 2000s, the beauty standard was blonde and skinny (think Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie). But in the 2010s, this shifted partially due to the Kardashians. Kim and Kylie’s iconic backsides have caused a significant increase in the demand for Brazilian butt lifts, which transfers fat from the body and pushes it into the butt to create an hourglass figure. The sisters even launched multiple businesses capitalizing on the desire to get the Kardashian look such as Kylie Cosmetics, KKW Beauty, and Skims. According to Lyst, in September 2019, following the launch of Kim’s shapewear brand Skims, there was a 45% increase in online searches for compression garments.
Using Your Platform
With success and influence inevitably comes controversy—and the Kardashians are not exempt from this. Over the past ten years, the family has made more than its fair share of faux–pas, particularly in the scope of movements such as Black Lives Matter and Me Too. We all remember Kendall’s tone–deaf Pepsi ad in 2017, their continual promotion of appetite suppressants and diet teas on social media, as well as multiple accusations of cultural appropriation, just to name a few.
However in 2020, the Kardashians overwhelmingly used their platform and influence to cast light on social and political issues. Kim Kardashian in particular has used her platform to speak up on the subject of the wrongful imprisonment of many Black Americans. Her White House meeting with Donald Trump even helped secure clemency for Alice Johnson, who was sentenced to life in prison for a nonviolent drug offense. The Kardashians have also been very vocal about the Armenian Genocide, bringing more awareness to an issue that continues to be unacknowledged by many.
KUWTK and the Kardashians have changed reality TV and celebrity culture as we know it and fans of the show will sorely miss it. However, even though this may be the end of KUWTK, this is not the last time we will see the famous family on our screens. They recently signed on to an exclusive content production deal with Hulu. What that means, we don’t know, but it’s safe to say that this isn’t the end for the scandalous and influential Kardashian–Jenner family.