It’s a quiet Monday afternoon in September, the first that really has that fall crispness to the air, and sitting in the crowd of the Soho Apple Store theater are the following: a trio of squealing girls in pink-feathered tiaras and matching T-shirts; a Staten Island college student who has met Demi Lovato “about a hundred times,” as evidenced by her camera roll; a Calabasas-born NYU student whose bronzer and eyebrow game is not to be fucked with; me; and a dog wearing a Yankees baseball hat and sneakers on all four of his paws. It’s this last audience member who captures the attention of Kendall Jenner, who interrupts an informal panel about the lifestyle apps she and her sisters just launched to ask the owner: “What’s your dog’s name?”
“Shaggy,” the audience member relays back to her. She squeals.
“He’s so cute!” she whispers to her sister Khloé. Did I mention that Khloé is there, too? And so are Kourtney and Kylie and, of course, Kim. Given their separate endorsements and schedules and modeling gigs and photo shoots and interviews, it’s exceedingly rare to catch the five Kardashians together in one room — even the cameras of Keeping Up With the Kardashians don’t make it happen that much — but here we are, the people of New York City who have nothing to do at 2 p.m. on a Monday, witnessing this extraordinary event in Kardashian history.
The well-contoured college students and the aspiring makeup artists and the fangirl journalists are gathered together at the Prince Street Apple Store to listen to the clan discuss the self-titled apps they released that morning, each of which features videos, photos, and musings from the girls about their lives and projects. We would only be allowed to ask “great questions,” the Apple event coordinator reminded us before the panel started, and great questions have only to do with the app and not with autographs or fan photos. He made his voice slow as he spoke, like he was talking to aliens who had never communicated outside of Snapchat. In a way, I suppose, he was.
Soon the five sisters emerged from a door marked “Briefing Room,” walking purposefully in outfits coordinated by palette but not matching, never matching. The crowd shrieked. The crowd squealed. One very hyper girl screamed, “I love you, Khloé!” and Khloé waved and smiled. Even though I had never seen them in person before, all the Kardashians looked extremely familiar, and that provoked a weird sort of dissonance, a feeling that I knew them as intimately as members of my own family but also not at all. Kim called out to some fans behind me whom she recognized. I swear I caught Khloé glance at my gross Chuck Taylors, which I would not have worn if I knew today was the day I would see the Kardashians, and give me a dirty look. Where is Rob? I wondered wistfully. I hope wherever he is, he’s happy.
The Kardashians are remarkably comfortable before a crowd, and this makes you feel at ease watching them. There were moments when I forgot I was in their presence and felt as if I were just watching their show on a really high-def TV. Khloé picked lint off of Kendall’s impossibly chic pantsuit; Kendall and Kylie bickered over a question; Khloé swatted at an invisible fly. While Kourtney responded to a query from the audience, Kim raised her iPhone and began checking her hair in her phone’s camera. She licked her finger and fixed a flyaway that did not exist.
Did she forget that we can see her? I wondered. Maybe she is so used to people watching her that she forgot they were watching at all. Or maybe Kim, savvy businesswoman that she is, knows that letting us witness these intimate moments is what’s made her so successful. It makes us feel closer to her. I also fix my hair in my camera’s phone! I thought. Wow, we really have so much in common.
It’s this casual authenticity that’s at the heart of the wildly successful Kardashian empire, and no one is more uniquely aware of that than the Kardashians themselves. As Khloé put it toward the end of the event, “Your brand is a reflection of yourself.”
We never did find out what was up with the dog in the baseball hat.