A 20-minute phone interview with Kris Jenner is a raceagainst the clock: will the BlackBerry-juggling Kardashian family matriarch,arguably the busiest woman in reality television, respond to three pages ofburning personal questions before time runs out?
Jenner calls me following a staff meeting at her home officein Calabasas, California. Her voice matches her on-screen persona: simultaneously maternal and girlish,enthusiastic yet even-keeled. She chooses her words carefully and withconfidence, casting her (in)famous brood of 24-7 tabloid fixtures in the mostpositive light possible. Like a politician, she's relentlessly on message andher philosophy for life has a spiritual undercurrent.
"I always teach my kids, 'God first, family second andeverything else will fall into place,'" says Jenner, founder of the SoCal-basedLifeChange Community Church. The house of worship, cheekily referred to as "Churchof the Kardashians," is funded byKim Kardashian, the family's topearner and biggest personality with millions of dollars in endorsementdeals, an eponymous perfume line and a blockbustertelevised wedding on the way.
Although her three eldest daughters (the stunning Kim, thesharp-tongued Khloe and the strong-willed Kourtney) get the most attention, itis widely perceived and not entirely inaccurate that Jenner is the drivingforce behind their fame and branded business endeavors. The mom-ager has parlayed her megahit E!series "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" into three spinoff shows and near-totaldomination of the celebrity-news-cycle.
Unlike previous reality famous clans, who've folded underthe pressure of living for the camera (see: Nick and Jessica), the Kardashiansappear to thrive and multiply under the microscope, inviting us to peek insidetheir glamorous world.
Nothing seems to faze your family, on or off camera. Why is that?
It's really interesting. I often think about how lucky I am. I came up with this television show and when I presented it to the family, and said, "Hey guys, we're gonna make a reality show. What does everybody think?" And there really wasn't one person who said, "You know what? We're not going to do that." Every single person at the end of the day was on board and so excited to be a part of this journey. And let me tell you, it's not easy. ... We shoot a lotof shows during the year, and a typical season we might shoot three or fourmonths, 18 hours a day, with no days off. Seven days a week. For months. Andnot ONE of my kids, including the little ones, has ever said "I can't do thisanymore." It's like they show up for work at 5 'o' clock -- everyone shows upin my bathroom at 5 a.m. for hair and makeup -- so when I'm at the gym, they'reshowing up at my house, and when I walk back into my house, and we're filming,then I've got all my kids here. I continue to work in my office, on and offfilming, but we all show up for hair and makeup, and they work a very long dayuntil they fall down. And they get up the next day and they do it all overagain.
Do the producers ever tell you to go somewhere or do something to add drama?
Absolutely not. If you try telling Kourtney, Kimberly andKhloe to go do something to add drama, they have so much drama in their livesthat it would last the next 300 years before somebody could tell them to amp itup!
(Then I guess we can remove these various plot twists fromThings That Have Not Been Staged: Kim's illicitkiss with an Aussie bodyguard named Shengo; Kris accidentally spiking sonRob Kardashian's drink with Viagra meant for Bruce; Kim gettingattacked by a jealous woman at a New York City nightclub.)
Who's the most dramatic?
I can sense that.
They all have really fabulous, crazy, deliciouspersonalities and everyone has a little twist to them, but they're really goodgirls. And I'm really proud of them because of their work ethic, and the waythat they handle themselves, and you know, they have made for themselves, theywork hard, they love to work on their businesses, and I really admire that. I admire that they like to wear a lot of different hats, and they like to do different things, and they like to have fun. And I think they have really well balanced lives.
Were you really going to change your last name back to Kardashian?
I thought about it! I thought about it.
Bruce seemed really hurt by that last episode.
Bruce is fine. I mean, first of all, I'm married to a guywho's the greatest guy in the world. But he also has the greatest sense of selfesteem. Nothing rattles Bruce. Also, hewas very emotionally feeling a little bit sad about that -- you know, he waslike, "What?" I think that Bruce, at the end of the day, knows that I willalways do the right thing. And I think that he knew all along. He has greatconfidence in our relationship as well. And he knows. I've come home with somepretty crazy ideas in my day -- we've been married 20 years. And he has seen itall! So for him, I'm sure he was just thinking, "omigod, she's crazy."
How do you respond to people who call you a pimp?
I feel like here's how I respond: You need to walk in someone else'sshoes before you start criticizing the way that they live their life. And theway that they get through life. And the way that they work. And I think that Iam so blessed to get up each and every day and to be able to work with myfamily. You know? And to be able to have a direction, and to have so much funand exciting times creating different things for my kids -- and a whole brand and clothing lines andsupplements and fragrances and all the different things that we do that we'repassionate about. You know, my kids are fashionistas. They love fashion, theylove working. And to be able to have the knowledge, or the intuition, or theguidance, and to have an influence on your kids' life and help them get thesebusinesses started, was one of the most rewarding things I've ever done in mylife. Other than giving birth, and having a successful marriage, and having anamazing family, and being able to enjoy that. To be able to work together is mybiggest blessing.
Your kids want this, don't they?
Omigod, they are workaholics! I mean, these girls have beenworking since they were 13 years old. My 13 year old [Kylie] works more thansome of my adult friends. … It's like when your kids are growing up and yougive them enough opportunities so they can discover what their gifts are inlife. Like you have kids who play soccer or football or baseball or take adance class, you know, whatever it is that you might offer your kids, to seewhere their strengths and weaknesses are. It doesn't stop just because …they're a certain age. You just run out of ideas, perhaps. You get tired as yougrow older. This is my passion. My kids and my family are my passion. I'm justlucky enough to be able to be living this life.
Jenner's publicist,listening in to the conversation, tells me to wrap it up. Jennerhas another phone call, and I've taken up too much of her time. Pressingforward with nothing to lose (except my dignity!), I go for the most gossipyquery of all, the thing I should have asked in the first place, the thingeveryone wants to know:
I have one morequestion about Kim's wedding. Vera Wang: did she design Kim's wedding dress?
No dice. Jennerpolitely thanks me, and the interview is over.
For a family as controversial the Kardashians, image iseverything. And so is timing, if you're lucky enough to get more than 20minutes with Kris Jenner.