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Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce, made her debut on Monday as Vanity Fair's July cover girl. Drenched in designer gowns, Caitlyn looks gorgeous in the photo spread, which is accompanied by an in-depth article about her journey.
In between the glamorous shots, the interview features more of Caitlyn's untold story. Her four oldest children — Burt, 36, Cassandra, 34, Brandon, 33, and Brody, 31 — also sat down to talk with Vanity Fair. They make it clear that the transition has become a non-issue, other than that they see it as an opportunity to build a new, much-needed relationship with their father.
"I have high hopes that Caitlyn is a better person than Bruce," Burt tells the magazine. "I'm very much looking forward to that."
Cassandra adds, "I feel like he's been the closest to us and the best parent when he's been moving toward his true identity."
Jenner has six biological children: Burt and Cassandra with first wife Chrystie Crownover; Brandon and Brody with second wife Linda Thompson; and Kendall, 19, and Kylie, 17, with third wife Kris Jenner. Then there are Kris's four kids Jenner helped to raise: Kourtney, 36, Kim, 34, Khloé, 30, and Rob, 28.
It is evident Jenner has an extended family divided. Even the article's author, Pulitzer Prize–winning contributing editor Buzz Bissinger, notes Burt, Cassandra, Brody, and Brandon are collectively known as "the Jenner side." Team Kardashian is pretty obvious, with Kendall and Kylie falling somewhere in the middle.
But the relationship was strained before Kris came on the scene, with Bruce even purposefully missing the birth of his daughter Cassandra ("under the circumstances I could not even see myself being there," Jenner recalls). Jenner describes the period of the mid- to late '80s as "the dark years," saying "gender issues were big at that time." This is when Bruce first attempted to transition, starting on hormones and getting plastic surgery on his nose.
In 1990, Kris Kardashian happened and she certainly didn't help family matters. Kris and Bruce were set up through a mutual friend that year. "I'm thinking the last thing I need is a Beverly Hills shopper," Jenner recalls to Vanity Fair. "I don’t need that. No offense to shoppers. It’s the perception of this woman who sits around Beverly Hills and goes shopping all day." Then Jenner found out Kris had four children and he became interested: "She comes with as much baggage as I do."
At first, the blending of the families was a harmonious one, with all eight kids even performing together at Bruce and Kris's wedding in 1991 as "the Jennashians." Big playdates continued for a while and Kris embraced the Jenner children... until it all stopped. According to the Jenner kids, it's because Kris turned on them. According to Kris, it was because it became too difficult dealing with Bruce's ex-wives.
"You just got to a point where it became exhausting to be embattled all the time. We weren’t getting anywhere with constantly asking to see the kids and not getting a yes. And I think the kids really didn’t hear that side of it," Kris explains to Vanity Fair. It certainly didn't help the situation when Thompson took Bruce to court to get child support after initially waving it. According to Caitlyn, this is when Kris really stopped trying to integrate the families.
Caitlyn acknowledges in the article that Bruce's focus was really just on Kendall and Kylie, thinking at the time, "I can hopefully build a relationship with the Jenner side once they’re old enough and mature enough and they're out from under the apron of their mothers."
What happened during those years on the Jenner side were missed birthdays, graduations, and other milestones. Burt reveals that he wouldn't see Bruce more than twice a year for roughly 10 years. Brandon also said he would go two or three years without hearing from his father.
But the "nail in the coffin," according to Burt, came in 2007 with Keeping Up With the Kardashians: "There was a you-aren't-part-of-this kind of thing. Kris made the choice to make a good TV show that was in their image and brand." Kris even wrote in her memoir, "Keeping Up with the Kardashians and the Jenners just didn't have the same ring to it."
"I have made a lot of mistakes raising the four Jenner kids," Caitlyn confesses. "I had times not only dealing with my own issues but exes. [It was] very traumatic and there was a lot of turmoil in my life, and I wasn’t as close to my kids as I should have been."
The "Jenner side" actually believes it was during the "dark years" in the '80s that they felt closest to their father because, as Cassandra says, he "was moving towards his authentic self" and becoming a better parent. "I would happily have traded a distant father for a loving, involved mom."
That is what they are now looking forward to, but see one potential obstacle in their way. All four Jenner children are nervous about history repeating itself with Caitlyn's new E! docu-series, something they once again will not be part of.
The Jenner kids fear that the reality show Caitlyn began filming in May for the network will just be another Kardashian spinoff. They worry that, much like KUWTK, the show will be a spectacle and take away from what Caitlyn hopes to do for the transgender movement. They also can't help but be fearful it will reverse the rebuilding of their relationship with their dad.
The children believe that with the right producers the show could be wonderful, just like the Diane Sawyer interview; however, Caitlyn was adamant about having it produced by Bunim/Murray, the company behind KUWTK. Caitlyn insists that as an executive producer, she has full creative control, but that still wasn't enough to convince Burt, Cassandra, Brody, or Brandon to get on board.
"You go on E!’s website, the Bunim/Murray website, and you look at all the shows, every one of them is a circus," Brandon tells VF. "With Bunim/Murray and E! it’s been the opposite of inspiration." He thought to himself during a meeting with producers, "Oh my God, we’re diving into the lion’s den — they’re gonna make a show about the Jenners versus the Kardashians."
E!'s head of programming, Jeff Olde, insists, "It's not at all a Kardashian spinoff... We will not resort to spectacle. That doesn’t mean we can’t have fun with it."
Caitlyn says she was “terribly disappointed and terribly hurt" at first by her children's decision not to participate in the show, but now, she accepts it. "I think it's better for the show right now. It keeps me on point and doesn't distract with all the family issues," she says.
Despite the show, which will air this summer, the Jenner kids still envision a happy ending.
"This is the fourth quarter of [her] life. But within our relationship this is the first quarter, the relationship that [she] has with the kids," Brandon — who is expecting his first child with wife Leah — says. "Regardless of the show and all that stuff, there will be a fourth quarter of the relationship. And I envision the fourth quarter as having a 15- or 16-year-old daughter who knows her grandparent as 'Mapa' or whatever Dad wants to be, and loves that grandparent for who she is."
Cassandra was on hand for Caitlyn's Vanity Fair shoot earlier this month and Bissinger concludes his article with this anecdote:
As she heard Caitlyn speak, she saw a vulnerability and authenticity she had never experienced before. She went to the couch and sat next to Caitlyn. The moments of the past were still there, there was no way of knowing the moments of the future, but in the space of that single moment was all you could possibly hope for, a daughter with her dad, a dad with her daughter.
Read Caitlyn's story in its entirety when Vanity Fair
hits newsstands on June 9.
Cover Shoots - Caitlyn Jenner Is Finally “Free” on Vanity Fair’s Cover