Blame it on the quinoa.
Friday night, at a family dinner of salmon and assorted healthy sides, my 13-year-old niece, Nicole, mentioned that Kylie Jenner – yes, THE Kylie Jenner – was having a pop-up shop in Soho on Monday. And lest I wasn’t aware, she really wanted the currently unavailable Valentine’s Day lip kit Jenner had launched online, which, like all of her creations, had instantly sold out.
I’m 43, but I’m not an ostrich. I cover pop culture and fashion and I’ve seen the photos of pop-ups so insane, so mobbed, so deafeningly loud they make Coachella and Burning Man seem like sedate late-night meals at Per Se. But having covered inaugurations, the Oscars and Fashion Week, I embraced the challenge with the fervor of a true believer. Kylie and I would meet. And if not Kylie, then at least I’d get up close and personal with those lip kits.
They would be mine. Or in this case, Nicole’s.
So let’s set the scene. It’s Monday, roughly 3:45 p.m., in the Soho neighborhood of New York City. It’s cold. So very, very cold. Gloves and hats and down-jacket-level cold. Walking down Mercer Street, it’s business as usual, with meandering tourists and lackadaisical traffic, just another sleepy Monday. Until you get to the Alexander Wang store at the corner of Mercer and Grand.
First, you hear the screams.
They’re high-pitched wails from fans three-deep across the street, screeching Kylie’s name and cheering for ostensibly no reason. Oh wait, there is a reason. They’re being filmed.
Next, you spot the barricades, with shivering but unflappably polite police keeping anyone but neighbors and employees (with proof of address) away.
And there, halfway down Mercer, is a massive black luxury SUV parked in front of a storefront. Security everywhere. Cameras upon cameras. More howling and wailing and screeching. The police let you by, once you prove you’re there for a legit reason (journalism!), and you walk — OK, let’s be honest, you sprint — down the block, despite your best inclinations to appear calm and cool and collected. Well, given the weather, the cool part is at least true.
The door opens. You step inside. And if there’s a heaven dedicated to Kylie Jenner, mistress of lip kits, doyenne of self-creation, mogul of makeup, this is it. Every shade you could want, from Kristen to Koko K, is prettily aligned on shelves.
There’s a glass table toward the rear stocked with her sold-out Valentine’s collection — Head Over Heels, Kylie’s Diary, Smooch. Imagine the Hermes snakeskin Birkin, one of the most coveted bags on the planet, and here’s the makeup version. Music blares. A few lucky shoppers fill their metal baskets. There’s a rack of clothes to the right. In the back, I hear rumblings and whispers, Kylie is getting ready for a fashion show (it would be Philipp Plein).
I look around. And I feel it. That euphoria, the jubilation, the ecstasy of being somewhere so hot, so coveted, that people are waiting for hours in below-freezing weather to get their frozen feet in the door.
So I start throwing kits into my basket. One on top of another on top of another on top of another. I look down, and somehow, my hands, operating separately from my brain, have loaded the basket with Diaries and Kiss Mes and Smooches. And — wait for it — even a lighter with Kris Jenner’s face on it. I like candles, OK?
Oprah liked to call it the “aha! moment” when something crystallizes and you connect the dots. For me, that moment came when I almost bought a nightgown with Kris Jenner on it.
It didn’t have a tag so the cashier needed to check the price. And in that second, I stopped. I breathed. And I asked myself: “What in Kylie’s world I was doing?”
Somehow, sans nightie, the total still winds up being $550. I’m in shock, but I don’t blink. I don’t breathe. I don’t gulp or freak out or ask for a refund. Instead, I silently pay and rush back outside into the cold because OHMYGOD Kylie has been spotted out there, pressing the flesh of her fans and posing for selfies and doling out select hugs. I snap photos for Instagram because if you don’t post it, it never happened. Kylie Jenner is a pretty, untouchable, glossy Keyser Söze, someone who exists in an alternate universe of social media, who rarely gives interviews, who shares only what she wants to share.
“I actually touched her coat!” I hear someone brag — and it’s a guy.
Security surrounds Jenner, she deftly maneuvers her way into her car, and just like a mirage with pink hair and bare legs and tan stiletto booties, she’s gone.
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