When television viewers met 10-year-old Kylie Jenner in October 2007, she was spinning around a stripper pole.
“‘Girls Gone Wild’ is like this: Woo! Woo! Woo!” Kylie yelled, lifting her tank top halfway up her stomach as her stepbrother’s 30-something friend, Frankie, filmed it on a video camera. “We’re gonna put this on YouTube or something,” Frankie grinned. Kylie’s 11-year-old sister, Kendall, joined in the fun.
The scene was cut short when the girls’ stepbrother, Brody Jenner, walked in and ordered his friend to stop filming. However, it didn’t matter, because there were other cameras behind Frankie: The “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” crew, who happily put the footage in the first season of E!’s reality show. If you’re wondering how a fifth-grader knew about “Girls Gone Wild,” it’s because her older half-sisters (Kim, Kourtney and Khloe Kardashian) were in Mexico on a photoshoot for Joe Francis’ famed brand in the same episode.
The Kylie incident may have been a big joke to the producers, though it certainly helps explain the public fascination and concern surrounding this past Monday, otherwise known as Kylie’s 18th birthday. The youngest member of the Kardashian-Jenner clan – the most shameless fame-loving family in America – is officially an adult. And thanks to her parents and siblings’ penchant for publicity, there are only two ways things can go from here: She could continue to follow in the footsteps of her sisters and remain a multi-millionaire brand; or the fame could cause lots of problems. Either way, Kylie never had a chance at a normal life.
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Kylie craves attention
Kylie was exposed to the “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” spotlight at the earliest age, and it shows. Often treated as a package deal with sister Kendall (the daughters of Kris Kardashian and Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce), their paths have recently diverged. Kendall has embarked on a modeling career, laying low aside from paparazzi shots and stories about which pop star she’s dating. Kylie, on the other hand, lives for the cameras and craves attention. It’s youngest child syndrome, exacerbated by growing up surrounded by a constant film crew and a “momager” who cashed in on her existence.
Already, Kylie has cemented her spot in the tabloids by posting racy Instagram pictures; getting lip injections; endorsing a “body enhancement” cream and weight loss products; and a relationship with 25-year-old rapper Tyga. The latter has sparked quite a bit of backlash (particularly when model Amber Rose tweeted about Tyga leaving his ex and young son for a teenager, which sparked a Kardashian Twitter war), though the couple has coyly avoided actually confirming their status.
Teen makes millions
She’s also stayed in the spotlight simply by living the absurd life of an incredibly wealthy teen. According to Kylie, her Kardashian empire cash flow was cut off at age 14; ever since, she’s lived off the millions in endorsement deals (engineered by her mom of course). There’s her and Kendall’s clothing lines for TopShop and PacSun; a brand of OPI nail polish; TV hosting appearances; modeling gigs and magazine covers. She crashed a $125,000 Mercedes SUV a few weeks after she got her driver’s license. Recently, she bought herself a $2.7 million mansion in Los Angeles. (Living with your parents is such a drag!)
It’s paid off, though, as Kylie has acquired the most necessary accessory to become a mainstay: Fans, many of whom are young girls who look up to her. “With her edgy fashion sense, stylish friends – including Jaden Smith and Hailey Baldwin – and daring hair color, Kylie appeals to younger fans who see Kim, 34, as too old to be a role model,” the Daily Mail gleefully wrote last year. She has 32 million Instagram and 10 million Twitter followers; not to mention the teens that endangered their faces and plumped their lips with the “Kylie Jenner Challenge” earlier this year.
You can see why casual observers might be concerned about a teenager with that much cash and power – yet her family doesn’t see any reason to be worried about her behavior. When Complex magazine asked Khloe Kardashian about Kylie’s lip injections and relationship with Tyga while so young, Khloe responded “Kylie might be 17, but from what Kylie has been through and the life she lives, she’s not a normal 17-year-old.”
“You’re not gonna say, “Hey, so what are you doing this weekend?” and have her say, ‘Having a slumber party at my girlfriend’s,’ or ‘Going to prom,’” said Khloe, who has always been particularly protective of her youngest sister. “Kylie is taking business meetings and bought her first house, or she’s going on a private plane with Karl Lagerfeld to take a meeting. That’s not even what people do in their 30s.”
Normal Kardashian life
Despite no awareness about the psychological well-being of a teenager who lives the life of a 30-year-old, the Kardashians wouldn’t see anything strange about it. Kylie grew up on camera. She was featured more frequently as the years went on, including emotional appearances in the specials about her father’s transition and the premiere episode of “I Am Cait.” In the early years of the show, though, it was the typical rough teenage years: Kylie’s dad gets mad at her for wearing too much make-up to school and talking to boys on the phone. Her mom is angry when Kylie gives her the silent treatment. Kylie throws a jealous fit when her sister’s modeling career starts to take off.
While Kris shrugged this off as typical teenage growing pains, Caitlyn (formerly known as Bruce) often spoke of how difficult it was to see daughters grow up. “Probably the most important thing in my life is to protect these girls,” Kylie’s dad said back in the first season. “You see what happened with Kim and her sex tape. They really have to watch what they’re doing. Because just a little thing can get totally blown out of proportion.”
Indeed, the tabloids were already bracing for trouble even before Kylie turned 18 on Monday. In addition to a Canadian nightclub throwing her a party where she’s the legal drinking age, Kylie recently posted a picture of a cozy living room fireplace on Instagram with the caption “the calm before the storm.”
Some people took “the storm” to mean “once she’s 18,” and why wouldn’t they? As her family has pointed out, she’s already lived a very grown-up life. As we’ve seen time and time again, it’s never good when an adolescent grows up on camera, or before then, in the spotlight of her parents and siblings’ fame. Kylie may officially be a grown-up, but she never really had a chance to be a kid.