After what feels like a long while, Kim Kardashian stops staring at my forehead and says I should get Botox. It’s very matter of fact. The way a grandmother might confirm that the melon she had said all along was overripe was, in fact, overripe. She continues, without emotion. Maybe some filler under my eyes. Oh, and I could stand some microblading in my eyebrows.
Before you blame her for being judgmental and mean, I should say that I absolutely asked for it. Twice.
I met Kardashian only a few minutes before this, when she told me, “People write all the time to say, ‘I heard you’re a really good facial consultant. Can I send a photo? What should I do?’ I am super honest: ‘Okay, you should try this facial or this laser.’” So you can understand how I’d want to get in on that. But of course, she demurred at first. We’d need to know each other better.
We are sitting in her “glam room” (her words) inside KKHQ in Calabasas, California. From the outside, it’s just a building in an office park — as unremarkable and non-descript as the human resources building of Bon Voyage ProStar Life Insurance Blah Blah Company. Inside, it’s different. A stone sofa here, poured concrete table there, a photo studio, a showroom, offices, rooms the size of airplane hangars connected by cavernous hallways that make you feel like you should whisper. It’s like being inside the world’s most enormous and expensive cinder block. At one point Kardashian and I walk past a creamy gray Bentley — so also a garage? Should you wander in off the street without realizing where you were, it wouldn’t take you long to figure it out. The foyer is covered with magazines, all starring our host: Kim dripping wet, Kim and her sisters, Kim as sculpture, Kim naked bending a knee, Kim as a sorceress from the future.
Skims bodysuit. To create a similar makeup look: Pure Color Envy Luxe Eyeshadow Quad in Desert Dunes, Pure Color Envy Sculpting Blush in Mauve Mystique, and Pure Color Whipped Matte Lip Color in Air Kiss by Estée Lauder. Photographed by Danielle Levitt. Fashion stylist: Kyle Luu. Hair: Chris Appleton. Makeup: Mario Dedivanovic. Manicure: Kim Truong and Diem Truong. Set design: Cooper Vasquez. Producer: Isaac Feria
In the glam room, the real Kim and I are surrounded by empty clothing racks, a few shampoo sinks, mirrors, lights, plush sofas, and quiet. If I ever had to put on a bra and underwear for my Sunset Boulevard billboard, I can’t imagine a nicer place to do it.
“I have notes of the best doctors, the best everything,” she says, getting back to her facial-advisory skills. “When this all goes to shit, I’m going to start a consultancy firm.”
But of course, all this isn’t going to shit. In the almost two decades that we’ve known her, Kim Kardashian’s star has only ascended. In any other story about any other person, right about now you’d expect to read a tidy paragraph that sums up the person’s relevant facts into a neat little nut. A nutgraph. But how do you do that for Kim Kardashian?
She was a kid in L.A. Her dad was a lawyer in the Trial of the Century. Then the release of the most famous sex tape in the history of sex tapes… something happened in Paris Hilton’s closet… conquered reality TV… married a famous rapper… had a bunch of babies… everything spelled with K… rapper unraveled… something-something makeup line… billionaire… reality TV again, but this time on a different service… shapewear line… still more Ks… Pete Davidson… new skin-care line.
It is a nut like no other. It is a very flavorful nut.
Alaïa bodysuit and gloves. Bvlgari bracelet and watch. Paris Texas shoes.
Kardashian is wearing Balenciaga jeans, a black funnel-neck sweatshirt, and stiletto boots. Her platinum hair is pulled back severely in a middle part. “I have different energy when I’m blonde,” she says. “I’m a totally different person.”
“How so?” I ask. “Are you smarter? Taller?”
“I’m sassier. I’m more confident as a blonde,” she says. “As soon as I go back to brunette, I’m a boss. I’m also a totally different person when I have long, fake nails on. I have so much confidence — and I hate long nails! Every once in a while, I need that bitchy-boss energy. But when I have to write an essay, I’m like, ‘Get these nails off me!’ I can’t type.”
Perhaps Kim Kardashian: Essayist isn’t the first Kim Kardashian avatar that comes to mind. But can we be surprised that she is taking on Joan Didion? She seems to thrive on taking on more. A couple of months ago, Kardashian launched SKKN by Kim, a nine-step skin-care line. While nine steps may seem excessive, she says each is necessary: “I wanted to create a line based on exactly what I really do. I don‘t use all of it every day, but you have to have everything for a complete routine.” Last year, the mother of four also passed the California first-year law students’ exam (a.k.a. the baby bar). She plans to get her law degree.
“My dad would’ve been so proud,” she says of her late father, Robert Kardashian. “We would talk about [me being a lawyer one day] and he would say, ‘This is going to age you so much. You’re so vain, you would never want this on your plate.’” Vanity aside, she plans to do reform work, she tells me. “I really was naive to the justice system and once I started to learn, I couldn’t just sit back and let people [be incarcerated].” (A few years ago, Kardashian successfully lobbied President Trump to commute the sentences of several women imprisoned for nonviolent drug and other crimes.)
Schiaparelli Haute Couture corset bodice with brass Saturn ring. Schiaparelli Haute Couture skirt. Jimmy Choo boots.
Her gaze is unwavering, accentuated by her eyelashes. Insanely long eyelashes. Eyelashes that fan like they’re advertising eyeballs. Her features are almost anime, but were they endowed by our creator or an elite cosmetic dermatologist with a secret entrance on Wilshire Boulevard? Who knows.
“What do you have in your face right now?” I ask. I have my theories.
“A little bit of Botox,” she says, pointing to the space between her brows. “But I’ve chilled, actually.”
“Your lips and your cheeks? No filler?”
“No filler. Never filled either one, ever.”
“Eyelash extensions.” This I present as a fact, not a question. “No.”
Um, yes. “Yes.”
“No. I’ve never had eyelash extensions. I’ve never done anything. I have a drop of mascara on today. I’ve never filled my cheeks. I’ve never filled my lips.”
“Really? Those are your real eyelashes?” I’m not letting this go.
“It’s hard to believe.” I lean in, squinting. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt here. “But your eyebrows look real so I kind of believe it.” No longer a magazine writer, I am now a professional trichologist sleuth.
“Yeah, my eyebrows are real.”
This goes on for a few more minutes, until she graciously lays it out for me.
“I care. I really, genuinely care about looking good,” Kardashian says. “I probably care more than 90 percent of the people on this planet. It’s not easy when you’re a mom and you’re exhausted at the end of the day or you’re in school, and I’m all of the above. I do my beauty treatments usually late at night. After everyone’s in bed, I’m doing laser treatments.”
“You do laser treatments after the kids go to sleep?”
“We have such different lives.”
Kids or no kids, home laser treatments or no home laser treatments, we all get older. As I see it, the way we approach aging falls somewhere on the spectrum between overfilled plastic surgery fish face and Jane Goodall.
“I do my beauty treatments late at night. After everyone’s in bed, I’m doing lasers.”
“I’m at peace with not being perfect and I wasn’t like that before,” says Kardashian, pausing to look down. “I hate my hands — they’re wrinkly and gross. But I’ve lived life and I’ve changed so many diapers with these hands and I’ve snuggled my babies with these hands, so I’m okay with them. [Getting older] doesn’t mean that I won’t strive for perfection, but you get to a point where you’re like, ‘Okay, my health is more important than anything else.’”
Sure, okay, but… “You didn’t come out with a vitamin line,” I note. “You came out with a skin-care line.”
“It’s hard to explain because I am at peace, but I would still do anything to look and feel youthful.”
This I believe. Because just before we met she told the New York Times that she would consider eating poop if it meant eternal youthfulness. “I was kind of joking, but now that I think about it, I would probably eat shit if someone told me, ‘If you eat this bowl of poop every single day, you’ll look younger.’ ”
“A whole bowl?”
“Maybe just a bite. I don’t think I can do a whole bowl.”
“I don’t think your body could accept a whole bowl.”
We nod in agreement. Just a couple of cosmetic gastroenterologists hanging out on a couch, talking shop.
“That doesn’t mean that I don’t know the difference from that to an unhealthy level of feeling like I can’t age,” she says. “I’m 41. I always want to look appropriate. There does come a point when you’ve taken it too far — overfilled, too tight, too much cosmetic work. There’s nothing worse.”
Proximity to a celebrity usually carries tacit permission to stare. But this is a whole new level. In some way, it feels like my job is to authenticate her as if she is a rare Victorian postage stamp. In the Kardashian-media ecosystem in which we all live, with every scroll, view, like, and follow, we have built the pedestal on which she now sits. So we demand the right to admire our work.
If you look back 10, 15 years, you can almost see a bright generational divide delineating the moment that Kim Kardashian’s body became the Platonic ideal of a body. But unlike the Aphrodites of generations past, Kardashian wasn’t born with it, she created it. What we admire in her isn’t the idea that she was born with it; we are admiring an act of creation. The vehicle for her message has been her own flesh and blood. Her body is her canvas. Instagram, Hulu, TikTok, and, yes, a beauty magazine — these are the museums, and she is the exhibition. Admittance is free, except, of course, when it comes at the price of a little self-loathing. The cost of feeling just a bit worse about yourself because after you see a Kim Kardashian exhibit, it’s hard not to feel extremely… human. The dagger nails, the daddy longlegs lashes, the tiny waists, the bulbous butts: Can we trace it all back to Kim? And is body hyperbole ever actually body positive?
To create a similar makeup look: Glam Quad in Bronzey, Soft Pop Blush Stick in Raspberry, Ultra Suede Sculpting Lip Pencil
in Dmitry, and Pro Volume Lip Gloss in Golden Nude by Makeup by Mario. Image inspired by the work of Hugh Kretschmer.
I ask her if she feels responsible, even guilty, for setting an unrealistic, unattainable beauty standard.
“If I’m doing it, it’s attainable. There are so many different beauty standards — whether it’s Gwen Stefani, Jennifer Lopez, Marilyn Monroe. When I was a teenager, [the look] was just blonde waifs.” Then she saw Salma Hayek, who was so beautiful and had darker hair and darker skin and more curves. She looked more like Kardashian. “My mentality was never like, you see them on TV or in magazines and pick who you want to be,” she says. “It was always: Be yourself, find beauty in everything.”
A lovely sentiment, but it’s hard to reconcile it with the other Kim Kardashian — the one who lost a reported 16 pounds in three weeks to shimmy into Marilyn Monroe’s “Happy birthday, Mr. President” dress for the Met Gala.
“It was a roller coaster of emotions,” she says. “To even find the dress was a feat, and then to get them to allow me to wear the dress was another feat. You have [to wear] gloves and there are guards and you had to put down special paper. I think [the dresser] was shaking because if anything rips, if anything goes wrong, you know? This is Marilyn’s dress. And it absolutely did not fit.
“Two weeks before [the Met Gala], I was 10 pounds down and I was so proud of myself,” she says. “Then I got down 15 [pounds] and it fit. I couldn’t believe it.”
Kardashian, who eats a plant-based diet and was recently named the chief taste consultant for Beyond Meat, ate real meat again for her pre-Gala diet. Then “psoriasis broke out over my body and I got psoriatic arthritis so I couldn’t really move my hands,” she says. “It was really painful, and I had to go to a rheumatologist who put me on a steroid. I was freaking out. I cut out the meat again, and it’s calmed down.”
Clockwise from left: Hairstylist Chris Appleton, set assistant Mark Smith, and makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic take our cover shoot to new heights. On Kim Kardashian: Schiaparelli Haute Couture dress encircled with gilded brass hoops for a trompe l’oeil-cage effect. Schiaparelli shoes.
In response to the backlash to her extreme weight loss, she says, “If I was starving and doing it really unhealthy, I would say that, of course, that’s not a good message. But I had a nutritionist, I had a trainer. I have never drunk more water in my life. I don’t see the criticism for other people when they lost weight for roles — they are [considered] geniuses for their craft.” She pauses. “There are so many things out there that are so not accurate and not true.”
I point out that I think it can be hard for people to have compassion for her.
“I think I’ve always just been the underdog.”
Kardashian is worth an estimated gazillion dollars. From now until the day she dies, she will never know what it feels like to hold a bus ticket, stress about rent, stand in line, or wish for something and wait longer than a hummingbird’s heartbeat before it is presented to her, wrapped in a grosgrain ribbon. This is what I’m thinking when I say, “How have you been the underdog?”
“Being on a reality show and that’s not respected,” she explains. “Feeling like I need to work harder to show you guys that I’m not the person you think. I saw some stupid report today where it was like, ‘Kim’s rejected to come to the Jubilee by the Queen.’ I was in London with my boyfriend who’s filming a movie and we’re only here two days. But [the headline] is, ‘Kim: Rejected!’ I think that’s also why I love doing the reality show — the chance to show people who I really am.”
I venture again to ask Kim Kardashian: Consultant what she would do to my face. Now she sits up straighter and leans into me. Clearly, we have stepped into her comfort zone.
“Are you a filler girl?” she asks. “A Botox girl?”
“I’m a deodorant and toothpaste girl.”
She returns to Botox: “You really don’t need a lot. You look amazing, you really do.”
And it occurs to me, the dynamics of our conversation have flipped. I’m the subject, she’s the scrutinizer. It’s unnerving being analyzed like that. Then, unexpectedly: I feel bad for her. She never came out and said, “Please stop staring at my nasolabial fold,” but on some level, I wonder if she thought it. And I wonder what’s worse: all that relentless, entitled staring or the day it stops.
“What happens when it all goes away?”
“It would be amazing to retire being Kim K and just be a lawyer. But if it all went away, I would be just as happy.” She pauses. Maybe I’m imagining it, but I could swear there’s a wistfulness to her voice, almost like nostalgia as she imagines life when all this is gone. “I would want people to walk away and be like, ‘She was a good person, and she did some good things.’”
Fashion stylist: Kyle Luu
Hair: Chris Appleton
Makeup: Mario Dedivanovic
Manicure: Kim Truong and Diem Truong
Set design: Cooper Vasquez
Producer: Isaac Feria
Top Image: To create a similar makeup look: Glam Quad in Bronzey, Soft Pop Blush Stick in Raspberry, Ultra Suede Sculpting Lip Pencil in Dmitry, and Pro Volume Lip Gloss in Golden Nude by Makeup by Mario.