Whether you love her or hate her, there’s no denying that Kim Kardashian is one of the biggest names in entertainment. At the very least, the reality TV star is practically inescapable if you’re ever online. Yet while Kim hasn’t always been so well known, she has been in the public eye for longer than you may think. Back in the day, you see, the future social media mogul played second fiddle to another celebrity – and she was often snapped by her buddy’s side, too.
Perhaps Kim’s first brush with fame came, however, as a result of her association with O.J. Simpson. Yes, as many fans know, her father, Robert Kardashian, was on the ex-NFL star’s defense team during Simpson’s highly publicized murder trial. Not only that, but the former footballer player is actually Kim’s godfather.
What’s more, it turns out that Robert may be partly responsible for a certain aspect of his second daughter’s business empire. While Kim was a teenager, you see, her dad paid for her to go to beauty school and learn the tricks of the trade. And in turn, that knowledge in turn may have helped the star in overseeing her own make-up line, KKW Beauty.
Before Kim became the phenomenon that she is today, however, she grew up enjoying a life that was undoubtedly luxurious by most people’s standards. She and her family lived in an exclusive neighborhood in Beverly Hills, for instance – close to famous people such as Lionel Ritchie and Sugar Ray Leonard. The Kardashians’ property contained its own bar, a tennis court and a swimming pool, while Kim and her siblings also got taken on fabulous vacations from time to time.
Even though Kim’s parents were very wealthy, however, she would have to eventually survive without their money. Indeed, the Keeping Up with the Kardashians star has since gone on record to say that Robert and mom Kris stopped supporting her financially after she turned 18. Perhaps in a bid to make her own cash, then, Kim joined forces with sisters Kourtney and Khloe to open a clothes store in Calabasas, California, in 2006.
And Kim could have potentially spent the rest of her life running the store and enjoying the Los Angeles lifestyle. In the end, though, two members of her inner circle would eventually help propel her towards the fame that she enjoys today: Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie.
Paris and Nicole had become reality TV stars in 2003 after their show The Simple Life hit Fox. In essence, the series showed the two wealthy young women as fish out of water, with the pair embarking on “regular” jobs such as fast-food work and cleaning that served in marked contrast to their usual lifestyles. And as soon as The Simple Life launched, it was a massive hit.
In addition, the show made an internationally renowned superstar out of Paris. In a way, she was Kim’s precursor – the rich, pretty socialite who was arguably “famous for being famous.” Her personal life was splashed all over tabloid magazines, too – sometimes for scandalous reasons.
During this time, meanwhile, Kim served as a stylist and wardrobe assistant to Nicole and Paris. Perhaps the closest she got to fame at this juncture, then, were her brief appearances on The Simple Life as a friend to the pair. Certainly, she had no more than a supporting role in the series; Paris was the real star of the show, after all.
The Hilton Hotels heiress was so popular during her heyday, in fact, that fans followed her in public. And perhaps one telling example of Paris’ pulling power comes from the caption to this photograph on Getty Images, which reads, “Heiress Paris Hilton causes a near riot as crowds gather in Bondi to watch her (and friend Kim Kardashian) shop.” In time, though, Kim’s name wouldn’t need the parentheses.
Furthermore, photos of Kim from 2006 show her with an altogether different appearance to the one she flaunts today. Back then, anyway, she apparently hadn’t had any of the Botox treatments to which she was seen being introduced on Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
Some believe, however, that Kim had plastic surgery on a number of occasions prior to becoming an international megastar. And while the star herself has always denied that she’s had a nose job, she has not specifically refuted accusations of any other cosmetic work.
Regardless of what Kim may or may not have had done, though, one thing remains true: back in 2006, she was definitely less famous than her friend Paris. But, of course, that wouldn’t always be the case. As Paris’ star started to fade away, you see, Kim’s began to rise and rise.
Yet Paris continued to make headlines in 2007 – though not always for the best reasons. In May that year, for instance, she was sent to prison for 45 days after being caught driving with a suspended license. Kim later claimed that she had tried to support her friend during that time.
And while out and about with Paris, Kim may have learned a few tricks of her own. She told Rolling Stone in 2015, “We’d go anywhere and everywhere just to be seen. We knew exactly where to go, where to be seen [and] how to have something written about you. All you had to do is go to this restaurant or this party [and] talk about whatever you want to talk about, and it would be in the paper the next day.”
Eventually, though, Paris began to fall out of favor with the media, and the reality-celebrity landscape began to change. Being regarded as a “dumb blonde” may not have helped the socialite either; in fact, as she explained in 2017, that public perception was a real hindrance.
“People assume before they meet me that I’m a really ditzy dumb blonde,” Paris told Refinery29. “That’s the one thing that kind of annoys me sometimes. They just think, because of the reality show, that’s who I really am. But that was just a character that I created.”
Kim, on the other hand, had no such misconceptions surrounding her. And the pictures captured of the future star with Paris – ones that showed a wealthy young woman enjoying fashion, nights out, cell phones and shopping – were all pretty much without artifice, too.
It seemed, then, that the time was right for someone to take Paris’ crown. “Who will be the next Paris Hilton?” ABC News pondered in a 2007 article once the socialite had begun to fade from the scene. Perhaps it would be someone who, as blogger Lisa Timmons explained, embraced “Paris’ willingness to be completely exposed.”
And Kim was certainly willing to play out her life in front of the cameras. Indeed, when Keeping Up with the Kardashians hit screens, she and her family were seen embracing a new kind of reality show where practically nothing was off limits.
Coincidentally, Keeping Up with the Kardashians was announced in August 2007 – just one week after Paris revealed that The Simple Life was coming to an end. And when Kim and her clan’s series eventually began airing in October that year, a new era of reality TV was born.
“When we first started [Keeping Up with the Kardashians], we came together as a family and said, ‘If we’re going to do this reality show, we’re going to be 100 percent who we really are,’” Kim told Katie Couric in a 2011 interview for Glamour. “If there’s something that we’re going through, it’s going to get out anyway. It’ll be on the cover of a tabloid, and it’ll be twisted the completely wrong way. So why not tell our story?”
If fans couldn’t wait for the next installment of the show, however, then they could always keep up with the Kardashians on Twitter. Yes, the family began to embrace the then-new social media platform, and this in turn may have helped propel them to media ubiquity.
All in all, then, the Kardashians’ appeal seemingly lay in them being unafraid to be completely themselves. “There was a lot of authenticity,” Brian Dow, a former agent of the family, said of them in the 2017 Hollywood Reporter article. “If you look at the rest of the marketplace at the time, other reality stars were showing you their ‘character’ and were more guarded.” He continued, “There’s a method to the madness, and when you don’t know the method it just looks like madness.”
By 2008, then, Kim had already begun to claw her way to fame – even though her name recognition wasn’t yet at its peak. And the year after Keeping Up with the Kardashians came out, she started doing acting and other TV work. She played a character called Lisa in the spoof film Disaster Movie, for instance, and was a contestant on Dancing with the Stars.
As all this went on, though, Kim and Paris’ relationship apparently became frostier. At least, that’s what can be surmised from a remark that Paris made in 2008 on Las Vegas station KLUC-FM. There, the socialite said that Kim’s rear looked like “cottage cheese stuffed in a trash bag” – although she apparently apologized afterwards.
Then in 2011 Kim was asked about Paris during an interview with Harper’s Bazaar. “We don’t really talk,” she said. “As I always say, everyone comes into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. And she was in my life for a long time.”
“So, Paris is so last season?” the interviewer asked. Kim didn’t deny that; instead, she just smiled. “I’ll let you say it,” she answered. “There comes a point in life where you just grow apart and you realize you’re not as similar as you thought. And I never run into [Paris] anywhere. Isn’t that so weird?”
However, it seems that Kim did eventually run into Paris. And the pair made peace, too, by the looks of it. In 2014 Kim posted a throwback picture on her Instagram of the two women together, which she captioned, “Reminiscing about the first time we went to Ibiza in 2006! [Paris], it was so good to see you and catch up!”
What’s more, the hatchet seemed to have been buried entirely in 2015. “[Kim’s] always had a great work ethic like me, and she’s always been determined,” Hilton told Glamour that year. “And that’s what it’s all about. I’m so proud of her. When she’s at home, she’s very normal – like anyone else with a glamorous life. She’s chill; she’s so sweet.”
Yet although Kim may be just a regular woman behind closed doors, she’s certainly a lot richer than most of us. According to Forbes, Kim was worth a massive $350 million in 2018; Paris isn’t too far behind her, however, with a net worth of $300 million.
In contrast to Paris, though, it was social media that helped Kim make her millions. As Brian Dow observed to The Hollywood Reporter, “Kim sort of paved the way for the economic structure of native influencer marketing. Before the rise of the common man YouTuber in their bedroom, you had people like her.”
“[Kim] was the one who kicked down the door and got the brands to spend money in that area because she showed success,” Brian continued. “Brands noticed that when you would pay a celebrity to send out a branded tweet, they were getting more click-throughs for the dollar, so it made more monetary sense. That’s why that revolution started.”
Meanwhile, Paris seemingly attempted to raise her profile again through a more traditional route: reality TV. And her 2011 show The World According to Paris was actually supposed to provide viewers with a look at the real woman behind the camera by going into detail about her life and relationships. But the series ultimately failed to grab the desired ratings, and so it was canceled after only one season.
And it’s interesting as well to see how Paris and Kim have echoed each other over the years. In one photo taken in Australia in 2006, for example, the pair are both wearing white shirts, sunglasses, hats and necklaces. They almost look like they could be sisters.
In January 2018, however, Paris popped up on Kim’s Instagram account in a snap that sees her bear a distinct resemblance to her friend. In the image, the socialite’s hair is bleach-blonde and long, her eyebrows and lips are made up to look bigger, and she is wearing Kardashian-style sweatpants.
However, the likeness was very much intended, as the photo was in fact a promotional ad for Yeezy – Kim’s husband Kanye West’s fashion line. Kim also tagged her Instagram picture of Paris “#ForeverTheOG,” implying that Paris was in fact the original reality TV superstar.
And Paris seemed to have fun with the snap, too. She tagged her own Instagram picture, “So much fun being a #KimClone in the new #YeezySeason6 campaign.” That said, some Kim fans were amused in a different way. One commented, for instance, “Kim really went from holding Paris Hilton’s purse to making her play a Kim Klone.”
However, perhaps it doesn’t matter where Kim and Paris started out, especially since there no longer seems to be any bad blood between them. Paris now mostly lives on the Spanish island of Ibiza, where she works as a celebrity DJ. In 2018 she also got engaged to Chris Zylka before splitting up with him the same year – and both events still made headlines.
As for Kim, she’s now expecting her fourth child with Kanye, parenting her other three kids and keeping on top of her business empire. Like Paris, then, she’s busy. But even if the friends’ schedules are both packed, would it be too much to hope that they team up one last time and deliver a killer new reality show?