Kylie Jenner herself would confirm this fact: gaining popularity on social media requires a keen understanding of filtering.
I am meeting my lunch date at the Sunset Marquis in West Hollywood, where the patio restaurant is illuminated by California sunlight. Upon arrival, the restaurant manager, Lance, mistakes me for an “advance man” who would be responsible for scouting out a suitable table and ensuring that everything is to Kylie Jenner’s liking. However, I clarify that I am actually the magazine writer who is scheduled to meet her. I select a table situated in the back to ensure that we are not noticed, as this can be challenging for an 18-year-old with 63 million Instagram followers, 16 million Twitter followers, and a large following on Snapchat. Jenner is a social media guru and has gained popularity from her appearance on Keeping Up With the Kardashians, her best-selling lifestyle app, and her popular line of Lip Kits, which sell out within minutes. Recently, there has been a scandal involving her liquid lipsticks, which were stolen from doorsteps, resulting in some boxes arriving empty. To combat this, the packaging has been changed to nondescript.
It’s surprising to see Jenner approach my table alone without her usual entourage, paparazzi, and fans. She greets me warmly and suggests we grab something to eat. While most celebrity interviews follow a set pattern, where the writer tries to uncover the real person behind the famous name, and the celebrity promotes their latest project while avoiding any controversy, I’m not the only one trying to understand the real Kylie Jenner. Recently, I mention a trending hashtag on Twitter, #WhoIsKylieJenner, which she explains came from a Snapchat post where she reflected on the difference between Kylie The Brand and Kylie The Actual Person. Though people assume they know her well because of her reality-TV show and social media presence, what she shows on Snapchat is a projection of herself and not the whole person.
The fact that a person is famous or wealthy does not mean they are immune to criticism or have a thick skin. Kylie Jenner, in particular, admits that she rarely reveals her true self to the world due to the risk of being attacked. She has created a separate persona known as Kylie The Brand, which people often attack with sustained venom online. Although Kylie The Actual Person knows this is not who she is, she is still cautious about revealing herself to the public. When asked about who she really is, she deflects the question and refers to the hashtag #WhoIsKylieJenner. Despite this, in an hour-long interview, Kylie gradually opens up about her real life and what it’s like to be a teenager living in the media’s spotlight. Ultimately, Kylie Jenner is someone who craves normalcy.
Jenner expresses her gratitude for the life she has, which is full of adventure and an enormous platform to pursue her dreams of creating a cosmetics line. While her dreams may not be high-minded, they are honest and forgivable considering her age. She acknowledges that fame will not last forever and that there will come a time when she feels comfortable enough to stop. At this point, Jenner wants to do “normal things,” such as starting a family. She admits to being a crier, but her tears are more sentimental and happy than sorrowful. There may be times where she cries due to seeing a close friend or family member after a long time or watching a sappy commercial. Jenner believes that having children is inevitable for her in the future.
Jenner may have been born into wealth, but her success is not solely attributed to her family’s fortune. She has an unrelenting work ethic that was instilled in her by her mother. Jenner’s portfolio has expanded significantly in the past year with the addition of a clothing line and a nail polish collection. Although some aspects of her work involve fun activities like attending award shows and art galas, she rarely has downtime. Jenner is always on the go with photo shoots, parties, product endorsements, and social media posts. While some may find this lifestyle exhausting, Jenner welcomes the constant grind and wouldn’t have it any other way. Even if she had the opportunity to take it easy, it’s not something she desires.
She maintains a charming innocence and a nostalgic vibe. During our conversation, I asked Jenner about her initial experience with kissing, which immediately piqued her interest, and she enthusiastically shared the details. The person involved was a boy named Matthew McGraw, and they were both in the fourth grade. The incident took place in the front yard of her best friend Zoe’s house, where the three of them were present. Matt was considered one of the popular kids in their class, and Jenner had a crush on him. Zoe urged her to go ahead and kiss him, and so they exchanged an innocent peck on the lips. It was awkward and amusing, much like any other first kiss. For a moment, Jenner is transported back to a time before the reality show Keeping Up With the Kardashians, when her life was vastly different.
As time has passed, the relationship between her and Matthew remained platonic, and he is currently in college. She sounds nostalgic when mentioning him, acknowledging that their paths might have been similar if circumstances had been different. When asked about her aspirations, it becomes challenging to pinpoint a particular endgame. Although Jenner acknowledges that social media has brought her success and wealth, she feels compelled to capitalize on opportunities since her fame may not last forever. Nonetheless, unlike those who strive for success, Jenner’s perspective on true happiness is unique due to her upbringing in the public eye. She recognizes that material possessions such as a new car only provide short-term joy, but genuine contentment comes from spending time with loved ones, as she solemnly states. For her, family is vital and cherished above anything else.
Jenner faces the challenges of life every day, but she’s grateful for her family’s support. Her siblings and brother-in-law Kanye West have all gone through similar experiences. When Jenner’s father, Caitlyn Jenner, came out as a transgender woman in 2015, it wasn’t a surprise to Kylie. She and her sister had seen their dad dressed in women’s clothes when they were younger. When Caitlyn told the family about her plans, Kylie was supportive and told her to do what makes her happy. Jenner is proud of her dad’s public transformation and how it has helped educate people. Although Jenner’s life is like a reality show, she’s aware of it, unlike Jim Carrey’s character in The Truman Show. Jenner knows that the cameras are always watching, whether it’s TV cameras or fans taking pictures.
As Jenner gets ready to leave, a small spider lands on the table, diverting our conversation. I inquire about her feelings towards spiders- whether she likes them or not. The tension between Kylie The Brand and Kylie The Actual Person becomes palpable as they jostle for power. Initially, she gives a response that seems like it was concocted by her publicity team; she isn’t afraid of spiders and would instead capture them and release them outside. She emphasizes her eco-friendliness. However, when I probe further, asking how she catches the spiders, Kylie The Actual Person comes through; she sometimes tries to sweep them out of her house to avoid killing them. But if this doesn’t work, she resorts to other measures. Recently, she had to get rid of a black widow in her garage to protect her dogs. She sprayed the spider and its eggs with kitchen cleaners until it suffocated in toxic foam. She then called for help to remove the spider’s corpse, aware that even dead, a widow could still poison her dog.