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KUWTK: 15 years of being an unstoppable force

PART 1: How the Kardashians became rich and "famous for being famous", redefining the reality TV scene (and that time Kim responded to Zoe Msutwana’s tweet)
Author: Zoe Msutwana
Thu, Sep 17, 2020
  • This is part one of Zoe Msutwana's two-part series exploring the Kardashians' rich history in contemporary pop culture. Read part two here.

"Following and supporting the Kardashians for over 10 years has been such a thrilling ride! The highs have been really high, and the lows, really low. But man, I'm so proud of these Queen Bosses! Trust me, I've been taking notes."

I tweeted this on 17 July 2018. Unassumingly, I proceeded with the usual after work couch conversation with my boyfriend. Minutes later, my phone rang. It was my friend Palesa who was frantically wondering how I was feeling.

While I was waiting for her to explain something I was clearly missing, my nephew Yamkela was also on the line trying to reach me. By the time my mind was starting to make sense of the hoopla that was suddenly surrounding me, Palesa had uttered out the words "Kim replied, friend," at least three times.

Without hesitation I went to Twitter and to say I was overwhelmed by the number of notifications I had received, would be an understatement. I had received over 100 celebratory mentions in just a few minutes, some praising Kim for the response.

I finally amassed enough strength to read out the tweet to my boyfriend, who was eagerly waiting to hear what had me jumping up and down in our lounge, circling the coffee table. "Thank you! We love you," read the tweet sent out by Kimberly Noel Kardashian-West to me, Zovuyo Zoe Msutwana. 

As if that was not enough, she even took the time to insert the heart emoji.

Clearly aware of what this moment meant for me, he quickly got up and grabbed a bottle of one of our favourite champagnes because, indeed, this was a moment worthy of such recognition and celebration. This tweet now rests beautifully on my work desk, after my friend Siyanda gifted me with a framed picture of the moment as one of my birthday gifts last year.

The beginning of the Kardashian Kraze

Back in the day, my older sister and I had a crush on Nick Cannon, and much to our dismay, while watching E! News, anchors Giuliana Rancic and Ryan Seacrest announced breaking news about him dating Paris Hilton’s BFF, Kim Kardashian. I found her to be extremely beautiful. After that, I became obsessed with stalking paparazzi pics of the couple.

The exciting romance seemed to have fizzled out, as months into the romance, news about Kim’s sex tape was at the top of the news cycle for months after it was leaked.

To my surprise, almost 8 months following the release of the infamous tape, my newest celebrity icon was hopping onto one of my favourite TV genres at the time. Reality TV had pretty much consumed most of my life. At the time, I was already an avid watcher of shows like Laguna Beach, The Hills, Run’s House and Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane.

The Kardashians are here

The October 2007 premiere of KUWTK was interesting and packed with enough light-hearted drama to capture me – showcasing the khaotic Kardashian kraziness, featuring mom Kris Jenner, husband Bruce Jenner, sisters Kourtney (who I quickly recognised from another E! Reality Series, Filthy Rich: Cattle Drive), Kimberly and Khloe, brother Rob and younger sisters Kendall and Kylie.

In her 2011 Kris Jenner… And All Things Kardashian memoir, everyone’s favourite momager revealed that the award-winning reality series was originated in 2006 when E!'s Seacrest, through his production company, developed the idea inspired by The Osbournes.

'Famous for being famous'; 'World-famous for 15 minutes'; 'Overexposed'; 'Fame Hungry': these are some of the headlines that were synonymous with the family amid the show’s rise. Almost 14 years later, the tune has changed to, 'Can 15 Minutes of Fame Extend to 15 Years?'; 'Why Are We Still Keeping Up With the Kardashians?'; 'Career lessons to learn from Keeping Up With The Kardashians'.

Like them or not, their domination, longevity in Reality TV and their personal branding prowess is undeniable. Their influence on marketing and pop culture as a whole, will continue to be unmatched, for generations to come.

How KUWTK reset reality TV as we know it

KUWTK shaped reality TV in a way that very few reality TV shows have managed to do, aside from classics like Laguna Beach and The Hills, by giving America its reality first family. Over the past 18 seasons, the show has been credited for contributing to a pop culture shift that addressed and showed many of us raw and personal aspects of the lives of a family living in Los Angeles.

Kimberly and her family became the first stars to successfully use their reality TV fame as a launchpad to build careers and multimillion-dollar businesses. Very few reality stars have managed to garner as much success outside of their respective reality shows like the Kardashians have been able to. Why is this? 

  • Binge-watch some memorable moments of KUWTK on Showmax