Whether she wants to be or not, Kim Kardashian is not a woman capable of flying under the radar. Just take the outfit she's wearing for this interview: black leather pants that are practically painted on, flashy coral top, a handful of long necklaces, and sky-high studded Christian Louboutin heels. It's the kind of look you'd expect Kardashian to wear to a club or a party. Which is what she'll be doing later, but at the moment it's 8:30 on a Friday morning, and there are no red velvet ropes in sight. "I just feel my best when I'm all glammed up," she explains.
Which makes sense, given the amount of scrutiny she's under. In four short years, Kardashian, 30, has transformed herself from a sex symbol famous for the poetic curve of her derrière into a multimillion-dollar brand. She's one of Hollywood's most relatable stars, but that fame has come at the cost of her own privacy. It's a sacrifice she's happily made, but not one without its challenges.
"Our life is so public," says Kardashian of her family, "and that was a commitment we made and it comes with the territory – the good outweighs the bad. So to complain about that, I think, is a little silly."
Then, in a moment of armchair therapy, she identifies how different her fame is to that of the Michael Jordans and Lady Gagas of the world. "If you're a basketball player and you don't stop and take pictures with your fans, you can have an amazing game and everyone still loves you," she opines. Whereas, if she's having a bad day and doesn't feel like taking photos with fans? "They won't like who we are. It's not like I can get out and sing a great concert and they still love me, you know? I think the success of the show happened because it's harder to get someone to like you for you, instead of a character you're playing. So to all of a sudden want all that privacy back, it's kind of, like... you can't really do that."
And, hey, it's not like hers is a life worth complaining about. She's the star of numerous reality shows, from the original Keeping Up With The Kardashians to spin-offs like Kourtney And Kim Take New York. The Kardashian empire earned a reported $65 million last year, selling everything from workout DVDs to perfumes and sneakers. She and sisters Kourtney and Khloé own three DASH fashion stores, co-wrote the book Kardashian Konfidential (HarperCollins, $35), are designing collections for US department store Sears, and have a novel coming out soon – which is yet to be named by their fans. Plus, Kardashian has almost eight million Twitter followers (not far behind US President Barack Obama.) "I'm the true definition of a work-aholic. I have my visions and I just go for it and won't stop until it's done."
Kardashian's mogul destiny was evident from a young age. Raised in California, she was influenced by the tireless work ethic of her late father, lawyer Robert Kardashian – famous for defending OJ Simpson in his murder trial. As a girl, she made headbands and sold them at local stores. At 19, she became an eBay aficionado. She'd take out loans from her dad, signing contracts stating she'd pay him back within two weeks, with interest. "I would buy these Manolo Blahnik shoes that were almost $1000," explains Kardashian, "and I would be like, 'Dad, can I buy seven pairs? I know these will sell; everyone's looking for these,' and he would be like, 'You're crazy!' Then I'd sell each pair for $2500, and when he saw the results, he'd be like, 'OK, maybe not...'"
Her dad split from her mum, Kris, when Kardashian was 10 and, a year later, in 1991, Kris married former Olympian Bruce Jenner. Now the couple, like a modern-day Brady Bunch, has 10 kids between them. And in keeping with the "all in the family" theme, Kardashian's mum is her business manager. "I know some people say it's not the best to work with your family, but I have never understood that because it's always worked so well for me," she says. "I wouldn't ever get mad at a decision she would make for me because I think we have similar thought processes and we want the same thing."
Kim with sisters Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian.
Which looks, from where we're sitting, like total media domination. For although the family "only" films two months per season, filming takes up 12 hours a day, six days a week. The crew has access to virtually every aspect of their lives, with no room off limits, save the bathroom. "I mean, they aren't going to follow you places you don't want them to. Plus, we are all so used to it now that it just doesn't feel that invasive anymore."
Having grown accustomed to the spotlight, Kardashian is often advising her younger sisters, who are following suit. When 13-year-old Kylie was recently nervous before a photoshoot, Kardashian gave her the ultimate pep talk: "I was like, 'You just have to try things that maybe you might not be so comfortable with. If you hate it, you hate it and you never do it again. Like, who cares? But if you don't try something you've never done before, you wouldn't know.'"
It's wisdom she credits to her stepdad. "He's always said, 'Try something you're not comfortable with, because the amount of insecurity you can take is your ability to grow.'" Kardashian's taken his advice to heart ever since. A great example, she says, is the song she recorded this year – her first ever, the single "Jam (Turn it Up)". The track received decidedly ordinary reviews, but for Kardashian it was a coup. "Do I have a great voice? No," she concedes. "Do I want to be a singer? No, never. But it was a fun opportunity, and I was so nervous to do it. But I did it. I was like, 'Ugh, I never want to be a singer and I don't want to do this,' so I'll never do it again. But I tried and I got over that fear of doing it."
Plus, let's be honest, more things are working in Kardashian's life than not. Look no further than her fiancé, New Jersey Nets basketball star Kris Humphries. It won't be Kim’s first marriage (she was married to music producer Damon Thomas from 2000 to 2004) and he's not her first sports star beau (she dated gridiron star Reggie Bush on and off for three years), but it is, she reveals, the most normal and healthy relationship she's ever had. "I think it takes a really secure person to be with someone independent and successful, especially when it's the female that is that way. Kris, he totally gets my whole business side." More importantly, she says, "He gets me. He makes it so easy. We have a really good dynamic."
Kardashian met Humphries – who also grew up in a family of Ks, with sisters Krystal and Kaela – at a dinner with friends. Following in the footsteps of Khloé, who married basketballer Lamar Odom two years ago, Kardashian's relationship moved fast: in May, just six months after they began dating, Humphries proposed on bended knee in Kardashian's home with a 20.5-carat diamond ring, reportedly worth $2 million.
Before his season begins in October, they'll look for places to live, most likely in New Jersey (Kardashian will keep her home in Beverly Hills). She doesn't see many challenges living together, except one: "I'm such a neat freak. I mean, he's neat, but he's not the freak I am. That's why I’m always like, 'I'll never move in with anyone unless I'm married.'"
It's words like that that get the rumour mill ticking: she won't move in unless she's married, eh? Sounds like a quick wedding. And probably one we'll see on TV soon after, since Kardashian says, "It'll be fun to see the process of it. I loved seeing Khloé's wedding on camera."
With Kardashian, a mere whiff of rumour travels far. Which is why even when she's raving about Australia, she edits herself: "Something about Sydney reminds me of home. I always say [Australia's] the one other country I can really see myself living in." That's when she pauses, then clarifies, "But I'm not moving there or anything!"
She's also been trying to beat down the pregnancy rumours that began swirling within hours of her engagement. "I feel like I've said, 'Oh, in the future I want kids,' and then it turns into a weekly cover that I'm having a baby." But she does admit having children is the number one item on her bucket list. "I've accomplished a lot and I'm very happy with that, but if it's like, what's the one thing you want to do before you die, it would be to have kids. I feel you haven't lived life until you have babies."
Well, however soon she gets married and has babies, we'll probably get to hear and see every detail for ourselves. Which is just how her fans like it.
Kim with fiance Kris Humphries.