Do you know what it feels like for a star? I do. Well, sort of. About six years ago, while maneuvering the rush-hour mob scene in New York City’s Rockefeller Center, I was startled by my first and final fan encounter. It was with a woman who had seen me on several episodes of E! Entertainment Television’s E! True Hollywood Story and MTV’s The Fabulous Life series, where I used to offer regular talking-head commentary on controversial celebrities, loaded ones, and pop-culture trends. She told me she was a huge fan and asked for my autograph and a hug. Flattered, slightly dazed and totally confused, I obliged, and as she went on her way, I stared at her in shock, thinking, “I have a fan?!”
That’s when it first dawned on me: Sly & the Family Stone were right. Everybody is a star. At least, everybody can be. It’s no longer solely the domain of the high, the mighty, Ryan Seacrest and Zsa Zsa Gabor (God bless her). Thanks to reality TV, talent is now optional. So is any real career.
Not California enough to get on The Hills? If you marry well (see the casts of The Real Housewives franchise, Bobby Brown, Kevin Federline, Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey), have the right lineage (see Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie and Ashlee Simpson), become the parents of sextuplets and twins (ah, John and Kate Gosselin!), or simply show up for the reality-TV audition that is no doubt coming soon to a city near you, fame — at least 15 minutes of it — can be within your reach.
How else to explain the rise and rise of Kim Kardashian? Say what you will about Paris Hilton (and I already have), but at least she has a surprisingly decent album (2006’s Paris) on her resume. What has Kardashian accomplished in the four years since she landed a costarring role as Bruce Jenner’s stepdaughter on the E! reality series Keeping Up With the Kardashians? Scattered TV guest appearances, a nude Playboy pictoral, a sex tape with R&B singer (and Brandy’s kid brother) Ray J, Dancing With the Stars, and various other assorted low-brow engagements, including but not limited to attaining tabloid notoriety.
She’s a major star, the new epitome of “famous for being famous,” and for that, we can thank her mother, who had the business savvy to marry a former Olympian. Incidentally, Kris Jenner’s first husband was the late Robert Kardashian, one of O.J. Simpson’s attorneys. If nothing else, the woman knows how to pick a man.
Though I don’t really understand the appeal of reality TV, I’m not knocking it. At least not here. Some legitimate performers — Britney Spears, Shania Twain (coming soon to the Oprah Winfrey Network), and, yes, Sarah Palin — have done it, but without accomplishing anything of significance on- or off-camera, Kardashian is about to do them all one better.
On August 22, the day Keeping Up With the Kardashians‘ fifth season premieres on E!, its breakout star will also debut as the producer of Spin Crowd, the network’s new reality show, which will detail the fascinating process of planning a star-studded event. As a former celebrity magazine editor, I know the territory all too well, so I won’t be tuning in from my couch in Buenos Aires.
But I can’t help but wonder: Will my No. 1 fan be checking it out? Do I ever cross her mind? And does she care about Kim Kardashian?