About Kris Jenner
Born Nov. 5, 1955 in San Diego, CA, Kristen Mary Houghton met her future husband, lawyer Robert Kardashian, when she was 17. Although she worked as a flight attendant briefly, Jenner quickly settled into a more luxurious lifestyle after her marriage to Kardashian in June 1978. The couple had four children: Kourtney, Kimberly, Khloé and Robert Kardashian, Jr., and Jenner quickly rose to the top of certain moneyed Los Angeles circles. She revealed a talent for entrepreneurship early on, opening several high-end clothing boutiques, including "Smooch" in Calabasas, CA. Despite their outwardly glamorous appearance, the union was rocky. In 1990, Robert Kardashian filed for divorce, citing Jenner's multiple infidelities and extravagant spending. The documents were sealed until almost 20 years later, where it came out that Kardashian had accused Jenner of flaunting her adulterous relationship with Olympic hero Bruce Jenner in front of him. On April 21, 1991, Kris and Bruce Jenner were married, bringing his four children from two previous marriages into the fold, as well as eventually adding two biological daughters, Kendall and Kylie.
Among Jenner's close friends was Nicole Brown Simpson, who, like herself, was married to a sports legend, football hero O.J. Simpson. Although Brown Simpson shunned Jenner for a short time in the wake of the Kardashian divorce, she and Jenner would resume their close friendship, particularly after Brown Simpson divorced her physically abusive husband and began to live life as a single woman. The Kardashian name first earned a bit of international notoriety when O.J. Simpson was accused of the murders of his ex-wife and her friend Ronald Goldman in June 1994, and he brought Robert Kardashian aboard as member of his high-profile legal defense team. The immensely controversial 1995 "Trial of the Century" - which famously found Simpson not guilty of murder - drove a permanent wedge between the former spouses, with Robert choosing to believe his buddy O.J. and Kris believing Nicole was clearly a victim of domestic homicide. (She would eventually bestow the middle name "Nicole" upon Kendall, in honor of her dead friend). The trial also went a long way toward helping plant the name "Kardashian" negatively in the public conscious. It would take the next generation to elevate the family name to something not synonymous with injustice.
After raising her children out of the public eye, and mourning the death from cancer of her first husband in 2003, reality television entered the picture. Hot on the heels of a sex tape flap implicating her middle Kardashian daughter, "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" (E!, 2007- ) premiered. Kim, who had long been languishing as a lesser star in the pseudo-celebrity universe ruled by Paris Hilton, suddenly became the world's most famous socialite, surpassing all her contemporaries and helping power her family's series into an unbelievably popular phenomenon. Although the series was tailored around the glamorous charms of the sisters, the entire family was featured, and Jenner began to step into the spotlight on her own. While many pop cultural watchdogs were shocked by Jenner's endless promotion as the "manager" of her children and CEO of the family brand, many others were impressed with her shrewd, high-level competence as a businesswoman, building a powerful empire.
Under Jenner's stewardship, the Kardashian clan, name and brand became world-famous and jaw-droppingly lucrative. Perhaps the world's most successful and famous "stage mother," Jenner spoke frequently about how hard the family worked to perpetuate their luxury image, and she cannily oversaw spin-offs of the flagship show, including "Kourtney and Khloé Take Miami" (E!, 2009- ), "Kourtney and Kim Take New York" (E!, 2011- ) and "Khloé & Lamar" (E!, 2011- ). Serving as executive producer of each series, Jenner displayed a world-class business savvy, making sure to build up each of her children's careers instead of relying on the flashiest Kardashian, Kim. Jenner gave countless interviews and made multiple appearances to support her brood, including sitting in the audience during multiple episodes of "Dancing with the Stars" (ABC, 2005- ), on which both Kim and Robert, Jr. competed.
She also began building on her own personal brand, appearing as herself as an extra special guest judge on "RuPaul's Drag U" (Logo, 2010- ) and frequently recurring on "Rachael Ray" (syndicated, 2006- ), "The Talk" (CBS, 2010- ) and "Entertainment Tonight" (syndicated, 1981- ). The family's star flashed supernova with the multimedia spectacle "Kim's Fairytale Wedding: A Kardashian Event" (E!, 2011), which broke all sorts of viewing records and inspired oceans of gossip and tabloid ink, but it soon led to a backlash when Kim filed for divorce shortly thereafter. Although familiar with the "reality" of "reality TV," many critics and members of the general public spoke out angrily about what they perceived as a soulless publicity stunt, with much of the blame aimed at Jenner's supposed puppet-mastering. While the Kardashians had long been seen as a harmless guilty pleasure, they began to be seen as something much more sinister and evocative of the decline of modern culture.
The grumbling grew much louder as the media and public seemed to enter Kardashian overload. Previously given breathless and often fawning coverage for any move they made, the Kardashians began to receive harsher treatment from the media, with accusations flying that Jenner was responsible for instilling a vapid, fame-hungry, soulless worldview in her children. Despite, or perhaps because of, all the controversy and drama, Jenner and her daughters landed slots on "Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Fascinating People" (ABC, 1993- ) specials in 2010 and 2011 alike. She released her autobiography, Kris Jenner and All Things Kardashian, which was packed with juicy tabloid tidbits (She wrote of receiving an urgent phone call from Brown Simpson the night before she was murdered, asking Jenner for help), and became the subject of a minor running joke on an episode of "Happy Endings" (ABC, 2011- ).
By Jonathan Riggs
|Bruce Jenner. Married April 21, 1991; co-starred on the E! reality franchise "Keeping Up with the Kardashians"|
|Robert Kardashian. Best known as one of the lawyers for O.J. Simpson; married July 8, 1978; divorced in 1989; Kardashian died of esophageal cancer on Sept. 30, 2003|
|Ryan. In her 2011 memoir Kris Jenner...and All Things Kardashian, she revealed an affair she had with a producer named Ryan; Jenner was 30 at the time and married to Robert Kardashian|