CNN, the Jenner Sisters, and Me


Another day, another media outlet asking me to comment on the Kardashian-Jenner clan. This time was different, though. The outlet was CNN. (*cries happy tears into pillow*)

You might be reading this while the news about Kendall and Kylie’s tone-deaf t-shirts is still hot. Or maybe you’re a year beyond this post date and they’ve managed to offend the world another five times over. Whatever it is, I can tell you that these reality stars need to face a bigger reality: using someone else’s creative work without permission is a huge no-no, no matter how rich you might be.

Artistic and cultural offensives aside, I must say that I look at the Kardashian-Jenner family with a bit of fascination, like when you drive past a vehicle pile-up on a freeway. I said this to CNN and I’ll say it to you, dear reader: the family is interesting because they gamble with branding damage at no true financial cost. Think about it: The family got their fame from a domino of controversial events across a decade (Robert’s affiliation with O.J. Simpson during his trial, KKW’s sex tape, then a trashy reality TV show), and the Kardashian-Jenners have welcomed the opportunities with welcome arms.

This mentality has clearly transmitted to Kendall and Kylie. These ladies know exactly how to get their names on the front page without any fear. Either they make tons of money, or they get tons of press. Seems kind of like a win-win to me.

I heard some proverb (or maybe just an opinion, I can’t remember) that we fear what we don’t understand. The lack of self-awareness this family shows does frighten me. I guess this is my chance to try to understand these women. Part of me wants to applaud them for knowing their brand, knowing how to get attention (think about how much money people would pay for that kind of press!), and obviously knowing what gets sales. Maybe not a $125 “vintage” t-shirt sale, but I’d be foolish to say that the Jenners aren’t businesswomen, because they are. I suppose that we could all tear a page out of the Kardashian-Jenner Klan book and just go for it—without hurting anyone’s feelings, of course.

Clearly this tactic does work to an extent: I provided countless of opinion bites for the lovely CNN reporter for this article, but she ended up choosing some of my most daring comments, including where I recommended that Kendall put her “big-girl pants” on. Was I scared at the time? Sure. Do I regret it now? No. Will the Jenners regret this business blunder? Probably not.

But then there’s the brand strategist in me, who knows that fame—even when you’re working the media for free a la Kylie and Kendall—can be a double-edged sword: You have access to the best opportunities in the world, but your reputation is always at stake. A chance at a splashy headline doesn't mean that you should go with it. Take a step back and evaluate what's on the line. If it's your brand and its image, then you should maybe reconsider or move on to the next best thing.

Have you ever said no to an opportunity because it conflicted with your values? Tell me about it in the comments. I’d love to know.