As it was written in the Book of Kris Jenner, so shall it be on earth, forever and ever.
Just as Keeping Up with the Kardashians celebrated its 10th anniversary in the fall, rumors began to circulate that three members of the Kardashian-Jenner extended family were pregnant at the same time. Now, with the show’s 14th season in full swing, they’re either officially announcing their pregnancies or welcoming newborns — and according to a rumor posted to the gossip site Blind Gossip, family matriarch Kris Jenner has been planning for this occasion for at least three years.
“In the never-ending quest for ratings and attention, this TV maven is trying to get the cast on this show excited about a new story line,” wrote Blind Gossip in 2014: “Three of the women on the show… all pregnant… at the same time!”
Earlier this month, Kim Kardashian and husband Kanye West had a child via a surrogate, a baby girl named Chicago West. Kylie Jenner is pregnant by Travis Scott, and Khloé Kardashian by Tristan Thompson. All three pregnancies were heavily rumored in the fall, but the sisters waited to make their announcements until the new season of Keeping Up With the Kardashians debuted in October (except for Kylie, who has not publicly confirmed her pregnancy).
As BuzzFeed pointed out, that’s standard practice for the family: Whenever they’re surrounded by particularly juicy rumors, they wait out the rumors out until they can address them on their TV show. That’s how you get good ratings, and good ratings are how you build a media empire.
It’s impossible to know for sure that Kris Jenner actually personally convinced three of her daughters to get pregnant, all at the same time and all in time for the 10th anniversary of the family reality show. But the persistence of the rumor speaks to the contradiction inherent to the way we see the Kardashians.
The Kardashians built their media empire on the idea that they are a family that viewers can be a part of. “We’re the modern-day Brady Bunch!” was an oft-repeated line in the first season of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. They would hold nothing back, they implied: They would share every DUI, every argument around the family dinner table, every opulent quickie wedding with their audience, because their audience was also their family.
The Kardashian brand is built on intimacy — but because it is so clearly a brand, viewers have a hard time believing in its authenticity. They start to assume that everything Kardashian-adjacent is fake.
Hence Blind Gossip’s avowal, “You think that the Kardashians are a family. The Kardashians are actually a completely manufactured business enterprise.” Hence recaps of Keeping Up with the Kardashians like Mariah Smith’s exhaustively researched Keeping Up With the Kontinuity Errors series on The Cut, which she describes as “a weekly look at [the Kardashians’] manufactured realities and lies.”
After a decade of living with the Kardashians, searching for a glimpse the ever-turning machinery of their operation has become part of the pleasure of watching them. When we praise the Kardashians, it is for their business acumen, for their skill at parlaying a quasi-celebrity-adjacent name and a notorious sex tape into a multi-million dollar empire. That is the Kardashian craft, one at which they are all (except maybe sock designer Rob), extremely skilled.
So watching the Kardashians put in the work of building their brand — the faked storylines, the fudged timelines, the slightly-too-perfectly-staged reveals — is like watching experts at work. The Kardashians aren’t just “famous for being famous.” They’re famous for this particular skill. Branding is their family craft.
And it’s a craft that has the side effect of reducing everything that surrounds them into something that feels artificial, into something that seems — as Blind Gossip and Mariah Smith both put it — “manufactured.”
Update: This article was originally published in November 2017. It has been updated to include the birth of Kim Kardashian West’s daughter and the confirmation of Khloé Kardashian’s pregnancy.