The first episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians premiered on Oct. 14, 2007. Today, the show airs in 167 countries, has spawned nine spin-offs to date and ranks as E! Entertainment’s top-rated series since 2010.
In honor of the reality show’s 10th anniversary, the stars and producers of the megafranchise sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to reveal the secrets behind it all, and how — despite using it as a platform to launch them into an unparalleled level of fame and success — the show has taken a toll on their personal lives.
From the get-go, family matriarch Kris Jenner knew there was only one way it would be successful: if they shared it all.
“I sat everyone down,” she recalled to the magazine. “And [I] said, ‘If we’re going to do this, we have to be all in. We have to really be who we are.’ “
Executive producer Ryan Seacrest agreed.
“I remember Kris saying, ‘In order for this to work, yes, there’s a glitz and glamour, but there’s got to be honesty and vulnerability. We need to make a pact that the show won’t just be pretty pictures,’ ” he said. “As time goes by, you see some of the most vulnerable moments. There was a deliberate intent to be vulnerable and capture that from the beginning.”
Of course, that wasn’t an easy pill to swallow for the famous family — and it still isn’t. To this day, the women still struggle with certain elements that come with chronicling their every move on television. Read on for some of their most candid confessions. (Brother Rob Kardashian, 30, did not participate.)
According to Kris, 61, only one of her five daughters wasn’t as on board with the idea at first: “The only person I got any resistance from was Kourtney,” she said. “She was sort of skeptical.”
“I remember in season one being like, ‘I have to go the bathroom,’ and I’d cry in there as quietly as I could because I was still mic’d,” admitted Kourtney, 38. “I never want to cry in front of cameras.”
And years later, Kourtney still struggles with living out more personal moments on camera.
“The hardest episode to film was my break-up with Scott [Disick],” she revealed. “I had a lot of anxiety about it, and finally said let’s just get this over with. I sat down and started crying. You go through something, and then you move past it. Then you do your interview, and get all riled up again. And then you see the episode, and start seeing all these comments [on social media].”
For Kim, her 2011 wedding to Kris Humphries — which brought in 10.5 million viewers over two nights, reportedly the show’s highest-ever ratings — stands out as one of her toughest KUWTK memories.
“There was all this attention on the wedding, and I thought maybe it was just the pressure of the show giving me this anxiety,” she said. “My friends told me I just had cold feet, but even the producers said, ‘You don’t seem happy. You don’t have to go through with this.’ “
“The night before, my mom pulled me aside, off camera, and was like, ‘This isn’t it for you. Why don’t you go away and I’ll handle it?’ ” she continued. “I felt like, if I pulled out now, everyone’s going to think I just did it for the show. Then afterwards, people were saying, ‘You have to stay married for a year,’ but I physically couldn’t do it. When I made the decision [to divorce], everyone said it was made up for the show. Everyone really wanted to take me down.”
“Think about this realistically: If it was for the show don’t you think we would have found someone that signed off?” she went on. “Someone OK with getting married and getting divorced two months later? If it’s for a show don’t you think you’d want as little legal trouble as possible? This was real emotions, real feelings. People f— up.”
These days, of course, 36-year-old Kim is happily married to Kanye West, with whom she shares two children. But looking back, she does have some regrets about how the show covered her road to motherhood.
“I definitely wish I didn’t film so much pregnant,” she confessed. “I looked like such a cow and I can’t stand to see those episodes. I would say, ‘Try to film me more from chest up, so it looks better,’ but I look like a blob. I would have rather seen my belly and shot farther away.”
And Kim’s not the only one with some aesthetic concerns.
“I mean, believe me, I’m not going to lie, there’s been times when I’ve walked away from the camera and I’ve got a big bump in my hair and I’m like ‘Take that out, my hair looks like s—,” admitted Kris. “I’m too vain to leave really ugly, ugly angles in.”
“It’s totally a blessing to have the show to put you in that spotlight where you could let people see the brand that you’re trying to create,” said Khloé, 33. “At first, you are bright-eyed and people want to pay you to do the craziest things. Me and my sisters have all done it, but we’ve learned from those mistakes. I think viewers could see through when things are unauthentic, even with a social media platform. People need to really aware of their authenticity and doing thing out of passion not just to make a dollar. I will say there has been a learning curve.”
“I know people think, ‘You guys just film and eat your salads and drink iced tea all day,’ ” she added. “I think if someone tried to spend a week with us and did what we do — I’m not complaining about what we do at all, but it’s a job.”
For Khloé, her biggest TV regret to date was her spin-off with then-husband Lamar Odom, which ran for two seasons in 2011 and 2012.
“I never wanted to do Khloé & Lamar; my ex-husband did,” she said. “He sold it to E!, and I let it happen because I wanted him to be happy. I was the one who canceled it. It was way too much.”
“The beauty of having older sisters is you learn so many lessons from them,” said Kendall, 21. “I’ve seen how their relationships have played out on TV so I learned that lesson. I feel like it’s just better to keep it more private.”
“I’m the most private one,” she added. “If there’s a moment I don’t want anyone to hear, I talk to myself or talk to someone in another room.”
And while she remained largely silent after her controversial Pepsi ad was accused of trivializing the Black Lives Matter movement, behind closed doors, the supermodel was struggling.
“We’re not perfect, but you see these things in the media, like Kendall and [her Pepsi ad], where I see her at home crying, but in the media she looks another way because she’s not addressing it,” said Kim. “I’m just like, ‘This is wrong. You need to speak up.’ She was like, ‘I don’t ever want to show that footage of me crying.’ She was trying to not make excuses or be dramatic, but that was what she was going through at the time.”
“When you involve the whole world, everyone has an opinion,” said the youngest member of the clan, 20, who has been open about her struggles with balancing a life in the public eye.
“It’s not the healthiest,” she added. “That part of your life should remain sacred.”
ON KIM’S ROBBERY AT GUNPOINT
Kim’s October 2016 Paris heist rocked the entire family — and reliving it on the show wasn’t been easy, either.
“Every time I tried to watch the episode when Kim shares her experience getting robbed in Paris, I couldn’t even get through it to give my notes,” said Kris. “I was crying so hard. I would watch it and then cry, cry, cry and then start over. It was very difficult for me to watch my daughter in that kind of pain.”
But for Kim, the show gave her a platform to tell her story as accurately as possible, at her own pace.
“Everyone was calling for a sit-down interview and I was like why would I do an interview about something I was just traumatized from?” she said. “But I felt really comfortable to tell my story on my show, because it wasn’t going to get twisted. I needed time off, but I was going to talk about it.”
“I was OK to show my struggles, because there was no way that I was going to allow it to damage me and make me a different person for my kids,” she added. “I wasn’t going to allow it to debilitate me from being be the mom that I need to be.”
Caitlyn’s transition was another milestone moment for the family. For Kim, shooting then-Bruce and Kris in their final conversation was “probably the most difficult [to film].”
“Just seeing my mom and Khloé having such a hard time,” she said. “We never really edited content before, but we did edit a bit of Khloé’s reaction just because she was so upset.”
“If I act a certain way, I act a certain way, but I just knew in my head this needed to be a four-hour episode,” said Khloé. “This is so real, and I want to ask every question I have, but also I want honest answers.”
For Kylie, the public’s reaction to her father deciding to begin live as a woman was the last thing on her mind.
“At the time, I didn’t think, ‘Oh, this is going to make pop culture history,’ ” she said. “I had different things on my mind, because this was my reality, and this is my dad.”
“There are moments when it’s hard to leave something in because it’s vulnerable and it exposes us to a deeper level of emotion, and sometimes that’s hard to share,” said Kris. “It always occurs to me maybe this should be left out. Maybe this is too much. Every time I catch myself and I say no, this is what everyone who’s watched since day one deserves to see for one reason or another. We signed up for this.”
“When we first started, I jokingly said, ‘We’ll be on season 32, Kylie gets married,’ ” she added. “I was kidding, and here we are, and it’s season 14, so be careful what you wish for.”
The Keeping Up with the Kardashians 10th anniversary special premieres Sept. 24, and season 14 premieres Oct. 1, both at 9 p.m. ET on E!