There are reminders. They come involuntarily, it seems – like hiccups – every few minutes. They pepper the conversation, punctuating nothing of great consequence, but they are useful... necessary, even, at times. “I’m young,” Kendall Jenner will say when discussing her love life. “But I’m young,” she adds when talking about her first house. “I know. I’m young,” she declares after mentioning how much she wants to be a mum someday. She’s only 21 years old, yet she’s lived a long life. Or at least that’s how it feels. She and her colossally famous parents and siblings have managed to reach into nearly every corner of popular culture like some mutant octopus with an unbreakable choke hold on the collective consciousness. It feels like they’ve been there – in our heads, on our screens, everywhere – for ages. So, yes, the reminders are helpful. Kendall Jenner is, in fact, young. “When I turned 20, I remember being like, ‘S***! I’m in my 20s.’ Everyone says, ‘These are the best years of your life. Live it up!’ ” she says. “So maybe I’m just reminding myself.” Who could blame her? Kendall was 11 when Keeping Up With the Kardashians debuted in the autumn of 2007, opening her life, and the lives of the rest of the Jenner-Kardashian family, to public examination – and, naturally, criticism. But life moves fast when it’s measured by Nielsen ratings and social media followers and millions of dollars in revenue. Not that she regrets saying, “Okay,” the day her mother asked her and her little sister, Kylie, if they wanted to be in the television show that was about to start shooting in their Calabasas, California, home. “We were normal kids,” Kendall says of Kylie and herself. “The cameras barely even fazed us.” Normal is relative, of course, but to hear Kendall tell it, she had a wonderful childhood. There were horses and dirt bikes and Barbies. There were movie premieres with a superstar dad and hours in front of the TV watching That’s So Raven and The Suite Life of Zack & Cody. And there were her beloved camo shorts, which she took off only long enough to wash – at her mother’s insistence – every once in a while. “She wore those shorts every day,” recalls her mum, Kris Jenner. “She wasn’t the little frilly girly-girl.” She was actually the exact opposite.
Gown, Armani Privé. Earrings, Tiffany & Co.
Photography: Camilla Akrans
“She’s not afraid of hard work,” says her father, Caitlyn Jenner, the former Olympic champion known as Bruce Jenner before officially changing his name and gender in 2015. “I told her right from the beginning, the way you’re going to be successful in this life is to work hard. No one is going to hand you anything.” But that’s precisely what people thought was happening when she emerged on the fashion scene a few years ago. After all, being a Kardashian opens doors. And, let’s face it, while that may not be her last name, it’s impossible to separate her from the well-oiled, camera-ready Kardashian machine. So it was inevitable that some catty catwalkers would whisper. “I think people were afraid to say it to my face,” says Kendall, “but they were probably talking behind my back: ‘She thinks she’s too cool. She’s stuck-up... too into herself.’ ” Because of that scrutiny, Kendall, now arguably the modelling world’s brightest star, makes it a point to introduce herself to new girls backstage and ensure that they feel comfortable. She doesn’t like the idea of anyone feeling like an outsider. And when a waitress accidentally spills a drink on the table in front of her, Kendall laughs and quickly helps clean it up. Maybe it’s just the manners she was taught by her “amazing parents,” as she calls them, or perhaps it’s that she doesn’t want anyone ever to think she’s “too cool” again. Either way, she appears to be something of a regular at the Bond Street café. She knows the menu cold (“the almond butter toast is amazing, but a little messy”) and loves this part of downtown New York. It’s not far from the apartment she usually stays in when she’s in town. This week, however, she was at the Mercer hotel, as the apartment was occupied by its owners, her sister and brother-in-law. “It’s only a one-bedroom, so I’m not going to sleep in the middle of them,” she says. “Don’t know about cuddling with Kim and Kanye.” Not that it matters. Kendall hasn’t been sleeping well lately. Jet lag plays a role, yes. But there’s also been crippling anxiety in recent months. And while Kendall has always been anxious (“my entire life”), this is some next-level stuff. It started to ramp up last August, when she drove to her West Hollywood house and found someone sitting at the edge of her driveway. The man walked up to her car and began banging on the window. Terrified, she was able to drive away and phone for help, but the fear has remained. (She subsequently testified against him and was granted a five-year restraining order.) Things got even worse in October, when Kim was robbed at gunpoint in her Paris apartment, prompting Kris to beef up security for the entire family. “There’s a lot of creepy people out there,” says Kris. “We’ve experienced it firsthand. It’s like a fortress now at every house.” (Perhaps, but unfortunately that didn’t stop someone from making off with Dhs735,600 worth of valuables in a reported burglary of Kendall’s house in March.) Now Kendall has an armed security guard with her at all times, something she feels safer for having, but has grown to dislike. One accompanies her into the café, buzz-cut and barrel-chested, like a cartoon henchman. “I don’t feel normal,” she says, “and I like to feel as normal as I possibly can.”
Hair: Franco Gobbi for Bumble and Bumble. Make-up: Petros Petrohilos for Estée Lauder. Manicure: Huberte Cesarion.
Production: Pandora Graessl. Set design: Pierre Glanddier at Onirim
Read the full interview in the July/August Issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia - on shelves now