It’s hard-out at 6.30pm. That’s the non-negotiable rule on set for Harper’s Bazaar Arabia’s September cover shoot with Kim Kardashian West. “My nanny leaves at 7pm, so...” Kim states politely but firmly.
Transformed into a modern day vision of her “number one style icon” and fellow Armenian, Cher; dressed in vintage Bob Mackie, complete with white eyeliner, graphic lower lashes and flowing locks that kiss the top of what must be the most famous butt in the world, it’s easy to forget that behind the glam there is a 36-year-old mother-of-two who just wants to get home to put her kids to bed. And then collapse in front of trash TV. “I think people would be really surprised at how normal our home life is,” Kim smiles. “At the end of the night when the kids go to bed, and before my husband gets home from work, I just love to lay in bed in my robe and watch TV, like Dateline or Family Feud.”
In person, Kim exudes a quiet strength, a far cry from the frenetic mania that has powered Keeping Up With The Kardashians through 10 years of ratings-topping seasons. It’s not an excess of energy nor aggressive ambition that gets her up every morning, constantly pushing her multi-million dollar empire, but an inner steel tempered with a coating of vulnerability. Forbes puts her yearly takings in the year to June at $45.5 million, a figure only set to escalate as she brings more of her branded products, previously farmed out under license, under her own control. “Sometimes people can get lazy,” Kim says of her unrelenting drive during the last decade of building brand Kardashian, “but this is the time where I feel like I’ve never worked harder.”
In no small part this is down to her children – North, four, and Saint, who turns two in December – with Kanye West. “When you have kids it keeps you motivated,” Kim tells Bazaar. “I want to have something on my own. I feel good when I get up and go to work and am busy all day. That makes me happy. If I just, like, retire I would definitely be more of a stay at home mom, but I want my kids to have a really strong work ethic and see how motivated mom and dad really are.”
You don’t get to be one of the most famous women in the world by being happy-go-lucky, after all. “Life scares me. Just thinking of all the things that can go wrong,” Kim shudders, revealing a sensitivity that is a far cry from her bombastic on-screen persona. “When you’re a mom you turn into this maniac that just thinks anything and everything can go wrong.”
For the most part, such vulnerability is suppressed. Scroll through Kim’s Instagram and Twitter feeds and you’re in the presence of someone for whom confidence does not appear to be in short supply. Not even motherhood stymied the star’s sexy persona, for which she is unapologetic.
“At the end of the day I still have to be me. If doing sexy shoots makes me feel confident, then I’m okay with it. That might not be appropriate for some people, and there’s a time and a place. There’s certain things I’ll show my kids and certain things I won’t show my kids. But generally I am okay with it. In moderation.”
Panthère de Cartier watch in pink gold and diamonds, Dhs96,500, Cartier. Top, Dhs654, Paige. Jeans, Dhs668, Good American. Necklaces, Kim’s own
It could be argued that someone like Kim, who refuses to let motherhood dent her sensuality, might inspire those of us who may be struggling to regain self-identity once children arrive. “More power to the moms that look really good, work really hard, do what they can so that they still feel sexy, still feel good about themselves,” she enthuses. “I don’t think for a second that because you become a mom you can’t be sexy any more.”
Does such support for the sisterhood mean Kim Kardashian West is a feminist icon? “I said once before that I’m not really a feminist,” Kim tells Bazaar. “But I feel I do a lot more than people that claim that they’re feminist,” she says, setting the record straight. “To clarify what I said before: I feel in my soul I’m a feminist. I just don’t need labels to make me feel or know what I am inside.”
Dress, Dilek Hanif at Film Fashion
Hers is a very modern feminism, springing from digital roots.
Modern feminists are all the girls around us today. Every time you look on social media and there’s someone standing up for themselves, to me that’s a modern feminist. There’s such an amazing group of girls that empower each other.” She’s plotting ways to bring this into real life, such as the group text chat she has going on with hair guru Jen Atkin and Dubai-based beauty entrepreneur Huda Kattan, where the three are discussing hosting “a girl boss cruise or a retreat to give advice to girls looking to start their own businesses.”
Challenging the negativity that social media breeds is also top of Kim’s agenda, especially as the next generation navigate a digital childhood. “I’m going to be so worried for the time my kids want to get on social media. It doesn’t seem like the safest place,” she admits. “I have a pretty thick skin. But I feel bad for anyone that gets hate on social media. There’s so much cyber-bullying and negativity in comments to everyone. I think it’s so wrong. No matter what you do, you’re so judged and criticised on social media. I hope it changes. I hope people stop being so negative. We can only go further if everyone uplifts each other and supports one another.”
It’s not just mean comments; Kim counsels against the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses (or in this case, Kardashians) mentality fuelled by perfectly curated social media feeds. “It’s definitely amazing to capture your life. But some people can make their lives look so amazing and it’s all a façade,” she warns. “Instagram moments should just be beautiful and fun and whatever makes you happy. There shouldn’t be that much pressure to try to catch up.”
Surprisingly, she admits to self-censoring on social media – her politics if not her pictures. “Sometimes I feel like I want to speak out more about political issues,” she says. “You have to be really careful about what you say, because a lot of things can be taken in the wrong context and I always want to be respectful, I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.” That said, Kim has no qualms opining on who should be in the White House.“Not the President now. Anyone can run the US better. My daughter would be better,” she deadpans. “We’ve worked so hard to get to where we were and to have so many things that we were so proud of in our country, to just literally revert backwards is the most frustrating thing. Every single day when you can’t really believe what’s going on, the next day it’s something else even more crazy and tragic,” she shakes her head. “It’s really scary, the world that we’re living in now. And when you did feel safe at home, now with Trump in presidency you just don’t feel safe any more.”
With 55 million followers of her own on Twitter, does Kim – whose husband controversially met with the newly elected President – number among POTUS’s 20 million followers? “I do not. I follow Obama though.”
You’d think that the booming business empire, the multi-million dollar balance sheet and the technological savvy that Kim has exercised over the last decade would silence her critics once and for all. “I don’t care any more,” she shrugs when the word Kardashian is used as shorthand for an empty kind of fame. “I used to, and I used to try to do everything to prove people wrong. I feel confident in who I am. I work hard, I try to mind my own business and not focus on what other people are saying about me.”
Love bracelet in white gold and diamonds, Dhs93,500, Cartier. Dress, Dhs36,729, La Bourjoisie
Her agenda-setting personal style – for make no mistake, how Kim looks influences millions – is the outward manifestation of her evolving sense of self. “Everyone has their own idea of what makes them feel good when they put on clothes, and I love that I’ve discovered what makes me feel good,” she says of the hipper, more street Kim that has emerged. And it’s worth remembering that, risqué as some of her style manoeuvres may seem, Kim’s fellow Armenian, Cher, was doing barely-there dresses 40 years ago. “She’s always had the sickest style, I’m obsessed with her,” Kim says of the singer and actress she pays stylistic tribute to in Bazaar Arabia’s shoot. “To think that she was wearing these sheer dresses in the ’70s and just what people must have thought back then.” Like Cher before her, what people think is neither here nor there for Kim Kardashian West: “I just keep doing me.” (And a bit of Cher.)
Stylist: Simon Robins at CLM. Group fashion stylist: Anna Castan. Stylist’s assistants: Megan King and Deno. Make-up: Mario Dedivanovic at The Only Agency. Hair: Chris Appleton at The Wall Group. Manicurist: Mary Soul. Photography assistants: Tomas Hein, Semir Hajdarevic and Adhat Campos. Digital operator: Adam Kryzer. Producer: Joey Battaglia at Rosco Production. Production assistants: Davin Singh at Rosco Productions and Beau Bielski. With thanks to Emirates Airline
From the September 2017 Issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia