Christopher Polk/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
Christopher Polk/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
History tells us that in some cases, when kids appear on reality TV, they're held to a higher level of scrutiny. Just look at the Duggars or the Teen Mom children. Trouble inevitably befalls families who turn their lives over to masses. So, when a pair of sisters are practically raised in front of the ever-present cameras, growing up among a production crew and playing out every transition and awkward year with a side of glam squad a healthy dose of confessional, manage to avoid all the pitfalls, it's worth a case study.
Not that Kendall and Kylie Jenner are perfect. (Nobody is, of course.) But the way they've navigated their upbringing in a controversy-free manner has all the trappings of an instructional guide for future generations. Drama circles them and it always will. But none of it reflects any innate trouble making on their part—their siblings and acquaintances have had their scandals, and that's as close as it gets.
The sisters are, for all intents and purposes, clean as a whistle. They've built successful careers and businesses and even own their own property.
It all started, probably, with parenting. Doesn't everything? The truly formative younger years of Kendall and Kylie's lives took place before Keeping Up With the Kardashians was but a twinkle in Ryan Seacrest's eye, and that goes a long way. Even once the fame started to come, Kris and Caitlyn Jenner kept things in formation. The girls stayed in regular school just about as long as humanly possible for two of the most famous teens on the planet, they spent their days in team sports and cheerleading.
Their friends were from the neighborhood, not Hollywood, and Caitlyn led carpool after carpool after carpool. They even had (gasp!) the occasional chore. Special credit is due to the late Robert Kardashian, whose main fatherly focus was keeping his children grounded and fully aware of their privilege at every step—it gave the second-round Kardashian family a legacy to live up to.
"I feel like a lot of people say that kids who grow up in that world go crazy," Kendall said to Harper's Bazaar. "But it has everything to do with how your parents raise you. I was raised so normally, or as normally as I could have been."
As the significantly younger sisters in a family of six children, Kylie and Kendall were also able to count Kim, Kourtney and Khloe as parental figures. That meant there were six more eyes watching them at every step, but also that they had three extra examples to model themselves after. Or, more often than not, to model themselves away from. They were well behind the older three and watched what they did with their moment in the spotlight.
Kendall and Kylie took notes and learned how not to make the same mistakes. It was like a blueprint for what not to do—when you've seen the repercussions of excess firsthand, you develop an aversion to it, repelled by the consequences or backlash or simply the hangover.
Beyond all the 'Do as I say, not as I do' note-taking, the youngest sisters have a highly developed work ethic. They know the value of a dollar, and more importantly, the value of earning a dollar. Don't for a second mistake them for being provincial, though: They like the finer things in life. They need (and, presumably, like) the money that it takes to buy those things. But never have they thought that those things would come to them automatically or without proper due.
They know that to keep living the life they have become accustomed to, they have to put in the time. Say what you will about putting a young child through the rigors of a sometimes-grueling production schedule that befits a reality show, but, at least for the Kardashian-Jenners, it conveyed the concept that you wake up every morning to create, to do, to check off lists. There's no lounging around and expecting Mom to buy you your Birkins.
(They're still welcome to, of course, it's just they'll sit on a closet shelf alongside Birkins the girls bought for themselves.)
With that work ethic came careers. Not just fame-for-fame's-sake, but honest-to-God passions. They honed in on them early and stuck to those dreams. It started with their namesake fashion lines, and then, for Kendall at least, blossomed into the full-scale modeling career she's now notorious for. The fashion industry gives her a full raison d'etre outside of the reality show—Keeping Up is an extra source of income and opportunity to see her family, but nothing more.
What makes her tick is her day job, and it's been a driving force for a long time now. "She had her eyes focused on exactly what she wanted to do," sister Kim Kardashian explained to Vogue. "And she made it happen."
Kylie, of course, has her makeup brand, the successes of which would be redundant to share at this point. We'll just say she's becoming a mini-mogul, as well as readying herself for a possible career without the glare of the camera. This concept might seem shocking, but the star has long been open about the idea that to her, fame should be fleeting. She's perfectly happy to use it up until she's done with it, and then toss it aside and de-camp for a quiet life surrounded by family and farm animals.
"I day dream about when I can get to a place in my life where I can be off the radar," she told Paper.
Whether that comes to fruition isn't for us to say, but there's a wholly different result when someone has fame but doesn't need it, than when they don't have it yet crave it desperately.
Until that future farm-going life, she keeps shelter within the carefully crafted Brand she has cultivated. It allows her to remain separate from Kylie the Real Person, and to be on a reality show with only a measured degree of prying. "People think that since we have a reality show and I show so much of my life that they know who I am," she said to Allure. "But on Snapchat I show people what I think they want to see. That's not me. It's a projected image."
Kendall operates a version of this mindset, achieved by keeping an airtight inner circle. "I'm not very open to new people," she explained to Harper's Bazaar. "I have a small group of people I trust. I'm very intuitive, so I'm good at feeling out how people are, if they have bad intentions."
But above all else, it's the close-knit family that has kept Kendall and Kylie from going the way of the aforementioned Duggars and Teen Moms. Fame and cameras can tear families apart, and even though the Kardashian-Jenners have suffered through the requisite divorce that seems all but inevitable to plague reality stars, it wasn't actually suffering at all. They made it through unscathed, with a tighter bond than ever.
They've benefited from the lack of turmoil, and there's something to be said for the never-wavering love beaming down on them from all sides of the clan. Does that mean Kris discovered the secret? Probably not, but it's as close as anyone is going to get.