The Best-Kept Secrets of the Kardashians' Rise to Fame
In a new unauthorized Kardashian biography, author Ian Halperin unleashes a series of surprising allegations. We spoke to him about his research process, who in the family is riding on Kim's coattails, and why he hopes he gets sued.
Photos courtesy of Gallery Books
At the front of his new unauthorized Kardashian biography, Kardashian Dynasty, Ian Halperin dedicates the book to the late Hollywood novelist Jackie Collins. Halperin has become the Jackie Collins of unauthorized biographies, turning what could be trash into an art form. Over the course of nearly 20 years, he has written gripping narratives about everyone from Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell to Whitney Houston and her daughter Bobbi Kristina. In early 2009, he predicted Michael Jackson would die later that year. The media considered Halperin a nut job, until Jackson died on June 25, shortly before the release of Halperin's book Unmasked: the Final Years of Michael Jackson.
Halperin's latest book chronicles the Kardashian-Jenner clan's rise, from Kris Jenner's marriage to Robert Kardashian to Kim Kardashian's sex tape to Caityn Jenner's transition to the family's current status as America's high-low royal family who hawks clothes for both PacSun and Balmain. Halperin alleges that Kris modeled the family and their television shows as a hybrid of The Brady Brunch and The Partridge Family. Like the Bradys, there's a Kardashian-Jenner for everyone, but they also function as a business like the Partridges.
If this makes Keeping Up with the Kardashians sound like a conservative return to classic TV, Halperin says that's the point. He paints Kris as a woman who used Robert Kardashian's born-again Christianity to build Hollywood connections, and he claims she holds conservative values and even tried to deprogram Caitlyn Jenner's gender identity. Like many conservatives, Kris will also do anything to get ahead—at least according to Halperin. The author alleges that Kris helped Kim Kardashian leak her sex tape with Ray J, an accusation the Kardashians have denied. In one chapter, Halperin details going undercover at Vivid Entertainment, the company that distributed the tape, to learn the alleged backstory behind the video. In response to Halperin's allegations, a Kardashian rep told the New York Post,"All the assertions are false."
From his home in Miami Beach, Florida, Halperin tells Broadly about his investigation methods, how Kanye West changed the Kardashian brand, and why he hopes America's royal family sues him.
BROADLY: How did you come up with the idea to go undercover at Vivid?
Ian Halperin: In a lot of my books I go undercover. I believe it was in 2011, I did a film on Charlie Sheen, which did pretty well, and I interviewed the head of Vivid, the CEO [Steven Hirsch]. I had some connections at Vivid, and it just hit me that I should go undercover as a porn [peddler] just to find out how to really sell a sex tape. Along the way I had multiple corroborations that Kris was involved in brokering the deal for her own daughter's sex tape, which almost made me fall off my chair—they'll do whatever it takes. Nobody can ever accuse them of not being hustlers, shameless promoters. Their appetite for risky adventures when it comes to promoting themselves is unparalleled.
As you researched the book, how did Kris Jenner change over time?
I think she wasn't as confident back then when she was married to Bob Kardashian. After marrying Bruce Jenner, she promoted his career, and then along the way with Kim and her family, she just became a towering figure in Hollywood. Her confidence was built up to monumental heights. She sort of built up the charisma and determination that made her family one of the biggest brands ever in television. It took years, but she certainly exceeded with the Kardashian daughters.
How did you get into the unauthorized biography business?
Actually, I used to be [approached to write] authorized [biographies]. How boring would that be? To write these sugar-coated pieces of celebrities? I think I'd vomit doing that. I think I'd be dead by now. I wouldn't survive that process. It would just be too [much] like propaganda—spewing out propaganda!
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You predicted Michael Jackson's death while you were writing your unauthorized biography of him. How did you know?
That was pretty easy to predict, unfortunately. Do I think I'm Nostradamus? No, because I was on the scene. All the signs were there. There were so many undesirables around the King of Pop, and he was blind. He put trust into almost anybody that would get involved in his life. I knew Michael was addicted to drugs. The prediction was unless this guy gets in the hospital, he can forget about organizing a comeback tour.
Why don't celebrities sue you?
I've been doing this for about 20 odd years, and I've always said I'll back up every word I print or publish in a book. To everybody who has done their research, who's familiar with my brand, no matter how controversial it gets, they know that I will use truth as a defense—which is a defense in libel.
Unfortunately, I wish the [Kardashians] would have sued me because I have about 3,000 questions—more than 3,000! I'd [ask them] about 30,000 questions under oath for the sequel, and it would save me a lot of time and money from having to research and hit the road again. I wish they would sue me.
How long did you spend reporting on the Kardashian book?
On and off for several years but really intensely the last couple years. I would follow them. Living in LA I would cross paths with several of them [through] working in the film industry and stuff. I've been on the case for quite a while.
Did Kanye West save the Kardashians after the Kris Humphries debacle?
Yes, absolutely. Anybody who's interested in business should study the Kardashian brand because they're masters of turning lemons into lemonade. They profited off of the marriage, all kinds of endorsement deals. They huddled in a board room and said, "We need to turn this around because the brand is about to sink and we might even get taken off the air." They decided Kim had to find a new man ASAP, and she did and spearheaded the Kanye-Kardashian revolution and created the prototype of Kimye, which became an entertainment empire. We all know [Kanye West's] a big fashionista. He's Kanye, so to give it another level, he saved the Kardashians. There's no doubt about it. His influence on them really solidified them as an American dynasty.
Why did Paris Hilton fail to revitalize her brand as well as the Kardashians saved their empire?
I think Kim Kardashian. That's the business. What brought down the Osbournes? What brought down the Hogans? It's the next best thing. [Kim Kardashian] took it to a completely different level, and Paris faded into anonymity and the label is sustained because they keep reinventing the brand.
Do you like Kim Kardashian?
By all accounts she's very easy to work with. Unlike a lot of the Kardashians, she doesn't show up late. She doesn't put on this triumphant face. She's very humble; she works hard. Of course, it began as a spur of the moment thing with the sex tape, and she took notes when she was working for Paris, but she just keeps working hard. I'm a fan of Kim's. Unlike some of the other people in the family—for instance Kylie. She was video taped telling a fan "Please get your hands off me." I've covered trends with people like Michael Jackson, Princess Diana, Ava Gardner (who's a good friend of mine), Elizabeth Taylor—those people, no matter how bad a mood they were in, they would never denigrate, they would never insult a fan in a million years. They have much more class than that and they would never do something like that.
Is Kylie riding on Kim's coat tails?
A lot of people have tried to ride up on Kim's coat tails, but let's face it: There's only one Kim Kardashian.