In the world we live in, the number of Twitter followers you have is, in many ways, the amount of pop-cultural influence you have. As of today, the Kardashian and Jenner families have a combined Twitter following of more than 134 million people.
Do you know what that means?
It means, one, the Kardashians and Jenners wield a lot of pop-cultural influence. (Obviously.) And, two, you cannot ignore them any longer. Like it or not, you have to know something about them. To pass through modern American life. To hold a conversation with your sister, your girlfriend, those women at the bar, your nieces, your hair stylist. They’re unavoidable. So you might as well, like, bone up on them a bit. (Not like that.)
So as the 12th season of their reality show rolls on, here it is: The Gentleman’s Guide to the Kardashians. Think of this as a cheat sheet or a primer or, you know, a bunch of interesting tidbits on some rather nubile women. And a couple dudes named Rob.
Oh, and if you’d like even more info, check out Keeping Time With The Kardashians, a rundown of major events in their lives and a family tree.
Kim Kardashian West
Kim is the second oldest child of Kris Jenner (née Houghton) and Robert Kardashian. She grew up in Los Angeles and was friends with, and later worked as a personal assistant for, the socialite and reality television star Paris Hilton (daughter of Conrad Hilton, the founder of Hilton Hotels). In Paris’ reality television series, Kim could often be seen doing menial tasks like rubbing Paris’ feet and cleaning her closet.
After years of being in Paris’ shadow and seeing Paris gets tons of attention by “releasing” a sex tape, Kim had one of her own XXX home videos find its way into the public domain in 2007, when a 2003 film of her having sex with singer Ray J (the brother of singer Brandi) was leaked. The sex tape spread like wildfire across the internet and other media – Vivid Entertainment distributed the footage as Kim K Superstar – and due in large part to this “scandal,” later that same year Kim began appearing in a reality television series of her own called Keeping Up with the Kardashians, along with her mother Kris, her step-parent Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner, her siblings Kourtney, Khloé and Rob, and half-sisters Kendall and Kylie. The show was an instant and massive hit for the E! network, and it’s now in its eleventh season.
The success of this show led to spin-off shows for Kim and her family, along with the opening of boutique shops in a few cities (D-A-S-H), a shoe and accessories website, mobile games, makeup products, an emoji pack and a photo book. Kim is considered to be the highest-paid reality television personality of all time, with earnings exceeding $50 million.
On the personal front, Kim has been married three times. When she was 19, she eloped with Damon Thomas, a music producer whom, according to Kim, physically and emotionally abused her. She then was briefly married to Kris Humphries, an NBA journeyman. In 2014 Kim married the musician, record producer and 21-time Grammy Award winner Kanye West. The New York Times called their marriage “a historic blizzard of celebrity.” They have two children together, North (a girl) and Saint (a boy).
At a mere 5’0”, Kourtney is the oldest child of Kris Jenner (née Houghton) and Robert Kardashian, and the older sister (by two years) of Kim. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Kourtney attended the University of Arizona, earning a bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts and a minor in Spanish.
She more or less lived an ordinary life out of the public eye until 2007, when, after Kim’s sex tape leaked on the internet and created a firestorm of publicity, she began to appear on Keeping Up with the Kardashians. The enormous success of that show led to spin-offs Kourtney and Khloé Take Miami and Kourtney and Kim Take New York. She also helps out with the family’s clothing collections and fragrances, and in 2010 she released a book, Kardashian Konfidential. She has three children with her on-again off-again partner Scott Disick.
Khloé is the third oldest child of Kris Jenner (née Houghton) and Robert Kardashian, and the youngest of the three Kardashian sisters. At 5’10, she is also the tallest.
Like her sisters, brother and mother, Khloé began appearing on Keeping Up with the Kardashians in 2007, and she later “starred” on Kourtney and Khloé Take Miami and Khloé & Lamar. The latter show documented her marriage with former NBA basketball player Lamar Odom, whom she married one month after they met at a party for Odom’s then-teammate, Metta World Peace (formerly Ron Artest). Although not officially divorced, they are no longer together. (In fact, from 2015-2016 she dated Houston Rockets star James Harden.)
Khloé stays busy with the family’s retail businesses, and in 2012 she co-hosted the second season of The X Factor with Mario Lopez. She has a pet boxer named Bernard “BHops” Hopkins, named for the famous pugilist.
Rob Kardashian (a.k.a. Robert Kardashian, Jr.) is the youngest child of Kris Jenner (née Houghton) and Robert Kardashian, and the only son of Kris’ six biological children. Like his sisters, he was featured on Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and he later placed second on Dancing with the Stars (with the help of his dance partner, two-time champion Cheryl Burke).
Rob graduated from USC’s Marshall School of Business and has started many businesses, including his own sock line, Arthur George. He was also a judge on Miss USA 2012.
Earlier this year, Rob announced via Instagram that he was engaged to model and hip-hop music video actress Blac Chyna, who has a child with the rapper Tyga.
Kris is a television personality, businesswoman and manager.
Born Kristen Mary Houton in San Diego to parents Mary Jo Shannon and Robert Houton, an engineer, Kris is of English, Scottish, Irish, German and Dutch ancestry. She graduated from Clairemont High School in San Diego in 1973 and worked as a flight attendant for a year in 1976. A couple of years later, she married Robert Kardashian, an Armenian-American attorney and businessman. She had four children with him: daughters Kourtney, Kim and Khloé and son Rob. The couple divorced in 1991.
In 1994, Kris’ best friend, Nicole Brown Simpson, was murdered along with Nicole’s friend, Ron Goldman. Nicole’s ex-husband, former NFL great O.J. Simpson, was charged with the killings, and Kardashian, a friend of O.J.’s, re-activated his law license to aid in Simpson’s defense as a volunteer assistant. For her role in the ordeal, Kris was portrayed in the 2016 FX series American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson by actress Selma Blair.
In 1995, Kris gave birth to Kendall Nicole Jenner with her second husband, Olympic gold medal-winning decathlete Bruce Jenner, who would later undergo a gender transition and change his name to Caitlyn Jenner. Kendall’s middle name was a tribute to Kris’ slain friend, Nicole Brown Simpson. In 1997, Kris gave birth to her six child and second with Bruce, Kylie Kristen Jenner.
In 2007, hot off the heels of daughter Kim’s infamous sex tape, Kris began appearing with her family in the reality television show Keeping Up with the Kardashians. She now owns her own production company, Jenner Communications, and she manages Kim’s career. She also briefly hosted a daytime talk show, Kris, and she has penned a couple of books, the cookbook In the Kitchen with Kris and the autobiography Kris Jenner… and All Things Kardashian. In the latter, she described undergoing plastic surgery twice to enhance her breasts.
Robert was born in Los Angeles in 1944 to Armenian-American parents. His father ran the largest meat-packing business in southern California. Robert attended USC and later earned a law degree from the University of San Diego, practicing law for about a decade.
In 1978 he married Kris Houton, a former flight attendant, and had four children with her: Kourtney, Kim, Khloé and Rob. They divorced in 1991 but remained friends.
After his time in the legal professional, Robert got into business. He helped start a trade publication called Radio & Records, which he sold (somehow) for a large profit. He also launched a company called Movie Tunes, which pioneered the idea of playing music between films at the movie theater. And he later invested in Juice Inc., a frozen yogurt company. (Looking at his resume, you can see where his daughters got some of their business savvy and entrepreneurial enthusiasm.)
In 1994, after his friend O.J. Simpson was charged with the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, Robert re-activated his law-license and served as a volunteer assistant on the Simpson defense team, sitting by O.J. throughout the trial. (Kardashian was the man seen carrying O.J.’s garment bag the day that O.J. flew back from Chicago after the murders, and many suspect that the bag contained Simpson’s bloody clothes or even the murder weapon.) O.J. was acquitted of all criminal charges, but Robert later told ABC that he had doubts about O.J.’s innocence due to the blood evidence. These doubts were dramatized (again and again) in the FX series American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson, in which Robert was portrayed by Friends star David Schwimmer.
Following his divorce from Kris, Robert married two more times but never had any more kids. In 2003 he died of esophageal cancer at age 59.
Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Bruce Jenner)
Who says there are no second acts in American lives? Caitlyn was born William Bruce Jenner in 1949. He was a college football player-turned-decathlete who became an American hero and Wheaties cereal box cover man after winning the 1976 Olympics decathlon title at the Montreal Summer Olympics (after a Soviet won it in 1972 during the Cold War). Known as the world’s greatest athlete, Bruce parlayed his gold medal into a career in television, film, auto racing, business and even a Playgirl cover shoot.
Then, after his first two marriages ended in divorce but produced four children – Burton, Cassandra, Brandon and Brody – Bruce married Kris in 1991, the same year Kris divorced Robert Kardashian. The two had a couple kids of their own, daughters Kendall and Kylie. In 2007, Bruce began appearing on Keeping Up with the Kardashians along with Kris, his children and step-children.
Bruce became uber-famous all over again through reality television, and in 2015, he shook the gossip world to its core by revealing his identity as a trans woman and publicly announcing his name change from Bruce to Caitlyn in a Vanity Fair cover story titled “Call Me Caitlyn.” Caitlyn is now considered the most famous openly transgender woman in the world, and she stars in the reality series I Am Cait, which is all about her gender transition. In July of 2015, Caitlyn even received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at ESPN’s annual ESPY Awards.
Kendall is the older child of Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Bruce Jenner) and Kris Jenner. She is the sister of Kylie Jenner and the half-sister of Kourtney, Kim, Khloé and Rob Kardashian. When she was around 12, she started appearing in Keeping Up with the Kardashians. At 5’10” with classically beautiful features, she has gone on to become a highly successful model, leading campaigns for brands like Estée Lauder and Calvin Klein. Vogue magazine called her one of the top figures in the “Instagirl era” of modeling; that is, she builds her fan base by posting pictures and career updates on social media.
Unlike many of her half-sisters, Kendall admits to having a shy personality and prefers not to comment publicly on her love life. When she’s not modeling, she’s active in charity work. She auctions off her old clothing on eBay to raise money for the Children’s Hospital of LA. (In other words, there’s still hope for her.)
Kylie is the younger child of Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Bruce Jenner) and Kris Jenner. She is the younger sister of Kendall Jenner and the half-sister of Kourtney, Kim, Khloé and Rob Kardashian. Born in 1997, she is the youngest of Kris’ six biological children.
Kylie began appearing on Keeping Up with the Kardashians when she was quite young (around 10), so the public eye is really all she knows. Like her sister and half-sisters, she’s a socialite, model and businesswoman. She collaborated with Kendall to produce their own clothing line, named (appropriately enough) Kendall & Kylie, and she has her own cosmetics line and even an app, which reached No. 1 on the iTunes app store. For these reasons, she’s considered highly influential among teens on social media. She has over 60 million followers on Instagram, making her one of the top 10 most followed celebrities on the platform. All at age 18!
Kylie has dated rapper Tyga since 2014. Tyga, you’ll recall, has a baby with Blac Chyna, who is engaged to Rob Kardashian. Kylie’s half-brother. Oh boy.