Find out what the su­per­model has to say about liv­ing her life in the lime­light

Harper's Bazaar (Singapore) - - NEWS - Pho­tographed by Camilla Akrans. Styled by Tom Van Dorpe

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 she wants to be a mum some day.

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, as much a part of the fab­ric of the United States as the Amer­i­can flag it­self, al­beit one that’s been heav­ily be­daz­zled and trimmed with fur.

So, yes, the re­minders are help­ful. Ken­dall Jen­ner is, in fact, young. “When I turned 20, I re­mem­ber be­ing like, ‘Shit! I’m in my twen­ties.’ 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 fall 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, 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, 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 mom, Kris Jen­ner. “She wasn’t the lit­tle frilly girly-girl.”

She was ac­tu­ally the ex­act op­po­site. “I was a huge tomboy,” she says. “I had a phase where I wore boys’ clothes. I was al­ways hang­ing out with guys. I’ve al­ways con­nected with guys more.”

That’s no easy feat, par­tic­u­larly when Kourt­ney, Kim and Khloé Kar­dashian are your big sis­ters. They’ve taken be­ing girly-girls to strato­spheric lev­els. “I’ve al­ways been the dif­fer­ent one,” says Ken­dall. “I mean, I’m a girl and I like be­ing a girl, but I’ve just never been into it like they have. I think I get that from my dad. I’d say I’m more of a Jen­ner than a Kar­dashian.”

She still doesn’t like dress­ing up as much as her sis­ters do, though given her pro­fes­sion, she doesn’t have much of a choice. She doc­u­ments her life as one of the world’s top mod­els for her mil­lions of In­sta­gram fol­low­ers and on her blog, which costs US$2.99 a month for ac­cess to light fare such as “The Gro­ceries I Al­ways Grab (& Where I Get Them),”“4 Things I Want to Steal From Kim,” and “How Much Are You Like Me?” (That last one is a quiz, which I, a mid­dle-aged fa­ther of three with a mini­van, got caught look­ing at, but not tak­ing, on the train to my small sub­ur­ban town.)

New York Fash­ion Week has just come to a close, and Ken­dall is de­cid­edly ca­sual—her hair in a tou­sled bun on top of her head, what she calls “just a lit­tle bit” of makeup, and wear­ing a Supreme T-shirt, leather pants and a Ba­len­ci­aga denim trucker jacket— when she ar­rives for break­fast at a quiet café down­town on Bond Street. Some­times mod­els are un­usual-look­ing—more strik­ing than clas­si­cally beau­ti­ful. Jen­ner’s beauty is un­mis­tak­able. It doesn’t slowly come into fo­cus as you get to know her. No, it’s right there the mo­ment you meet her. She is gra­cious and po­lite, and makes it a point to ask ques­tions, not just an­swer them. She’s mind­ful about not name-drop­ping, ref­er­enc­ing “a friend” in­stead of “Gigi.” Fi­nally, and this is big, she shows up on time. She car­ries her­self like a girl grate­ful to be liv­ing her dream—a dream she’s had for as long as she can re­mem­ber.

A few days be­fore Labour Day in 2010, Ken­dall climbed onto a bus for the wind­ing, two-hour trip from Los An­ge­les to Santa Bar­bara with the rest of Sierra Canyon School’s in­com­ing ninth­grade class. Shortly af­ter they ar­rived at a na­ture lodge on the Cal­i­for­nia coast for their fresh­man re­treat, the teach­ers started tak­ing the kids through a se­ries of get-to-know-you ex­er­cises that were no doubt met with groans from the priv­i­leged teens. Ken­dall, 14 and still a year from her first run­way but al­ready a re­al­ity-show veteran, was bored. The stu­dents were asked to write let­ters to their fu­ture selves. Cue eye roll. Ken­dall found a shady patch of grass, sat with her back against a tree, and wrote her let­ter (avail­able for all to see for that low, low price of $2.99 a month), com­plete with smi­ley faces, hearts and an un­due num­ber of ex­cla­ma­tion points.

“Dear me,” she be­gins, be­fore men­tion­ing that she’s shoot­ing sea­son five of KUWTK. “My goal in life is to be­come a big time model and travel to re­ally amaz­ing places.” There’s no dis­put­ing that Ken­dall has done just that. She’s just re­turned from In­dia and Bangkok, and is fly­ing off to London in a few hours. “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 to ever 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 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

“I’m more of a Jen­ner than a Kar­dashian”

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 US$200,000 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.”

And though Ken­dall’s un­doubt­edly safer with some­one sit­ting out­side her house ev­ery night and keep­ing watch on the other side of the door of ev­ery ho­tel room she stays in, the anx­i­ety has yet to fade. “I wake up in the mid­dle of the night freak­ing out,” she says. “Full panic at­tacks. They wake me up from my sleep, and I need to stand up and I pace and I’m freak­ing out and cry­ing.”

It’s an un­likely con­fes­sion from the usu­ally guarded su­per­model. There is a self-aware­ness to Ken­dall Jen­ner that man­ages to swim against the pow­er­ful cur­rent of her blood­line. She has tried to re­main as pri­vate as pos­si­ble for some­one with well over 100 mil­lion so­cial me­dia fol­low­ers. Main­tain­ing pri­vacy can be a tall or­der when cam­eras fol­low you around day and night—both at home with the Keep­ing Up crew and ev­ery­where out­side by the un­re­lent­ing pa­parazzi.

But Ken­dall works at it. “More than the rest of my fam­ily, I guess,” she says of her at­tempts at pri­vacy. “Just ’cause I think it’s pow­er­ful. Plus, I think peo­ple al­ways want what they can’t have. It’s nice to have some mys­tery.”

Yet no amount of per­sonal re­straint can stop the ru­mour mill from churn­ing. Like the time gos­sips sug­gested that Ken­dall had shut down her In­sta­gram ac­count in or­der to have plas­tic surgery. “It’s lit­er­ally the cra­zi­est thing,” she says. “Me and my fam­ily will be get­ting this for the rest of our lives.”

Ken­dall’s love life has been an area of par­tic­u­lar fas­ci­na­tion in the me­dia, where her sis­ters’ re­la­tion­ships have played out with all the grace of a Life­time movie marathon. There were the rumours that she was dat­ing One Di­rec­tion’s Harry Styles. Then there was buzz about Nick Jonas. Th­ese days it’s A$AP Rocky, at least ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­net. None of it seems to faze her.

“I’m not mar­ry­ing any­one,” she says. “I’m not en­gaged. There’s noth­ing long-term or se­ri­ous like that in my life. If I’m not fully, fully in it with some­one, why would I make it pub­lic to

“I think peo­ple al­ways want what they can’t have. It’s nice to have some mys­tery”

ev­ery­one else? If I don’t even know what it is, why would I let the world know?”

She’s wit­nessed first-hand the pres­sure and strain that pub­lic­ity can put on a re­la­tion­ship. “I think it’s some­thing sa­cred,” she adds. “It’s some­thing be­tween two peo­ple, and no­body else’s opin­ion needs to be in­volved in it. Peo­ple want to start drama. If I had a boyfriend, peo­ple are go­ing to say all this stuff that’s prob­a­bly go­ing to cause us to break up.”

Okay, that makes a lot of sense, but is she dat­ing any­one spe­cial? “I’m do­ing my thing,” she says with a smile. “I’m hav­ing fun. I’m be­ing young.” She an­swers but doesn’t an­swer with the ease of a sea­soned po­lit­i­cal in­sider.

“Ken­dall has the gift of be­ing able to edit out the noise,” says Kris.The noise grew to deaf­en­ing lev­els in 2015, when Cait­lyn went through a re­mark­ably pub­lic gen­der tran­si­tion. De­spite in­cred­i­bly strong re­la­tion­ships with her mum and her sis­ters, Ken­dall has al­ways been a daddy’s girl. “When she was born I was man­ag­ing Bruce’s ca­reer, so I had to work ev­ery day,” Kris re­calls. “Bruce was a huge part of driv­ing her around, do­ing car­pool and stuff. [Cait­lyn] has al­ways been very close to her.”

They say a daugh­ter’s love for her fa­ther is un­ri­valled, and that is cer­tainly the case with Ken­dall. But as she grew into a teenager, she started to sense that some­thing was dif­fer­ent. She and her sis­ters would find clues around the house. A wig here. Some nail pol­ish there. “It was like an in­ves­ti­ga­tion for a re­ally long time,” says Ken­dall. “We would find lit­tle things and think, ‘This isn’t nor­mal.’ For a minute, we were like, ‘Okay, is he cheat­ing?’ And then we’d say, ‘I don’t think so.’”

“My big­gest con­cern from the be­gin­ning was that I not do any­thing that would hurt my chil­dren,” says Cait­lyn. “Along the way, when I was sneak­ing around in the dark, I got caught a cou­ple of times. I thought I was be­ing smart, and in some cases, well, things hap­pened.”

By the time Cait­lyn told the kids, Ken­dall says she al­ready “kind of knew” but had been in de­nial. “When she told us, and told us that it was go­ing to be a real thing, it was an emo­tional cou­ple of months,” she says. “And if I would talk about it, I would cry, just be­cause you’re mourn­ing some­one… los­ing some­one. The per­son is still there, of course, but phys­i­cally you’re los­ing some­one. It was my dad who I grew up with my whole life and who raised me. It’s an ad­just­ment, for sure. But hon­estly, you start to re­alise that this per­son is still alive. This per­son is still here. They are still a bless­ing. They are still awe­some. I re­alised I should just be thank­ful that I still have my dad. It starts to just be­come nor­mal.”

Ken­dall still re­lies on her fa­ther as much as she ever has, call­ing on her of­ten for ad­vice, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to col­lect­ing cars. “We have a spe­cial bond,” adds Cait­lyn, “be­cause she’s a lot like me in so many ways. Hard work­ing. Ath­letic. She loves the car stuff.And I couldn’t be more proud of her.”

It’s easy to for­get, per­haps, that Ken­dall’s fam­ily—what with all the var­i­ous fash­ion lines, beauty prod­ucts, video games, tabloid cov­ers, de­bates over pub­lic re­strooms, di­vorces and Kanye—is a real fam­ily and not just a group of well-paid char­ac­ter ac­tors who scurry back to their own lives af­ter some­one yells, “Cut!,” and the glow of the klieg lights fades.

“I don’t think of it as ‘the Kar­dashi­ans’ in quotes,” says Ken­dall. “I think of it as my fam­ily. It’s prob­a­bly hard for any­one else to un­der­stand that, but it’s so nor­mal for me.”

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