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Once considered the ‘shy one’ of the Kardashian-jenner clan, Kendall Jenner, 21, could never last the night at a sleepover because she’d grow too homesick. “After everyone fell asleep, I’d call my dad, bawling, and he’d say, ‘All right, I’m on my way,’” she recalls.
But this year in particular, Kendall has grown notably more confident. Perhaps it’s because her ascent from reality-tv stardom to the pinnacle of the fashion world is now complete.
It started at Marc Jacobs’ autumn 2014 show, when photos of her with edgy bleached brows and a sheer top exploded on the internet, a move that was strategically planned. (“This is my big kickoff to start and grow my career,” she told a reporter.) Later that year, she landed a coveted contract as a face of Estée Lauder; her status was cemented in 2015, when she closed a Chanel show in Paris, walking the runway alone.
Throughout her rise, Kendall’s deft handling of social media has made her arguably the world’s most influential model right now (she has 20.2 million followers on Twitter and 67.9 million on Instagram). Which raises the question: why are we all so obsessed?
For starters, fans of Keeping Up with the Kardashians have invested nine years in watching her grow up. Despite the public scrutiny, she maintains a crucial bit of mystery and never comes off like she is trying too hard. “I want my Instagram to look good. You go through people’s pages and it’s all selfies or their butts. I love a good belfie (a selfie of your butt) – don’t get me wrong,” she says. “I post those every once in a while.”
And of course, she wears clothes beautifully – it’s her job, after all. You believe they fit her style, that she’s not playing a role, whether or not she is.
It also helps to have an inner circle of glamorous, social media-savvy friends, including models Gigi Hadid, Cara Delevingne and Hailey Baldwin, with whom Jenner got matching brokenheart tattoos. “This is going to sound lame, but we call ourselves the Super Natural Friend Group, because we all have such cool individual lives and have been dreaming about them since we were young,” says Kendall, who’s fiercely loyal to her coterie. “I’m a Scorpio, so I stick to people. If I love you, I love you. But if I don’t like you, you’re screwed.”
Kendall controls her social media, but significantly, it does not control her. On Twitter, she recently wrote, “Put that away and talk to me” – lyrics to a James Blake song, but also her mantra. “I find it offensive if you’re with someone at supper and they’re just sitting on their phone the whole time,” she says. “I take that personally. Like, am I not interesting enough for you to talk to me? It’s so crazy because even though we all talk about trying to be present, everyone wants to be in the future now.”
She sighs. “I definitely have close friends, and even some family members, who are so connected to their phone and can’t get off it.” She recalls a holiday she took with her sister, Kylie, 19, three years ago. “It was the first time we had ever been to this beautiful place, and we were sitting in a car,” she says. “I was just zoning out, taking it all in, and Kylie wouldn’t put her phone down. I said, ‘It’s crazy to me that you’re not experiencing this.’ That was the moment it clicked for me, and I didn’t like it. So sometimes I delete Instagram or Twitter or Snapchat off my phone for a few days.”