Over the 15 years Kim Kardashian has been in the public eye, detractors have constantly dismissed her fame.
People have suggested that Kim's global stardom was the result of everything from her famous friends to her leaked sex tape, and there's also a legion of Kanye West fans ready to prove that he was the creative catalyst behind the Kardashian empire.
In fact, a recent viral Twitter thread — which has so far amassed 70,000 likes — explores this theory in detail, arguing that Ye elevated the careers of not only Kim, but her entire family.
“Kanye needs a doc on how he changed the Kardashian’s lives bc people are trying to change history,” one recent Twitter thread began.
“Without Ye you don’t get fashion icon billionaire Kim, model Kendall or billionaire Kylie. That’s all Ye,” they said.
“I saw when Kanye changed Kim’s whole style,” the next tweet read. “He even changed her make up and that’s when girls started following her.”
“I saw Kanye rant on interviews how no fashion houses wanted to go near Kim till his friend at Balmain did,” they added.
However, suggesting that Ye is solely responsible for the Kardashian empire is a reductive view — and one which misses out a huge chunk of their story.
In actual fact, Kim became the master of harnessing public opinion from the moment Keeping Up With the Kardashians launched in 2007. Throughout the late '00s, the family consistently teased the media with snippets of information about their private lives before grand reveals on the show, securing both tabloid coverage and strong ratings.
And the family established themselves as true media heavyweights thanks to Kim’s short-lived union with Kris Humphries. Despite only being married for 72 days, the nuptials saw Kris Jenner securing a televised special, brand deals totaling over $3 million, and a huge buzz across mainstream media, with everyone from NBC, ABC, and CNN reporting on the wedding.
People — which published an 11-page spread of the photos — sold 1.5 million copies, and the two-part TV special ended up attracting a combined audience of 10.5 million viewers, making it the most-watched day in E!’s programming history.
It's therefore undeniable that the KarJenners were already dominating the media landscape, capitalizing on fans' intrigue, and building a ubiquitous brand long before Ye came into the picture. What's more, Ye actually used this cultural leverage to his advantage once he and Kim got together in 2012.
Despite Ye being at what was arguably the peak of his music career at the time they made their relationship official, his dreams of becoming a fashion heavyweight had shattered after parting ways with Nike in 2013 when they refused to issue royalties on his Nike Air Yeezy collection.
At the time, Ye publicly aired his frustrations, explaining that he was finding it hard to express his creativity outside of his music.
Recalling a meeting he had with entrepreneur Ari Emanuel after his breakup with Nike, Ye made it clear that his creative talents were being undermined by those who saw him as a celebrity, and not an artist.
“I said, ‘Ari, I’m an inventor.’ And he goes on to tell me about the way it works, and what he said is, ‘You are a celebrity, so basically what’s gonna happen is there's a product here…if you can communicate this product, you can make money off the product,” he said in 2013 interview with BBC Radio 1.
Ye’s need to be perceived as an artist has been evident throughout his career, and often manifests in him viewing the women in his life as “muses” — from Amber Rose being the inspiration behind his most critically acclaimed album to recently styling Julia Fox amid their orchestrated romance. But this was never clearer than in his partnership with Kim, whom he often used as a literal canvas to convey his creative vision.
As we all know, Kim completely surrendered to Ye’s creative ideas, allowing him to perform an overhaul of her image in the early phase of their relationship by throwing out the majority of her closet, and then style her throughout their marriage — even flying from LA to Paris to berate her fashion choices, or telling her which photos she should post to Instagram and in which order.
And in helping her transform from LA chic to high fashion star on the grand stage, people began to witness — and respect — Ye's handiwork. However, it’s important to note that this setup was always mutually beneficial.
Kim provided Ye a creative outlet and a chance to showcase his artistic talents. He helped her break into the fashion elite and secure Vogue covers, while his insistence that celebrities could be influential in numerous industries contributed to her shifting from reality star to business mogul.
And we saw them working in tandem most vividly when Ye officially teamed up with Adidas for the launch of his first Yeezy collection in 2015.
Not only did the KarJenners become regular attendees at his fashion shows, but Kim’s youngest sister Kylie Jenner was even hand-selected by Ye to take to the runway on more than one occasion.
Looking back, the decision to use Kylie as a Yeezy model might seem unusual — especially given that her sister Kendall was the resident supermodel — but Ye was simply harnessing the power of the family’s most valuable asset.
If you’ve been following the Kardashians for some time now, you’ll know that Kylie reached a new point of stardom around this period.
Not only was she a huge force on social media, amassing a billion likes on Instagram the same year she walked in the first Yeezy show, but the conversation around her lips — and controversial relationship with rapper Tyga — were attracting huge media attention. Using Kylie in his shows was the perfect way for Ye to translate her burgeoning influence into publicity and sales.
And it wasn’t just the youngest KarJenner sibling that Ye used to reach new fans. He cleverly utilized the other sisters’ enormous social media followings to debut his Yeezy sneakers and would regularly dress the entire family in his designs, both for events and for KUWTK appearances.
In fact, by the following year, the entire Kardashian family had pretty much become walking advertisements for not only Yeezy, but for Ye’s music too. His 2016 album, The Life of Pablo, became synonymous with spectacle — the Kardashian specialty.
He kicked off the TLOP era with a listening party at Madison Square Garden, which also doubled up as a fashion show, debuting the KarJenner family in complete Yeezy Season 3 looks which instantly went viral.
The whole thing was, of course, documented at the start of KUWTK Season 12, which averaged a solid 3.19 million viewers at this stage, increasing the family’s audience who were gradually merging with Ye’s committed fanbase.
Ye’s TLOP merchandise became the family’s uniform for the remainder of Season 12, and the meticulous timing of the Kardashians’ endorsement helped it become one of the biggest trends of 2016.
Looking back, the surge in demand for Yeezy and TLOP pieces in mainstream culture directly correlates with the Kardashians’ involvement — any brand that affiliates themselves with the family will experience mega growth, and those that don’t have simply decided to replicate the looks popularized by the KarJenners.
In fact, Kim revealed in 2019 that Ye actually gave her $1 million and shares in Yeezy as a thank-you gift after she turned down a huge paycheck from an unnamed fast-fashion brand that asked her to promote cheap Yeezy rip-off clothing on Instagram.
It could even be argued that Yeezy would never have become the fashion juggernaut it is today without Kim’s cosign.
In 2017, Ye announced that he would not be showing Yeezy Season 6 at New York Fashion Week and instead decided to utilize his wife being one of the most photographed women on the planet by debuting the entire collection over the span of two days in Calabasas, with a clique of paparazzi following her every move.
Ye then recruited a number of other famous faces, including Paris Hilton and Jordyn Woods, who dressed up exactly like Kim and paraded the streets of LA in the same Yeezy looks, sending paparazzi and fans into a confused frenzy.
Quickly, social media feeds were a sea of Kim lookalikes and tan-colored bike shorts, prompting a major surge in demand for Yeezy athleisure looks.
Just a year later, Ye and Kim collaborated on a paparazzi campaign for a second time, when Kim took a trip to Japan with her sisters and debuted Yeezy’s latest collection in a series of pap walks throughout the vacation.
As a result, Kim’s bike short ensembles swiftly inspired one of the year’s biggest trends, benefitting Kim’s fashion icon status and her husband’s booming business — proof that Kardashian endorsements benefit both parties.
It seems clear that over the course of their marriage, Ye used his power and artistry to transform the Kardashians from tabloid darlings into cultural forces. And in turn, the family gave Ye an entirely new platform with their legion of followers, bringing his design endeavors more mainstream success than ever before.
The marriage may now be over, but one thing is clear: Kimye have each other to thank for their enduring influence on pop culture.