It goes without saying that the Kardashian/Jenner family have long been at the forefront of popular culture, with sisters Kim, Khloé, and Kourtney Kardashian leading the pack for much of their reign.
However, if you’ve been following the family on their rise to the top, you’ll know that it wasn’t long before the OG trio began to be eclipsed by their younger sisters’ rising stars.
When Keeping Up With the Kardashians first hit screens in 2007, the clan’s youngest and most camera-shy members, Kendall and Kylie Jenner, were just 11 and 9 years old, respectively.
But, as the show gained more and more popularity, so too did Kylie and Kendall, who captured the attention of a generation of teens by establishing their blossoming personalities away from the lens of KUWTK.
And though today all five of the KarJenner sisters boast hundreds of millions of loyal fans across social media, none were quite able to dominate the cultural zeitgeist quite like their baby sis Kylie.
Between 2014 and 2016, Kylie established herself as a celebrity in a league of her own. After showing signs of being reluctant to fully engage with the tried-and-tested reality TV format that earned her family such huge success, Kylie was the first of her sisters to fully utilize social media in order to hone her personal brand and navigate her evolving identity.
Unlike her sisters, who had risen to fame in their late 20s, Kylie appealed to a younger demographic. And she quickly harnessed that interest, establishing herself as the coolest, most carefree, and relatable KarJenner by virtue of her unfiltered online presence — a contrast to the more curated feel of KUWTK.
First uploading to popular video sharing apps like Keek and Vine in the early-to-mid 2010s, Kylie amassed the attention of her peers across the globe by sharing candid and humor-filled glimpses into her life as a ~regular~ teenager, pulling pranks, having fun, and hanging at home with her friends.
But when her focus shifted toward Instagram and Snapchat, Kylie combined her relatable personality with a distinctive aesthetic — and her popularity exploded.
Again, unlike her sisters who were known for their body-con dresses and long, wavy hair, Kylie opted for a grungier style — once describing herself as much “edgier” than sister Kendall. She wore skulls, black nail polish, and chopped off her hair.
In fact, when she dyed the tips of her hair blue, the look became so influential that Kylie even launched her own collaboration line of clip-in extensions so fans could easily re-create the style. She then ventured into the world of wigs, experimenting with a complete collection of colored pieces, including long turquoise locks that went viral on their first outing at Coachella in 2015.
In 2015, as her following count rapidly increased and she became the most popular account on Snapchat, Kim Kardashian expressed fear that Kylie was about to “dethrone” her as the most ubiquitous KarJenner. That same year, Kylie renamed herself on Instagram as “King Kylie” — branding which captured her dominance and ultimately came to define this iconic era.
There was no escaping Kylie at this time. She’d established herself as a fashion and beauty icon — copping her first invite to the Met Gala in 2016 at the age of 18, despite the event long excluding reality stars, including her own sister — but also a tabloid talking point thanks to her relationship with rapper Tyga.
Over the course of their three-year relationship, Kylie and Tyga were faced with a lot of criticism, mainly centered around their eight-year age gap, and the fact that Kylie was just 17 when they were first romantically linked in 2014.
The Tyga and Kylie story involves a ton of other messiness — need we mention Rob Kardashian and Blac Chyna? However, in itself, their turbulent relationship was a huge aspect of the King Kylie era, with fans’ die-hard investment in the drama only solidifying Kylie’s grip on popular culture.
But perhaps the biggest talking point was the debate around Kylie’s lips. After debuting a plumper pout in 2014, the public and media speculated for over a year as to whether she’d undergone lip fillers. Despite initially saying she’d simply “overlined” her lips to achieve the look — and inspired an entire generation of followers to do the same, with matching matte shades — Kylie admitted to having surgery during a 2015 episode of KUWTK.
And she ultimately used this fascination to her advantage, launching her cosmetics company at the height of the King Kylie era.
We all know Kylie Cosmetics to be the billion-dollar conglomerate that it is today. However, the success that it has now would not have been imaginable without her immense cultural influence at the time of its creation.
Leveraging both the interest in her lips and a colossal online following, Kylie launched three lip kits, using only her Instagram influence as advertising. Her 100 million followers converted to mass sales, with her first 15,000 lip kits selling out in less than a minute.
Thanks to Kylie’s huge following, the kits were a complete phenomenon, with each drop proving more coveted than the next. And to make the sell-out launches all the more fascinating, Kylie managed to do all of this without any traditional advertising.
By growing the brand and promoting the sought-after kits solely through Instagram, Kylie essentially created the blueprint for social media influencers of today — and her older sisters were quick to follow suit with brands of their own.
However, less than two years after the first lip kit drop, Kylie parted ways with Tyga, began a new relationship with Travis Scott, and went completely off the grid during her first pregnancy with daughter Stormi. As a result, Kylie’s social media presence — and the King Kylie era generally — fizzled.
Even after causing a complete frenzy with her long-awaited return to social media, Kylie’s approach to public life didn’t quite make the same comeback.
Since becoming a mom, Kylie has opted for a more private life. Her public appearances and cameos on KUWTK became less and less frequent. She expressed far less personality on Instagram, posing for carefully curated selfies and focusing more on entrepreneurial ventures including off-shoot brands: Kylie Skin, Kylie Baby, and Kylie Swim.
The Kylie once known for her round-the-clock social media presence — placing personality at the forefront and defining an entire era of pop culture in the process — seemed long gone. But, over recent months, fans have begun to witness what could be considered a comeback from the elusive mogul.
As you may know, Kylie recently took some time away from the spotlight after giving birth to her second child in February (a baby boy, whose name we are yet to discover). And upon her return, fans noticed a difference in her personal style and personality — both of which are harkening back to the King Kylie era.
In recent weeks, fans have noticed that the 24-year-old appears to be getting a little more experimental with more grungy makeup looks, sporting black hair with darker lipsticks and smokey eyeshadow — extremely reminiscent of the King Kylie era.
And, over on social media, Kylie’s posts have not only been more frequent but also much more carefree than we’ve become used to. In fact, fans have even compared her recent uploads with the tone of her funnier 2013–2016 Vine account.
Ranging from frantic footage taken at Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker’s wedding to videos of her and her friends pranking Kris and Kendall Jenner with face-altering filters, fans are now wondering if Kylie is using TikTok as an outlet to start showcasing her personality again, away from the polished confines of Instagram where she appears to prioritize business.
Interestingly, in one TikTok she posted in May, Kylie actually lip-synchs to a viral audio clip of herself talking during a 2017 episode of Life of Kylie. “Dude, I’m getting my personality back, though. Like, I’m feeling like myself again. … I really was not myself,” she says to the camera, mouthing her own words.
She captioned the video: “when your postpartum hormones start to level out,” perhaps confirming that her recent tone shift comes after a renewed burst of confidence, similar to her OG King Kylie era.
Back in March, the mogul took to Instagram to provide fans with some insight into her postpartum difficulties, admitting that she had been struggling “mentally, physically,” and “spiritually” after giving birth in February.
Taking all this into consideration, we could make a correlation between the visibility of Kylie’s personality and the state of her inner confidence — particularly in light of the fact that she has previously spoken about feeling deeply insecure about her appearance before first having lip fillers in 2014.
But Kylie truly sent her fans into a frenzy last week by actually directly reflecting on her King Kylie era on her Instagram. She reposted a number of pretty iconic snaps from the time period — perhaps most notably, a photograph of her teal dip-dye hair from 2014.
Not only that, but Kylie also shared with fans that she has started rewearing some of her favorite jewelry from this era — a skull ring, very in keeping with her grunge vibe at the time — confirming once and for all that, regardless of speculation, the business mogul is definitely reconnecting with her past.
It certainly feels as if the King Kylie era was a transformative time for Kylie — a period for her to publicly and unapologetically navigate her identity apart from her famous family, embracing her renewed self-confidence after plumping her lips for the first time.
Between 2014 and 2017, fans of KUWTK were given a front-row seat to watch Kylie’s evolution from a camera-shy kid in her sisters’ shadows to becoming an independent and exciting star in her own right.
With this in mind, perhaps Kylie’s recent shift is preemptive of a similar time of experimentation as she regains her confidence and embraces the other avenues of her identity as a mother and business owner.
And whether or not we get a sequel to the iconic King Kylie era, it’s still super exciting to see that, after taking a step back from public life, Kylie is finding happiness in sharing her unapologetic self with fans once again.