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 much she wants to be a mom someday.
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 this country 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 20s.’ 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 Kardashiansdebuted 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 and 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 and 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 $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 Labor 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 ninth-grade 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 5 of KUWTK. “My goal in life is to become a big time model and travel to really amazing places.”