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Keeping up with Kim Kardashian and the king of bling

May 25, 2014 1:54 AM
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In international showbiz, it is the closest thing to a royal wedding. Rapper Kanye West today marries Kim Kardashian, who is famous for just being famous. Ed Power looks back on a gold-plated romance caught on camera for reality TV

He got down on one knee in the centre of the 40,000-capacity San Francisco Giants baseball stadium, hired especially for the occasion.

Tooting unobtrusively in the background was a 50-piece orchestra, its performance lit by thousands of candles.

Naturally the cameras were rolling, Kanye's 'spontaneous' proposal was taped for Kim's reality show Keeping Up With The Kardashians. It was all in the best possible taste.

They were, it turns out, just getting started. Kim and Kanye tie the knot today, in one of the year's highest profile celebrity weddings.

By midweek rumours were swirling as to the venue – a 16th Century Florence fortress was in contention, and Versailles Palace was even mentioned.

What we do know from apparently impeccable sources is that the ceremony will feature flowers flown from London and decor by exclusive Parisian design house Jaulin.

On top of that, the singer Lana Del Rey will, it is reported, belt out Kim and Kanye's first dance (they are said to adore her song 'Young and Beautiful').

Regardless of where it all goes down, the shindig is sure to be brain-bogglingly over the top. But then excess is part of everyday life for a romantic partnership predictably dubbed 'Kimye'.

In March, Kanye bought Kim a birthday present of a chain of fast-food Burger King restaurants across Britain, France and Italy (because he regarded fast-food as a sensible investment rather than because she enjoys curly fries).

Joining Kanye on tour in Dublin in 2012, meanwhile, Kim presented him with a $750,000 (€550,000) swoop-wing Lamborghini as a birthday gift.

Off the road, the tone is no less opulent – currently under construction, West and Kardashian's new $11m (€8m) Los Angeles bling palace will boast a bowling alley, cinema and, obviously, gold-plated toilets (about which they are no doubt flushed with pride).

Surveying their uber-gauche lifestyle, the uninitiated may wonder whether the pair, who have an 11-month-old daughter, named North, are real people or a pastiche of the celebrity world and its ceaseless deluge of high-spend silliness.

In fact, West (36), is a respected figure in music – a hip-hop pioneer born into a life of middle-class privilege in Chicago, where his mother was a well-regarded college professor.

Indeed his debut album, The College Dropout, was inspired by the angst he experienced when choosing the entertainment industry over formal education (to the displeasure of his mother, though she later became his manager).

Behind the blinding celebrity veneer, he's a real person and a heavyweight artist: so bulletproof is his credibility it has withstood the vicissitudes of his occasional appearances in Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

By contrast, Kardashian (33) might have been born in the glare of a paparazzi flashlight – being comfortable in the spotlight could be said to be in her DNA.

Kim's late father (he died in 2003 from oesophageal cancer), lawyer and businessman Robert Kardashian became internationally famous during the trial of OJ Simpson in the mid-1990s.

He was a close friend of Simpson, sitting by his side throughout his courtroom drama.

As with his daughter, the media glare seemed not to trouble him in the least. At moments, he even appeared to be enjoying it.

Her mother, Kris, has likewise achieved fame in her own right – and long before featuring in Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

Having divorced Kim's father, in 1991 she married Bruce Jenner, an Olympic gold medalist and a highly successful motivational speaker.

Kim herself, has acquired celebrity in a thoroughly modern fashion, with the 2007 leak of a sex tape in which she appeared with then boyfriend singer Ray J.

Already vaguely well known by dint of her friendship with that other distinguished icon Paris Hilton, post-sex tape her profile whooshed through the stratosphere and by October 2007 she had her own reality show, E! channel's Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

While the entire extended family features in the show, Kim is undeniably the real star.

Inevitably, in December of that year, she went on to pose naked for Playboy, which was undoubtedly irrefutable evidence of her now cast-iron celebrity.

Ever since then, Kardashian has become a symbol for some of the intellectual decline of television – and, a few would argue, of American society itself (no less a figure than Barack Obama has criticised the star for promoting a lifestyle of conspicuous wealth).

Adding to the sense that she was seeking fame for its own sake was her 2011 knot-tying with the basketball player Kris Humphries, which was filmed for Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

Although that might be considered reasonably long by showbiz standards, it led to the widespread conclusion that the short-lived union was a stunt concocted for television (there was certainly an impressive level of eye-candy with Kardashian sporting three separate gowns by the designer Vera Wang on Kimye's big day).

The power couple's divisiveness was confirmed when Vogue magazine put them on the cover earlier this year.

Editor Anna Wintour defended the decision on the grounds that, for better or worse, they have become influential in fashion.

"As for the cover, my opinion is that it is both charming and touching, and it was, I should add, entirely our idea to do it," she said in her editorial for the issue.

"You may have read that Kanye begged me to put his fiancee on Vogue's cover. He did nothing of the sort."

Many, however, were disgusted at what they saw as the magazine's pandering to celebrity culture.

"Well . . . I guess I'm cancelling my Vogue subscription" tweeted actress Sarah Michelle Gellar "Who is with me???"

She was, it appears, speaking for many – sales of the edition were 250,000, far lower than the projected 400,000.

If nothing else, Kardashian's latest marriage promises to have greater dignity than her previous one to Humphries (her first, from 2000 to 2004, was to producer Damon Thomas).

Kim has banished cameras, insisting – apparently with a straight face – that she and groom Kanye want the ceremony to be an intimate and private affair (the guest list is restricted to 200).

Not that this has deterred the media, the event receiving the sort of breathless frontline coverage usually reserved for war zones and major sporting occasions.

This speaks volumes about Kim and Kanye – but even more about us and our endless craving for a glimpse inside the bubble which surrounds celebrities.


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