Kim Kardashian ditches celebrity culture to become a model of civilized divorce

While waiting to board a commercial flight this week, Kanye West took to Instagram to appeal to a higher power in all caps: “GOD PLEASE bring our family back together.”

I often ridiculed Kanye, or Ye, for using his new legal name. But those seven words made me wince with pity. Ye was responding and sharing photos from a Vogue cover story about his ex-wife published on Wednesday: “‘I Chose Myself: ‘In Kim Kardashian’s New World.”

The takeaway: His old world, the one you ask God to recreate, is no more.

I was struck by a quote from Kardashian, now 41: “For so long I did what made other people happy. And I think over the last two years, I’ve decided, I’m going to indulge myself. And it feels really good. And even though it created changes and caused my divorce, I think it’s important to be honest with yourself about what makes you truly happy.

“I chose myself. I think it’s good to choose you. Turning 40 means being Team Me. I’m going to eat well. I will train myself. I will have more fun, spend more time with my children and the people who make me happy. I’m going to hang up my phone…”

I doubt that last promise. Kim Kardashian uses her phone more than Tesla uses lithium-iron-phosphate in its batteries. His phone might as well be surgically attached to his palm. But by using the term “Team Me,” she eclipsed the material culture and endless tabloid obsessions that catapulted her into one of the world’s most famous people.

Kim Kardashian is now also a model of civilized divorce.

I’m professionally obligated to follow celebrity breakups, which is the part of my job I hate the most. All breakups, not just celebrities, are soul-corrosive for participants and viewers alike. When close friends fell apart over the years, my heart felt like it was squeezed in a vise.

Going from “happily ever after” to “hope they rot in hell” is beyond depressing.

But what I really admire about Ms. Kardashian in this Vogue profile is that she’s so wise and introspective about what will be and what isn’t. We consider her a cartoonish ditz posing for selfies in designer bikinis. We consider the entire Kardashian clan a reality TV abomination that brought us closer to the apocalypse. There is some truth in that. But in this story, Kim also gives a masterclass in how to break up while avoiding war.

Over the past few weeks, Ye has publicly lashed out at her, particularly in regards to co-parenting. The fact that he continues to post and then delete outlandish allegations — including, without any evidence, that Kim claimed he ‘shot her’ — suggests he’s not exactly playing Texas Hold’em with a full game. At this point in the story arc, Kim would be well within her rights to retaliate mercilessly. But for the sake of the couple’s four young children, she planted her stilettos on the high road and turned the other cheek in high definition.

“You might be so hurt or mad at your ex, but I think in front of the kids you always have to say, ‘Your dad is the best,'” she told Vogue. “Make sure you’re your co-parent’s biggest cheerleader, no matter what you’re going through personally.”

I have vastly underestimated Kim Kardashian for the past few years. And I apologize wholeheartedly for the rotten things I said. Here is a woman who lives in the public eye, a terrifying place to live. Here’s a woman who could go on to rake in millions through social media and her fashion store. But here is a woman who is also breaking her ass to become a lawyer in order to fight against social injustice. Here’s a woman trying to balance the heartbreak of divorce with a new relationship, one with Pete Davidson who’s catnip for the entertainment press.

Unlike Ye’s current gallops, whether with Julia Fox or a Kim lookalike this week, Kardashian has shown remarkable restraint and avoided making a public show of her personal life’s developments. Yes, you could say his personal life is a byproduct of public spectacle. But there’s subtext to this Vogue profile that suggests she’s a lot smarter than most people thought, that she really does play 3D chess in the plastic checkers of celebrity culture.

Kim Kardashian is a human inkblot: you see what you think you see.

And what I think I now see a remarkably strong and loving mother who tries to do good through the people and causes she supports. I now see a tabloid construct that is so much more than the sum of its clickbait parts. I see an empathetic woman grappling with the bigger picture and middle age, without getting lost in her own close-up. I see a pop culture powerhouse that has decided to use its power for good. I see the real adult bob on the surface in a tanked relationship. I see a woman, unbridled and autonomous, finally focused on her own happiness.

No, yes, even God can’t bring Kim Kardashian back to you. It’s a wrap, I’m afraid.

She evolved. And his journey is inspiring to watch.


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Rebecca R. Santistevan