Fans turn out in their thousands to catch a glimpse of Kim Kardashian as she opens a branch of Millions of Milkshakes at Dubai Mall.
Kardashian Inc takes Dubai
Kim Kardashian should be safely back in the US by now, rested from flying home in an Emirates first-class cabin. But make no mistake - she'll be back.
Kardashian promised to bring her sisters when she returns, most probably not just to make a milkshake. Among the serious business ideas floated during the past five days were a Kardashian hotel with girlie, themed rooms, a Dash clothing store and a nightclub. The sisters could even "take" Dubai, à la their previous reality forays into first Miami, then New York.
Do not think her words - repeated over and over again in similar-sounding interviews with local media - were empty. This family, as quietly and efficiently as is possible while still courting constant media attention, gets things done.
Whatever you think about Kardashian Inc, there is no denying this woman - and her clan, by association and, increasingly in their own right - are famous. Top-shelf famous. Fans-flying-in-to-Dubai-from-Saudi-Arabia-and-Kuwait-just-to-catch-a-glimpse famous.
There were 3,000 people at Dubai Mall on Friday afternoon, there just to see the star and her mother Kris Jenner walk in to a milkshake shop and then back out again. They began lining up at 1pm, and in the 50 minutes between when the appearance was scheduled and Kardashian finally appeared, almost completely obscured by professional photographers clamouring for a shot, The National's Emily Shardlow began to seriously fear for the safety of those men women and children trapped in the tightly packed, heaving crowd.
All those ardent, breathless fans - and the others who just watch and wonder from afar - translate into massive earning power. The Kardashians are making the most of every single second. Sheeraz Hasan, the man who brought Kardashian over to open his Dubai Mall Millions of Milkshakes shop, was bang-on when he told Harpers Bazaar Arabia magazine for its cover story this month: "Everything that Kim touches turns to gold."
You might make fun when you hear the sisters are writing a book, particularly when it is called Kardashian Konfidential. Rest assured, however, that it will probably debut at number four of the New York Times bestseller list, at least. Raise an eyebrow that Kim's wedding is broadcast in a two-part E! special, but it reaped stellar ratings. Giggle at the notion of a Kardashian Kollection at the middle-market American department store Sears: you won't be laughing when the family's takings in 2011 are revealed next year to be well above the US$65 million (Dh239m) they were in 2010.
Marvel at the four - count them, four - reality shows this family has in near-constant rotation on E!, broadcast in the UAE through OSN. The only real misstep in recent years has been the Kardashian MasterCard, a grabby, grubby scheme that was cancelled last year amid charges of too-high fees almost as quickly as the three sisters - older Kourtney, younger Khloé - trumpeted it on Twitter. Laugh at how everything starts with K - well, actually, do laugh: it's ridiculous.
It's impossible to put one's finger on just what it is that makes this family so very compelling. For some, their mild antics and mostly benign family fights simply provide an escape. Others find them fascinating.
Rebecca Ballan, 25, from Australia, had just finished making a "Love You Kimmie" T-shirt to wear when she was struck with food poisoning, missing her chance to head to Dubai Mall for another Kardashian appearance on Saturday.
She freely admits that over the past year, a passing interest in the family - sparked when she spotted them filming their show a couple of years ago in Santa Monica before she knew who they were - has turned into an obsession. Ditto for her three sisters, who gather for a weekly chat on Skype from Paris, Melbourne and Kuwait. Part of the allure for Ballan is the sisters' business savvy. But she would also argue for the show's warts-and-all approach - albeit one conducted in full theatrical make-up. Various shows have tackled alcohol abuse (brother Robert and in-law Scott Disick); incontinence (mother Kris); hearing loss (father and stepfather Bruce); psoriasis (Kim); the possibility of infertility (Khloé) and near-constant familial infighting over a variety of issues.
"They don't hide anything," says Ballan.
Every "scene" in their lives is choreographed and paid for. They don't do much for free. They are not particularly witty or quick. They don't say much, or respond quickly. Every last one of them serves as a sort of visual tryptophan. Watching them has a soporific effect: perhaps a combination of their monotone voices, family sayings ("Hey, doll" and "Bible", for example), impossibly glossy hair, caked-on eye make-up and thick slicks of lip gloss. This can be seen at any time of day or night, when a Kardashian show is on, or will be on, or has just been on. Or you can watch E! News to see all about it.
Simple statistics would preclude all the people watching - not to mention Kim Kardashian's 10 million Twitter followers - from being dummies who don't know any better.
The Kardashians seem to be at the apex of their popularity, but really, who knows? They are very good at what they do. Whatever on earth that actually is.