By now, you may have seen a few tabloid headlines about Bruce Jenner, carefully alluding to his “changed appearance” or “new look.” The patriarch of the Kardashian family and ex-husband of Kris Jenner has lately made some certain style choices. His hair is long and highlighted. He’s sported a French manicure. He wears diamond earrings and seemingly some lip gloss.
To read these kinds of gossipy details on sites like TMZ can feel uncomfortably invasive for a casual reader. These stories seem to be implying something about a public figure’s deeply personal choices. Even in a world where TV shows centered on transgender characters win major awards and acclaim, isn’t it far too wrong to speculate about someone’s gender identity?
But when the personal and private journey appears to be fodder for a reality show, all bets are off. So, pull up a chair — let’s talk about Bruce Jenner.
On Friday, US Weekly’s new cover story will report that Jenner, 65, “is taking steps to disclose what multiple sources describe as his wish to transition from male to female.” The magazine says that Jenner’s announcement will be for the cameras, as he’s currently filming an E! reality show documenting “full transformation.” TMZ also reported the same news. Variety confirmed the show is in very early development, with E! public relations planning to meet with GLAAD to discuss. E!, which airs “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” and its spin-offs on which Jenner stars with his family, declined to comment.
This particular US Weekly article, which goes into depth about Jenner’s choice and his family’s support, is significant because of the magazine’s cozy relationship with the Kardashians. Kim, Kourtney, Khloe and the whole family frequently appear on the cover and Web site. And in return, they tip off the mag about bits of news that will get lots of readers: Kourtney’s pregnancy, Khloe’s break-up, Kim and Kanye’s wedding invitation. In other words, the magazine wouldn’t risk printing something this personal — and false — about one of its moneymakers.
The other tipping point this week was a surprisingly candid, if vague, interview that Kim gave to “Entertainment Tonight.” When asked if Jenner was “going through something,” Kim responded pleasantly that, “I think Bruce should tell his story his way.”
“Bruce is very happy, the happiest I’ve ever seen him. And he’s, you know, our dad, so we support him no matter what,” Kim said. “And I think when the time’s right, he’ll talk about whatever he wants to talk about. I just feel like that’s really his journey to talk about.”
Put together, it all smacks of a brilliantly orchestrated Kardashian publicity stunt to drive viewers to their E! reality show. It would be nothing new for the family, which has become a multimillion-dollar empire over the last decade by keeping fans titillated by the intimate details of their lives.
Jenner’s story has been bubbling up ever since he split with Kris — his wife of 23 years and the mastermind behind the Kardashian’s rise to pop-culture dominance. Shortly after the couple separated in fall 2013, Jenner underwent a laryngeal shave procedure to smooth his Adam’s apple. In the following months, paparazzi photos started popping up to track his evolving appearance: Bright red nails on his birthday, hairless legs, poutier lips.
At first, Jenner explained he wanted the surgery because he didn’t like his trachea. Last fall, Kris went on the “Today” show and said speculation of sex reassignment surgery was “silly,” and that the rumors have surrounded Jenner since his days as an Olympic gold medalist star in the 1970s. “They just keep regurgitating the same old stuff,” she said.
Now, several months later, there are no denials — just silence, as we await the savvy family’s next move.