The Kardashian clan is known for many things. Privacy isn’t one of them.
The family that’s famous for being famous first came into the American lexicon when their patriarch, Robert Kardashian, served on the defense team of his friend O.J. Simpson’s 1995 murder trial. Nearly a decade later, a leaked sex tape featuring daughter Kim Kardashian catapulted her into the headlines.
It was the debut of their wildly successful reality TV show in 2007 that made them household names. The series has broadcast incredibly intimate moments, including Kourtney Kardashian giving birth, Khloe Kardashian realizing her marriage to Lamar Odom was failing, and, perhaps most private of all, Kris Jenner’s husband Bruce making the transition to living as a woman named Caitlyn. Jenner’s transformation was not only featured on “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” it was fodder for an entire spinoff. (Both shows air on E!, which like NBC News, is owned by NBCUniversal.)
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So it may have come as a surprise some of their fans, millions of whom tune in each week to watch the gang and millions more who follow them on social media, that the very public family is now requesting privacy as they sit by Odom’s hospital bedside.
After being found unconscious in a Nevada brothel Tuesday, Odom was off life support Friday and was breathing on his own, and opened his eyes and spoke, sources close to Odom told NBC News’ sister network E! But little else was known about his condition Friday.
After Odom was hospitalized, tweets from the family halted, with the exception of requests for prayer (although youngest daughter Kylie Jenner continued to promote her radio show, to the chagrin of some followers).
The Kardashian sisters stopped publishing new content on their smartphone apps and said in a statement, “As a family, we have decided to hold off on publishing content across our apps while we continue to support and pray for Lamar.”
And Dennis Hof, the owner of the Love Ranch in Crystal where Odom was found, told NBC News he had been asked by Khloe Kardashian’s publicist to stop speaking to the media.
While the publicist did not immediately return calls from NBC News, tabloid Us Weekly said it had obtained a statement from her that read, “We reached out to Dennis politely asking him to respect Lamar’s (and Khloe’s) privacy during this difficult time, and refrain from talking to the press. This is a very painful situation.”
The quiet, private behavior may seem incongruous with a family whose “very brand DNA is rooted in openness, transparency, and paparazzi,” said public relations and brand strategist Marvet Britto, who has represented high-profile clients such as Mariah Carey. But it’s a reminder that even when they seem larger-than-life on screen, the Kardashians are still human.
“This is a family going through a traumatic experience. It’s not content for a reality show. It’s a life lingering in limbo,” she said.
While many of the Kardashians’ shenanigans and troubles have been aired publicly on their series, Odom’s fate is “beyond scripted control,” Britto said.
Their plea for privacy makes sense, she added.
“The public would be outraged if they were being anything but private and recluse during this very, very sensitive time. If I saw any of the Kardashians on social media attending to life as usual, I would think that the relationship with Lamar was not authentic and not genuine,” she said.
What the Kardashians’ share — or don’t share — is entirely up to them, Britto said.
“A celebrity doesn’t owe the public anything,” she said. “We have to be mindful that families are busy behind closed doors making very serious decisions. We should be concerned about any person that, rather than sitting with the doctor and making life-changing decisions, that they’re concerned about the public’s consumption of that decision.”