As with so many glass-walled boardrooms in West Hollywood, a media mogul sits at the head of the table to do some big-money business. Pencil in hand, Kim Kardashian West flicks through a binder of emoji ideas, finally ticking off a red bandanna, tanning oil and a swimsuit.
“I should take a photo of myself in the Pablo one-piece, and you can use that,” the reality television star says, referring, in the true vertically integrated nature of modern celebrity, to her husband Kanye West’s merchandise line. Later she will Instagram a selfie in the swimsuit that her app developer, Whalerock Industries, will turn into an emoji and include in an app that her fans can download for $1.99.
It’s easy to scoff at this and pretty much everything else Kim Kardashian West does. The embodiment of the selfie era, she has stoked the notoriety she gained from a sex tape a decade ago by sharing almost every detail of her life, begetting, like some nightmare mash-up of Andy Warhol and Groundhog Day, perpetually more fame.
But in obsessing over the details of an avatar, Kardashian has stumbled into an entirely new way to monetize fame, and she’s been shrewd enough to capitalize on a massive scale. Kardashian stars in a mobile game, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, in which players create their own celebrity, befriend Kim and work their way onto the A-list.
Vapid, yes, but the numbers look very smart. Since its June 2014 launch Kim Kardashian: Hollywood has been downloaded 45 million times and generated $160 million in revenue. FORBES estimates that Kardashian has pocketed $45 million from it over that period. This year she earned $51 million to land at No. 42 on FORBES’ Celebrity 100 list; 40% of her yearly paycheck came from the game.