Among the interests of English Ph.D. student Kristen Starkowski are the penny dreadfuls of the Victorian age — the era’s kitsch, one might say. Victoria Gasparowicz ’19, a sociology major, is keen on studying popular culture.
Or, in this case, Kulture.
Starkowski is co-president and Gasparowicz is one of the most involved members of the Princeton Kardashian Lifestyle Klub, a student organization created last spring to provide a relaxed, noncompetitive alternative to other campus groups. It’s now a registered student organization with about 150 members, meetings, and University support.
For the handful of PAW readers who may not be aware of the wealthy Kardashian kin, sisters Kourtney, Kim, and Khloé Kardashian and half-sisters Kendall and Kylie Jenner are the stars of the reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians, which has been following the family’s daily dramas since 2007. (Writing in the Los Angeles Times, one reviewer called it “a Hollywood version of The Brady Bunch.”) Students say the show can be a refuge from the stress that permeates campus life.
The Klub started casually when Starkowski and Allegra Martschenko ’20 — both avid Kardashian fans — were speaking after a precept last March. Martschenko was fascinated with Kylie Jenner’s pregnancy and newborn baby, and the two were discussing the negative press Jenner was receiving for giving her baby a name that was already dominating the news: Stormi. “I wish we could just support the Kardashians in some way,” Starkowski joked. It didn’t stop there: They created the Kardashian Lifestyle Klub, serving as co-presidents.
They advertised the new Klub through the residential-college email list, and watched in surprise as a group chat ballooned to 60 members in two days. Since then, the Klub has hosted regular meetings to watch Keeping Up, with food mimicking the favorite snacks of the Kardashians, including acai bowls and pizza. Klub members traveled to New York City to meet with a fashion anthropologist and to have brunch, a favorite Kardashian tradition. Sometimes there are trips to the gym — the “Kardashian Bod Squad.” They continue to maintain a lively group chat and Instagram presence, mainly with funny pictures of the Kardashians. (Full disclosure: This reporter is a member.)
Princeton’s Klub drew international attention in July when Starkowski, attending a Kardashian “meet-up” in Atlantic City, held up a large sign that read: “I’m Prez of Kardashian Klub at Princeton: Can I Get a Selfie?” Guest of honor Kourtney Kardashian posed for a photo and posted it on her own social-media accounts, which had more than 50 million followers. Since then, students around the country have reached out to Starkowski to ask how they might start their own Klub. There is talk of creating a Kardashian Lifestyle Klub alliance in the Ivy League.
When Gasparowicz first heard of the Kardashian Lifestyle Klub last year, she thought it might have been a joke. Now she says she has found community in the group.
“It’s more of a treat-yourself club,” Gasparowicz says — which for students means going to the gym or taking an ice-cream break, not buying a new luxury car. But members also take some inspiration from the way the Kardashians live: “The Kardashians are always enjoying what they’re doing,” Starkowski points out. “They’re living in the moment.”
While meetings are meant to be a break from the demanding work at the University — a function that brought in funding from Mathey College — Princeton being Princeton, students suggest that there is a larger meaning to it all.
“Looking at the Kardashians and the pandemonium surrounding them sociologically is so interesting,” says Gasparowicz. At one point, she had considered writing her thesis about “why the Kardashians are still popular and how this happened as a social concept.”
In fact, the Kardashians as a field of study may be a trend. Brown University doesn’t have a Klub, but it does have a Kourse: “Keeping Up with Keeping Up.”