It’s been about two months since Jen Garcia, a former deputy news editor at People, left her journalism gig to work for the Kardashian/Jenner family on a new editorial product. With about a decade of entertainment and fashion reporting under her belt — and considerable time spent getting to know reality TV’s first family through work — Garcia was tapped by Lloyd Braun’s Whalerock Industries to head up content for their ever-publicity-seeking new clients (who also requested her). The idea of building (yet another) Kardashian-centric brand intrigued Garcia, and she signed on to oversee what is being called “editorial content” for Kim, Khloé and Kourtney Kardashian, and Kendall and Kylie Jenner. Garcia, who is ramping up to go live with a handful of apps dedicated to each star next week, spoke with WWD about her new role, what it’s like to work for the clan of reality stars and how her new job stacks up to the grind of her previous one.
How did this opportunity come about?
The opportunity came about in a couple of different ways. Being an editor at People for nine years, the Kardashian family became part of my beat. Over that long span of time, I covered every big life event. I went to one of Kim’s weddings and I worked with her when she edited one of our StyleWatch pieces.
I built up a respect with the family. When this project came to fruition with them, they thought of me to make their vision come to light. My name also came up at Whalerock.
Why do you think they asked a journalist to spearhead this project?
The apps are really about a feeling…I’m someone who has a certain sensibility. I’ve covered everything from news to fashion to beauty to celebrity. I know their fan base and, I think, what’s newsy. This is the first time that they are having a voice.
This is five of the most talked about women in the world. This is the first time they can showcase what’s important to their fans. It’s one family but they are all really distinct personalities. From the get-go they made that clear. They wanted each of these apps to be reflective of their different personalities. You’re going to see overlap but also really personal themes.
How do their apps reflect their different personalities?
Kim is very high-end. It’s about mixing high fashion with being a mom. I think you’re going to see a lot of beauty from her. She’s focusing a lot on tutorials. For Kylie — she’s the one who has the most distinctive personality. She’s really setting herself apart…you’re going to see that with her content. You’re going to see fashion and beauty but you’re going to see them done in a unique way.
Partnering with a YouTube star that I’ve never heard of and talking about beauty image issues, for instance.
And the others?
Khloé is someone who always makes me laugh. She’s going to be doing a dating and sex column. She’s also someone who is focused on her health and well-being. You’re going to see that with spot content and also really premium content that is behind a subscriber paywall.
Kendall is a high-fashion model, so the look and feel of her app is very clean and crisp. Nobody knows who the real Kendall Jenner is — they see her walking the catwalk. We don’t know much about who she is and what she likes to do. Her video content is unique, she chose to shoot it herself, unlike the others.
How long has this project been in the works?
I started here two months ago. They started developing the project about a year ago. It’s been a long road in conception. It started with mood boards and honing in on different personalities of each girl.
What’s a typical day like?
There’s not such a thing. Our offices are in Santa Monica [Calif.] but I’m in Calabasas about two days a week, meeting with the girls. They are approaching everything, putting their stamp on everything. They are writing journals and have these personal processes. Some days I’m on set — the other day I was on Kylie’s Elle Canada shoot — we shot her getting a haircut on the spot. When it’s in the office, there’s no day that’s like the others. There can be one day that’s more focused on engineering. I could work with subscription flow, or be sitting with my editorial team brainstorming ideas, or walking through the content pieces and making sure that I’m happy with the copy, or sitting with the photo team. I think these apps are just absolutely beautiful; they are photo-heavy. We have a fantastic video team — so much of the content will be behind the paywall.
When are the apps launching?
Kourtney’s will be available later…it’s just not ready yet. But the others are all launching within the next week or so.
Do you work with Kris Jenner?
I do. But she doesn’t have much creative control. This is something that each of the girls wanted to do on their own. But she’s their manager. And she’s of course looped into everything.
How often will we see new content?
You’re going to see new stuff several times a day. It’s going to vary from sister to sister. We’re launching with a really healthy archive. When you click on one content piece you’re going to be led down a rabbit hole of archival content.
Is there an e-commerce element?
Yes. It’s a big feature on all of the apps. Everything that’s featured we can make shoppable. You can shop Kim’s look, for instance.
But there are no partnerships with brands, say, if Kim wears a Christian Louboutin shoe?
There is absolutely no advertising at this time. It could happen in the future.
Were there any surprises in working with the family versus covering them as a reporter?
I think what surprised me the most honestly is how involved they are. I think when you’re working talent you don’t know if they will be. Kim was firing off e-mails on her flight to New York, writing: “This is where North got this piece.” They really have an impressive vision when it comes to these apps.
Are their personalities similar to what we see on TV?
Their personalities really are similar to what we see on TV. Kim is just so savvy [about her business], and [if I send an e-mail to her] there’s no lag time. She’s just on it. It makes me as a mom look bad…[laughing]. It’s amazing. Khloé has that business sensibility as well. They’ve learned a lot from past experiences. Khloé is not holding back when it comes to content; it’s important that it’s an authentic reflection of her. With Kylie, I’ve been impressed by the direction. Turning 18, I think she’s exploring. She has some great, amazing ideas…and she’s willing to experiment.
I love Kendall’s efficiency. She’s a globe-trotting model, but when you go into a meeting with her, she’s so sweet. She offers you something — whether it’s scrambled eggs she just made or something from her fridge — and then she just banged out the meeting in 45 minutes.
They all know what they want. From an editor’s perspective, that’s all you can ask for…when the talent knows what they want.