On October 17, 2021, a TikTok account named @ blah445087 released a fuzzy collection of Kylie Cosmetics products, rolling mountains in California, and a mirror image of a girl in all-pink, face blocked by a phone. Commentators quickly whispered the creator’s secret identity: “penelope?” “Is this P?” “SHE 9 WHAT SHE LIVES MY DREAM.”
The creator is Penelope Disick, the middle child of Kourtney Kardashian and Scott Disick, a 9-year-old with a full set of acrylic nails and access to the kind of wealth most people experience only through a screen. After some drama – TikTok’s minimum age is 13 – she refreshed her handle to @pandkourt and added “Account Managed by an Adult” to her biography. She has already gathered 2.6 million followers. Kim and Kanye’s 8-year-old daughter North took to the stage this Thanksgiving weekend with the account @kimandnorth. She has 3.7 million followers.
Who knew the unexpected sequel to Keeping up with the Kardashians would be TikTok accounts run by literal children?
On the surface, the posts glow with the sweet simplicity of youth. North introduces its cuddly lizards, Cheese and Bean. Penelope jumps on viral sounds. Of course, there is constant wealth boasting. Yes, Kim’s house feels dystopian in its minimalism. But in general, they really seem like normal children.
But we must always remember: just like the royal family, everything about the Kardashians is controlled. They play a game of chess with the public’s attention. And they are very, very good at it. As the next generation of the reality TV dynasty enters the eyes of the public, they balance a well-known clash between authenticity and curation. With the Kardashians’ new Hulu show, which reportedly dropped in 2022, the kids are already approaching fame on their own terms.
Penelope has a real ability for the ASMR side of TikTok. Her skincare collections and Target selections are so mundane that they circle back to fascinating. Even the most boring posts are super charged with the appeal of the Kardashian dynasty. Seen through a child’s lens, the sumptuous Thanksgiving spreads, and tropical vacations feel serious and even sweet. She lip-syncs to the Spice Girls with her dad, who seems wild if she’s a little dead-eyed. It feels shocking when she posts normative content like eating chips and dip. Stars! They eat sour cream-based snacks, just like us! Until the next post where she wears a Gucci pantsuit and reminds you that you will never ever amass as much wealth as this 9 year old girl.
As directors and film photographers, the girls’ TikToks have characters and frames, but never any plot lines or conflicts. @pandcourt and @kimandnorth cinematic universes often cross. They both incorporate professional product affiliations that make the family proud. Penelope shouts out Kylie lipstick, Kim Kardashian scents and her mom’s bizarre lifestyle site poosh.com. North has the world’s best SKIMS connection.
Penelope is not the first of Kourtney’s children to try to become famous on the Internet. Her older brother, 10-year-old Mason, had to delete his Instagram after spilling family secrets live. North seems to be following in his cousin’s footsteps. She recently broke the rules and even went live for an impromptu house trip, which ended with her banging into a bedroom and announcing, “Mom, I’m alive!” It is harmless and even humanizing to see a startled Kim completely horizontal in bed, on her phone, just like us other plebeians. The world seemed to get a kick out of Norths disobedience; breathless Page six the headlines started almost immediately. Of course, kids on the Internet need to be supervised, and an 8-year-old with seven times more TikTok supporters than the New York Knicks requires some strict safety rules. But when it comes to these celebrity heirs, it’s also a reminder: there are limits to the level of actual authenticity that kids can reveal.
If children are our future, then TikTok is our retirement home. Instead of inflated reality TV episodes, TikToks tumbles forward in quick clips, as easy to drown out as the instant popcorn Penelope filmed himself in the microwave on November 11th. (Can you imagine Kourtney buying Pop Secret? Can you even imagine her using a microwave?) Because TikTok is relatively new, fast and lives in your phone, it’s easy to mistake the videos as somehow more genuine than a networked reality show.
But the Kardashian-Jenner-Disick clan is strategic everywhere; Grandma Kris Jenner is definitely keeping an eye on the girls’ internet rise. Could this innocent fame be a distraction from something darker? In November, Kylie posted an ignorant Instagram story from the Astroworld tragedy where you can actually see ambulances trying to drive through the crowd. Khloe’s custody battle with Tristan Thompson continues to get uglier. Kim’s rebound with Pete Davidson may be less dark, but the public has decreed that it’s a creepy PR relationship.
Who is better at leading the latest hub than two little girls? Penelope makes s’mores on the beach. North dances with her mother. It’s the perfect window into family life, free of the OG siblings’ luggage while still getting E! headlines like “Penelope Disick and North West join forces on an adorable TikTok video.”
In a TikTok broadcast on November 17, Penelope changes photos with a snap of her well-groomed nails. Snap: a sea view. Snap: the sunset from a jet window. A top-voted commenter says, “She just called me poor.” Under her careful guidance, Penelope’s jet set looks effortless and glam. She understands her role in the hierarchy of wealth and content. But there is also a cavity in the video. If you can summon a private jet with the flick of a finger, does that matter? But this is the life she was born into. At the age of 9, she can already see how she can leverage access to her life for even more fame. After all, it’s in her bloodline.
It is impossible to actually measure the authenticity of the internet. Even the most sincere posts aim for some form of influence, attention or validation. Enlarge it with the children’s inherited fame and the millions of followers they get with the simplest posts. Maybe in a decade more, we’ll get a scientific study on how 14.4 million views of an outfit transition can shape a child’s brain in development.
In many ways, TikTok feels like the natural evolution of reality TV. It pretends to be spontaneous, but the short clips allow for more curation options than ever. It’s all sound and color, the impressionistic lines of a luxurious life. Who is better at exploiting this new level of celebrity content than the children whose births were KUWTK plot point less than ten years ago. Of course, today’s TikTok is tomorrow’s Snapchat. Platforms change, content changes, and somehow the Kardashian family evolves with it. Penelope and North have officially joined the fight.
The Kardashians built their brand on the illusion of full access to their lives, but by 2021, everyone knows that “reality TV” is anything but. Giving kids the TikTok spotlight feels like a knowledgeable plug on relevance. Since their births, these girls have appeared on red carpets and in tabloid headlines. You can see them in the background of the show, their entire short lives a master class in modern celebrity. Of course, they kill it on TikTok. Viral fame is their birthright. And this is just the beginning – we’re waiting to see what even younger Kardashians like Reign and Stormi will eventually come up with.