Kim Kardashian is a great life coach. (Photo via Glu Mobile)
A friend of mine recently told me there was a mobile phone game that I needed to try. He said it was more than a game – it was an addiction and a revelation. He explained that by the end of the year, the app has been projected to make $200 million (£117 million) in revenue.
Still, I’m not usually into mobile phone games. I missed Angry Birds and Candy Crush. I loved Snake on my flip phone and I remember borrowing my dad’s early version of the Blackberry to play Brick Breaker, but that was as far as I’d ever fallen into the phone gaming life.
That is, until I found a game worth playing, a game that could teach me how to change my life for the better. I’m talking, of course, about Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.
I am a 25-year-old freelancer struggling to stay afloat in San Francisco. In other words, I’m poor. My style ranges from jeans and a T-shirt to jeans and a sweatshirt, and I tell the story of running into "E" from Entourage in a bathroom in Vegas and unsuccessfully attempting a handshake too often to consider myself the kind of guy who rubs shoulders with A-list celebs. I had a lot to learn from Kim, and luckily, with this app, she has made herself a willing Sherpa to the top of the celebrity world.
I’m not into gimmicky apps. I believe that, at its best, my smartphone can make me a more efficient and effective human being. My Google Maps App helps me never get lost. My Yelp App keeps from eating at bad restaurants. And now my Kim App would guarantee that I don’t dress wrong or stay poor. This felt big – Flappy Bird big.
To begin, I “kustomised” my character to look like a squarer-jawed version of myself. I realised pretty quickly that cutely misspelling words with Ks in the place of Cs would be a motif throughout the game. I was charmed and impressed. It took me a while to remove the default goatee that my avatar came with, but when I did, I felt ready to climb the social ladder. Anyone can be famous with an angular chin covering – I needed to do it my way.
My cyber-boss at the clothes shop was a sassy black guy with a bowtie, a paperboy hat and forearm tattoos, which seemed fitting. I didn’t like his body language at first, but when he explained he was late for an appointment to look at a Beverly Hills apartment, I could empathise. My non-digital self was stressed looking for apartments in Oakland – I could only imagine what the competition for a chic Beverly Hills place was like. When he left, I was apprehensive for a moment about what I had to do. But luckily, green arrows popped up over every task that needed completing. And when I clicked on them, rolls of dollar bills fell onto the floor. If all else failed, this job at the clothing store didn’t seem so bad.
But wait, this was the same lack of ambition that had put me into this rut to begin with. What would Kim do? She would hustle her way to the top by any means necessary. I finished locking up and got on with my ascent.
When I left, I ran into Kim Kardashian right outside. So this is what LA is like! She asked me to reopen the store so she could pick something out. My boss might not like this, but who cares? Kim comes first.
I helped her pick out a dress, and when she asked how much, I told her it was on the house. I felt uncomfortable saying it, but there was only one choice in my speech bubble. When she said she couldn’t accept it, I was relieved. I loved Kim and she was probably famous enough to deserve free things – this country’s notorious for giving the rich and beloved stuff they don’t need – but I really didn’t want to get fired on my first day. Unfortunately, the only available response was to insist that she take it. I didn’t feel good about giving the expensive dress away, but I liked that Kim hadn’t just accepted it without some pushback. She totally would have paid for it if I hadn’t insisted, which showed that she really was a good person. And Kim appreciated the free dress so much that she invited me to a photo shoot at the Metropolitan Magazine building. This felt like the first big moment to earmark for my own real life – loser bosses don’t matter; if you want to make it, give shit away to any celebrity you meet.
I had to go back to my apartment to get ready for the shoot, but suddenly began to feel self-conscious about my look. People like me don’t get invited to model – what was I thinking making my avatar look like a freelance reporter? I changed my hair from parted to spiked up in front and put on a denim button-down and pink shoes. People wear these types of things, I think. Maybe real-life me should try colourful shoes – I made a note to go the Vans store tomorrow. I underlined the word “Vans” – Kim liked Vans.
I looked completely different, which felt right. I left my apartment and was told to take the bus to Beverly Hills. I usually like the bus – when I ride it, I feel a part of the city. The scene through the big, scratched windows is like a moving painting. But now it felt below me.
When I arrived, the photographer asked me my name. The default name in the speech bubble was “Nathaniel” and I wanted so badly to be named Nathaniel, but I knew it wasn’t me. I wrote in “Joe” and then erased it, and put in “Joey” and erased that, too. I finally settled on “Joseph”. It wasn’t Nathaniel, but at least Kim wouldn’t be embarrassed by it.
Kim looked amazing in the red dress I had picked out for her. And her photographer friend wanted to take pictures of me. I posed for him and he told me he thought I should model! This was big – my decision to dress the opposite of what my instincts told me was working. And after the shoot, Kim invited me to meet her at a party at the Brew Palms. I felt like I’d earned it, too. I could have worn those boring clothes and none of this would have happened. But I wore a denim button-down rolled up to my elbows, and I put the time in with my hair. This party with Kim was the reward I deserved.
At the bus stop, a good-looking guy in a white tuxedo top and camo pants asked me about the party at the Brew Palms. I told him that he wouldn’t get in and instantly regretted being so rude. But, I mean, he didn’t know Kim like I knew Kim. And I would be embarrassed if he showed up and Kim asked why he was there and I had to explain that I met him while waiting for the bus and he seemed nice enough and I didn’t know that the Brew Palms event was exclusive. I had done the right thing; it was better not to lead him on about the party.
Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that poor Kim must go through this every day. I realised how hard it must be for Kim to always say no to all these clingers with kind faces but bad motives. I realised that Kim was a saint for even making this game, for sharing all her knowledge with little old me. I quickly closed the app so I could give Kim the five-star rating she deserved. Forty thousand others had felt the same way and beat me to the punch. They knew what I knew: it’s hard to make it to the top, but it’s even harder to remember the little people with bad style once you do.
I don’t know if people can ever change themselves completely. I don’t know if we are who we are, or if we are what we make ourselves. And even with this newfound knowledge, I’ll never be Kim, because I wasn’t blessed with that it factor. But I do feel wiser. And I will be buying those pink Vans, because it’d be wrong not to. It’s what my better self would do.
Joseph Bien-Kahn is a freelance reporter, part-time cafe worker and roving intern in San Francisco. He's had articles published in The Rumpus and The Believer, and writes a hip hop column for BAMM.tv. He's also editor-in-chief of the online literary mag OTHERWHERES. Follow him on Twitter.