In honor of Valentine's Day, I think it's time we looked back at one of the greatest tabloid love stories of all time. I'm referring, of course, to Kim Kardashian's 72-day marriage to former NBA star Kris Humphries. Have you forgotten the reality TV drama that captivated E!'s audiences for almost one calendar year in the late aughts? Is it difficult to remember a time before Kardashian was ensconced in a Vervoordt-designed minimalist prison with Kanye West in Calabasas? Does the word DASH mean anything to you anymore? Let's discuss.
Before Instagram became a major part of everyone's business, especially the Kardashians', and before "influencer" was really a word, Kardashian, Humphries, and Kardashian's momager Kris Jenner pulled off an almost entirely sponsored wedding. Though they were pilloried when Kardashian filed for divorce 72 days into the lucrative marriage, they set the stage for reality stars and celebrities to directly brand and monetize aspects of their personal lives for years to come. How did they do it? It all started in that well-known lovers' paradise of … Newark.
"I felt kinda like I was prey"
In late 2010, Kim Kardashian was preparing to film a new season of the Keeping Up with the Kardashians spinoff Kim & Kourtney Take New York. According to a report from Page Six, Kardashian wanted to date an NBA player in the New York area and have him appear on the show. (Sister Khloe Kardashian had just married Lakers star Lamar Odom the year before.) Representatives from E! reportedly reached out to multiple NBA teams, including the Knicks, to see which players might be interested in dating Kardashian on camera. In the end, she ended up with Kris Humphries, then 26, who had recently joined the New Jersey Nets.
The official line is that they were set up by friends. Humphries teammate Jordan Farmar claimed credit for introducing them in an interview with Us Weekly; on KUTWK, Kardashian suggested that her friend Carla DiBello did the honors. In his very first scene on the E! reality show, Humphries described his feelings about the courtship process to Kardashian over lunch at Serafina in New York. "I felt kinda like I was prey, and you were the predator," he said.
By December 2010, Kardashian was regularly appearing at Nets games out in Newark, attracting paparazzi and bringing along friends like Jonathan Cheban and Brittny Gastineau. The New York Times even reported on the circus at the time: "Kardashian and Friends Help Give the Nets Some Buzz." For his part, Humphries seemed equal parts uncomfortable with the attention (his team wasn't doing very well) and eager to establish his own personality in the media. Shortly after news broke that he was dating Kardashian, he gave an interview to People in which he identified himself as a fan of poker and The Office. (Cool!) And he started filming KUTWK almost immediately, appearing on Season 6 of the reality show, which culminated in the two-part special "Kim's Fairytale Wedding: A Kardashian Event."
"ONLY IN PEOPLE: EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS: Kim's Engaged!"
In May 2011, after just five months of dating, Humphries proposed to Kardashian at her home—on-camera—with a 20.5 carat Lorraine Schwartz diamond. "I just knew I wanted it to be big," Humphries told People of his ring selection process. (The Hollywood Reporter later revealed that he got the $3 million ring for a "fraction of the price" in a sponsorship deal with Schwartz, a longtime family friend of the Kardashians.)
Kardashian and Humphries revealed several details about the proposal to People, and the tabloid bought their official engagement photos for a reported $300,000. Later, KUTWK viewers watched as Humphries popped the question by spelling out WILL YOU MARRY ME? in rose petals on the floor of Kardashian's bedroom. She said yes, of course, and the couple decided on a short engagement: They planned their fairytale wedding in just three months. In a confessional interview on the show, Kardashian expressed excitement about her road to the altar. "I'm really looking forward to this amazing journey that I'm going to bring Kris on," she said.
With the help of her momager Kris Jenner, Kardashian managed to sell almost every part of that amazing journey to the tabloids. In 2011, Instagram had not yet taken off, and gossip magazines were willing to pay for exclusive celebrity photos. In addition to selling her engagement pics to People, Kardashian reportedly made deals with OK! ($100,000 for bridal shower photos) and Us Weekly ($30,000 to $100,000 for honeymoon shots). And then she came back to People for the deal of a lifetime: $1.5 million for exclusive wedding photos. In the end, only Kardashian appeared on the cover—headline: KIM'S WEDDING ALBUM—a decision which People's editors defended. "It's all about the bride. We wanted her. It's her day, we wanted her on the cover," editor Jen Garcia told Access Hollywood the day the issue was released.
But Kardashian and Humphries didn't just make money through the tabloids. When they walked down the aisle on August 20, 2011, much of the celebration was sponsored or comped. According to reports at the time, Kardashian and Jenner negotiated free invitations, cake, and even a custom-made $20,000 Vera Wang dress. (Jenner threw in a sponsored pre-wedding facelift for herself.) TMZ and others reported that the total cost of the wedding was $10 million, but with all the dealmaking, they likely made money on the event.
And then, naturally, they filmed the whole thing for E!
"Am I supposed to hate him?"
"Kim's Fairytale Wedding: A Kardashian Event" aired in two parts on October 10 and 11, less than three months after the wedding. (The Kardashians used to really churn the show out; now, they take more time in the editing booth.) More than 4 million people tuned in for each installment, and they watched as Kardashian and Humphries said their vows at a private estate in Montecito, surrounded by friends including Serena Williams, Eva Longoria, Kathie Lee Gifford, Joe Francis (of Girls Gone Wild), and Dina Lohan. Robin Thicke sang for their first dance.
The special also revealed that Kardashian and Humphries bickered with each other right up until the big day. At the rehearsal dinner, Kardashian asked her friend Simone Harouche if it was normal to "hate" her soon-to-be husband. (Humphries was in the background eating prime rib with his hands.)
The same tabloids that sold their relationship to the public picked up on the discord and started running doomsday covers about the state of their marriage. In Touch invited readers to go "inside Kim's fake marriage." Us Weekly questioned if she could save the relationship. And then sources started leaking to Star and others that Humphries was "partying" without Kardashian and "acting like he didn't have a wife at home."
On Halloween 2011, Kardashian filed for divorce.
Naturally, Kardashian first released a statement to E! "I had hoped this marriage was forever, but sometimes things don't work out as planned," she said. "We remain friends and wish each other the best."
Humphries, meanwhile, told the press he was blindsided by the filing. "I love my wife and am devastated to learn she filed for divorce," he said in a statement to the tabloids. "I'm committed to this marriage and everything this covenant represents. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make it work."
In response to Kardashian's filing, Humphries asked for an annulment, claiming the marriage was a PR stunt and based on "fraud." According to TMZ, he demanded a $7 million payout, despite the fact that he and Kardashian had a prenup.
It took two years and an assist from famed celebrity divorce lawyer Laura Wasser, but eventually, Kardashian got her way. The couple was granted a divorce—not an annulment—on April 19, 2013, when Kardashian was pregnant with her first child with Kanye West. Humphries did not receive any settlement money.
A few months after the divorce was finalized, Humphries auctioned off that 20.5-carat engagement ring for $749,000, nowhere near the reported (and likely inflated) $3 million figure. And then West proposed to Kardashian a week later with a comparatively modest 15-carat diamond from—you guessed it—Lorraine Schwartz.
The Kardashian-Humphries marriage is now long over, but what the ex-couple unleashed with their $10 million wedding has irrevocably changed the celebrity landscape. At the time, the public rolled their eyes at the sponsorship deals and the tabloid exclusives, but branded weddings are the norm now. In 2020, it's notable when a celebrity decides not to sell every part of their magical day to the highest bidder (see: Zoe Kravitz; Jennifer Lawrence). So the next time you see a former Bachelor star on Instagram tag upwards of 15 different vendors on the official People photos of her fairytale wedding, think of the televised romance that started it all.
This article originally appeared on VICE US.