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Kylie Jenner Michael Stewart/Getty Images

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I Couldn’t Get Into the Kylie Jenner Pop-Up Store

Kylie and her lip kits are all about access, and I didn’t have it.

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Kylie Jenner has invited you into her bedroom. That’s the premise of her pop-up shop, which opened on Friday at the Topanga Westfield, an otherwise unremarkable suburban mall deep in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, Jenner’s childhood ‘hood. The store is stocked with Kylie-brand makeup, which she’s been selling online since last December, plus items from her brand-new clothing line, which debuted at the pop-up a day ahead of its online launch Saturday morning. Inside the store, a rainbow of lip kits lines one wall; in the back, there’s an actual bed meant to look like Kylie’s, its white sheets mussed, a fur throw tossed carelessly over the covers.

This is what I hear, anyway, and what I see on Facebook, and Snapchat, and Instagram, and Twitter. Because despite arriving at the Topanga Westfield an hour before the store’s 10am opening on Friday, I was too late to even get in line to get inside, and despite spending the next five hours hanging out in a press holding area, being vaguely promised I would likely be allowed in “soon” by mall PR reps, I never did get to see Kylie’s fake bed with my real eyes.

Does it matter that I didn’t walk those last 15 feet from the mall floor into the store itself? How much difference is there between catching glimpses of something as doors swing open and then shut again, versus walking through those doors for 20 strictly delimited minutes, to be served The Kylie Shop Experience directly instead of via social media? I honestly do not know.

It actually felt appropriate, in a way: The Kardashian/Jenner clan has created an empire by playing masterfully with the lines between presence and absence, exposure and privacy, real and fake. They sell us a cohesive fantasy of their lives, constructed via a near-seamless sense of access, but somehow we only ever get to buy it in pieces: to wear a Kylie lip, a Khloe jean, a baseball cap featuring the Kimoji that says SAVAGE.

The Kardashians are old pros at the limited-edition game: They learned long ago that our hunger for them was enormous, so now they produce as much as they produce, of their lives as well as of their products. They make sure that there’s always more to want — that way, even if you have a lip kit in every color, there is always the anxiety that you won’t score the next one when it arrives. That way, there are always lip kits still to get, and we can keep telling ourselves that this is why our lives don’t look like Kylie’s yet. Not because even Kylie’s life doesn’t look like Kylie’s, probably, most of the time.

I did get to see Kylie though, up close, in the flesh, which was actually probably the biggest win of the day, the thing people wanted even more than a distressed tee that said “I’m the Kylie, you’re the Kendall,” or the bomber jacket with Kylie Cosmetics’ snarling lip logo stitched on the back. When I arrived, Kylie had already done an early sweep, greeting the first ten people in line, but there seemed to be a belief that She would be coming back. This was a hot topic of conversation in every interview I did, as well as among the press and PR folks gathered just outside the store. She had been here, but only briefly, and likely this meant that She was coming back.

When She did come, we knew because of the screaming. Kylie was surrounded by a team — it’s impossible to say how many people, because there were hers and the mall’s and the camera crew for Keeping Up With the Kardashians and the camera crew the mall hired to document the event and then the people who were essentially chasing after them — and accompanied by her mother, Kris.

Here is the sum total of thoughts I had while looking at Kylie Jenner in the flesh: She’s sort of surprisingly tall. She looked cold. You could see her veins under her skin, the blue of them, and a long, thin scab running the inside of one arm. She looked like Kylie Jenner but not, the way all celebrities look when you see them in person. It was the first time I’d ever seen her and understood, viscerally, that she is a teenage girl.

It was also after She came back that things started to get really weird for me. By that point I’d spent most of my day in the press holding zone, a repurposed information kiosk next to a little pond surrounded by real rocks and fake foliage, directly in front of the Kylie Store. There was some tension between the mall people, who were very thrilled that this was happening and trying to milk the hell out of it, and the Kylie people, who were trying to control their brand and our access to it, which meant that the staff would only let one member of the press in the store at a time, at irregular intervals, with a sort of strange secrecy about the process — a reporter from Us Weekly was instructed to take off her press pass before being taken in, to make herself less conspicuous.

It was particularly weird because every single civilian who walked into the store walked in taking a selfie or a video of the experience; we, the press, weren’t going to be broadcasting anything anyone didn’t already know. But then I think that having press around is not part of The Kylie Jenner Pop-Up Shop Experience. We interfered with the seamlessness of the fantasy they were selling: that by entering the pop-up, you were not participating in a commercial transaction. You were closer than ever to being Kylie, or at least being Kylie’s friend.

I had a lot of time to think about this. I thought about how there’s a real indignity to it, the way the Kylie Jenner Pop-Up Shop Experience forces you to submit to it on its terms: to show up at some absurd hour and then wait, and even how you wait is proscribed — posted rules state that you cannot sit in line, you must stand — and then you get a wristband and 20 minutes in a store where there are no prices posted. They won’t tell you what you’re spending until you get to the register, so that you can pretend money isn’t an object for you, just like it isn’t for Kylie. And it’s all packaged as if this thing is supposed to be a treat for you, a very limited-edition gift that you’re to feel lucky and special for having been given access to.

But that’s the crux of an event like this one, the issue of access. What you forget when you work in media, when you live in nice parts of a big city like Los Angeles, when you’re young and well-connected, is how far away so much of this seems to so many people — that being close to Kylie on Kylie’s terms seems very much like — may very well be! — the only way you will ever get close to Kylie at all.

And Kylie is the dream: young and beautiful and successful. People kept telling me that one of the things they like about her is that she’s an entrepreneur. Kyle, who had arrived at 1 a.m. and was fourth in line to enter the store, told me he was picking up a few things for himself and a few things to resell. “I want my bank account to look like Kylie’s,” he said.

It was while Kylie was in the store that I mentioned to the wrong person that I was a member of the press. “No press!” she snapped. “No press.” I didn’t leave fast enough; she threatened to call security. The phrase “are you sure you want to do this the hard way” was deployed in my direction. I did not. I left.

And just like that, I went from being on the right side of the velvet ropes to just another one of the horde milling through the teeming mall.

It was nearly 2 p.m. at this point, and I was starving, and thirsty, and frankly kind of grateful to be allowed to go upstairs and get water and a sandwich, to sit down, to stop trying to see and hear everything and form an opinion about it for later. I was disappointed — I’d promised a few friends I’d pick up Kylie merch for them — but obscurely relieved, too.

In the hours I’d stood there I’d started buying into the fantasy, unconsciously but surely: I’d felt proud of my access, assured of my importance, thrilled that I would have what other people didn’t, that I was succeeding at being the kind of cool, effortless girl who could just show up in a mall full of thousands of people, and walk out with the things other people wanted, and had tried much harder to get.

The fantasy of Kylie is as much the fantasy of effortlessness as of access — Kim and Khloe make a big deal out of their workout routines; Kylie makes a big deal out of how often she makes cheesy eggs for her boyfriend, rapper Tyga. And I had failed at effortlessness and access both, but then, fine, you know what, I had failed! I had also saved myself from spending who knows how much money on lipstick and T-shirts I did not need, and, it turns out, did not really even want. It was a relief to be a loser sitting in a mall food court eating a messy sandwich, just my boring self again: a girl who had her own bed to go home and fall asleep in, whose life did not intersect with Kylie’s fantasy one, but did not depend on it, either.

We're live at Kylie Jenner's Kylie Cosmetics pop-up in LA — get a first look at the Lip Kits and Kyliners up for grabs!

Posted by Racked on Friday, December 9, 2016

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