On October 17, 2021, a TikTok account called @blah445087 posted a slapdash compilation of Kylie Cosmetics products, rolling California mountains, and a mirror reflection of a girl in all pink, face obstructed by a phone. Commenters quickly sussed out the creator’s secret identity: “penelope?” “Is this P?” “SHES 9 WHAT SHES LIVING MY DREAM.”
The creator is Penelope Disick, Kourtney Kardashian and Scott Disick’s middle child, a 9-year-old with a full acrylic nail set and access to the kind of wealth most people only experience through a screen. After some drama—TikTok’s age minimum is 13—she refreshed her handle to @pandkourt and added “Account managed by an adult” to her bio. She’s already amassed 2.6 million followers. Kim and Kanye’s 8-year-old daughter North entered the scene on Thanksgiving weekend with the account @kimandnorth. She’s at 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 her pet lizards, Cheese and Bean. Penelope jumps on viral sounds. Sure, there’s constant wealth flaunting. Yes, Kim’s house feels dystopian in its minimalism. But overall, they really do seem like normal kids.
But we must always remember: like the royal family, everything about the Kardashians is controlled. They’re playing a chess game with the public’s attention. And they’re very, very good at it. As the next generation of the reality TV dynasty steps into the public eye, they’re balancing a familiar clash of authenticity and curation. With the Kardashians’ new Hulu show reportedly dropping in 2022, the kids are already approaching notoriety on their own terms.
Penelope has a genuine knack for the ASMR side of TikTok. Her skincare compilations and Target hauls are so mundane that they circle back to fascinating. Even the most boring posts are supercharged with the allure of the Kardashian dynasty. Viewed through a child’s lens, the lavish Thanksgiving spreads and tropical vacations feel earnest and even sweet. She lip-syncs to Spice Girls with her dad, who seems game if a bit dead-eyed. It feels shocking when she posts normie 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 accumulate as much wealth as this 9-year-old girl.
As directors and cinematographers, the girls’ TikToks have characters and settings, but never any plot lines or conflicts. The @pandkourt and @kimandnorth cinematic universes cross over often. They both expertly incorporate product tie-ins that do the family proud. Penelope shouts out Kylie lip kits, Kim Kardashian fragrances, and her mom’s bizarre lifestyle site poosh.com. North flaunts the best SKIMS hookup in the world.
Penelope isn’t the first of Kourtney’s kids to try for internet fame. Her older brother, 10-year-old Mason, had to delete his Instagram after spilling family secrets live. North seems to be following in her cousin’s footsteps. She recently broke the rules and went live herself for an impromptu house tour, which ended with her bursting into a bedroom and announcing, “Mom, I’m live!” It’s harmless and even humanizing to see an alarmed Kim completely horizontal in bed, on her phone, like the rest of us plebeians. The world seemed to get a kick out of North’s insubordination; breathless Page Six headlines kicked in almost immediately. Of course, kids on the internet should be supervised, and an 8-year-old with seven times more TikTok followers 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 the kids can reveal.
If the children are our future, then TikTok is our retirement home. Instead of bloated reality TV episodes, TikToks tumble forth in rapid clips, as easy to binge as the instant popcorn Penelope filmed herself microwaving on November 11. (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 network-produced reality show.
But the Kardashian-Jenner-Disick clan is strategic above all things; grand-momager Kris Jenner absolutely keeps a close eye on the girls’ internet ascent. Could this innocent fame be a distraction from something darker? In November, Kylie posted an oblivious 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 keeps turning uglier. Kim’s rebound with Pete Davidson might be less dark, but the public has decreed it a cringey PR relationship.
Who better to lead the latest pivot than two little girls? Penelope makes s’mores on the beach. North dances with her mom. It’s the perfect window into the family’s lives, free from the OG siblings’ baggage while still garnering E! headlines like “Penelope Disick and North West Team Up for Adorable TikTok Video.”
In a TikTok posted November 17, Penelope transitions shots with a snap of her manicured nails. Snap: an oceanside view. Snap: the sunset from a jet window. A top-voted comment says, “She just called me poor.” Under her careful direction, Penelope’s jetsetting looks effortless and glam. She understands her role in the hierarchy of wealth and content. But there’s a hollowness to the video, too. If you can summon a private jet with a snap of your fingers, does it actually mean anything? But this is the life she was born into. At age 9, she already sees how to leverage access to her life into even more fame. After all, it’s in her bloodline.
It’s impossible to actually gauge authenticity on the internet. Even the most sincere posts aim for some kind of clout, attention, or validation. Magnify that by the kids’ inherited fame, and the millions of followers they gain with the simplest posts. Maybe in another decade, we’ll get a scientific study about how 14.4 million views on an outfit transition can shape a child’s developing brain.
In a lot of ways, TikTok feels like reality TV’s natural evolution. It pretends to be spontaneous, but the short clips allow more curation opportunities than ever. It’s all sound and color, the impressionist strokes of a luxurious life. Who better to tap into this new level of celebrity content than the kids whose births were KUWTK plot points less than a decade ago. Of course, today’s TikTok is tomorrow’s Snapchat. Platforms change, content shifts, and somehow, the Kardashian family evolves alongside it. Penelope and North have officially entered the game.
The Kardashians built their brand on the illusion of full access to their lives, but by 2021, everyone knows “reality TV” is anything but. Giving the kids the TikTok spotlight feels like a savvy stab at relevancy. Since their births, these girls have shown up on red carpets and in tabloid headlines. You can see them in the background of the show, their entire short lives a masterclass in modern celebrity. Of course, they’re killing it on TikTok. Viral fame is their birthright. And this is just the beginning—we’re waiting to see what handle even younger Kardashians like Reign and Stormi eventually dream up.