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Interview: Kardashian sisters' act draws a crowd in Schaumburg

There probably isn't much I can write about Kim and Khloe Kardashian that will change your opinion of them.

Those of you who love the reality TV siblings — like the thousand-plus people who lined up to meet them Friday in Schaumburg during their appearance at Sears at Woodfield mall — probably don't care that Kim had a hard time answering the frequently asked “How did you guys get so famous?” question. And those who love to hate them — like the elderly woman in the Sears parking lot I overheard tell a stranger “You don't know the Kardashians? You're better off” — probably don't care that the sisters seemed surprisingly normal.

Sure, the list of off-limits topics given to me by a publicist before the interview was longer than I'm used to. And I can't claim to know what they're really like after a 10-minute conversation that included not one but two publicists sitting at the table with us in the Sears employee lounge, ready to pounce at the mention of the names Kanye West or Kris Humphries.

But as far as I can tell, Kim and Khloe aren't the sign of the apocalypse that some make out them to be.

“Every time we have an appearance, I'll email (my sisters), like, ‘What if no one shows up?'” said Khloe, 27, in between sips from her plastic Starbucks cup as a crowd waited eagerly downstairs. “It's just surreal. You can't believe it's happening.”

Neither can most people.

The Kardashian family has entered uncharted territory for reality TV stars. While most reality veterans turn their fame into paid club appearances and, if they're lucky, a spin-off or endorsement, the stars of E!'s “Keeping up with the Kardashians” have turned what is nothing more than a guilty pleasure TV show into a juggernaut brand. Kim alone has 14.4 million followers on Twitter, which was eighth most on the social media website as of Sunday. That doesn't happen by luck.

“I think that certain people have something that you just can't explain,” said Kim, 31, sporting a snug, bright orange dress from their Kardashian Kollection clothing line, when asked how her family became so famous. “It's so hard to explain. We definitely work really hard. It's not like we wake up and just film us driving around and having an argument and then we go eat. It's not really like that.

“When we started the show we had no idea that it would be as successful as it turned out to be. ... I think (our popularity) has to do with the dynamic of everyone in the family. People can relate to someone in the family.”

Kim herself can relate to the nervous contest winners she met earlier in the employee lounge. She was in a similar position when she met pop stars Madonna and Tiffany when she was younger. And Khloe can relate to the fans who lined up early outside Sears. Well, not the teenage girls who had been waiting since 3:30 p.m. Thursday for the 5 p.m. appearance on Friday, but the ones who had been there for hours but didn't get to meet the sisters before they left. She said she lined up at 4 a.m. to buy her brother Air Jordan sneakers one holiday season when she was 16 or 17 but left empty-handed several hours later because they were sold out.

“The worst part is you can't meet everyone,” Khloe said. “You feel so bad. Oh my goodness. We have to get on a plane right after this and leave right on the dot. To me, that's heart-wrenching. Also, everyone wants to talk with you. I will talk for hours with them and (the staff) is like, ‘You have to move the line along,' but I'm like, ‘They waited for six hours.'”

Fans needed to purchase an item from the Kardashian Kollection in order to meet the Kardashian sisters. Kim and Khloe developed the line — which is carried by Sears and includes handbags, lingerie, swimwear, jewelry and footwear — along with their eldest sister and “Keeping up with the Kardashians” co-star Kourtney, who was unable to make Friday's appearance because her pregnancy has limited her travel.

“It's good to see what (fans are) wearing because a lot of them wear clothes from our collection,” Kim said. “You either get to see what fits really well or, if they're not wearing our clothes, we see what they like and it gives us inspiration on what to design and what our customers look for.”

Before I could ask if they worry about the day when the public may no longer want to buy their products or watch their shows, it was time for the sisters to meet with their fans. I thanked them for an interview that went twice as long as expected and headed down the escalator, past hundreds who were waiting for their face time with the Kardashians and hundreds more who waited by the mall entrance simply to get a glimpse of them.

It's safe to say the day I was going to ask them about isn't coming any time soon.

lgomez@tribune.com | Twitter @TribLuis | Facebook @TribLuis | Instagram @TribLuis

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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