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Fresh off the high from the premiere of their new Hulu series, Kim and Khloe Kardashian and Kris and Kylie Jenner went to court last week for the start of their legal war against Blac Chyna, Rob Kardashian’s former fiancée who is suing his family for millions.
The case stems from a $100 million lawsuit Chyna filed against the family members in 2017. Chyna, a model and former reality star whose legal name is Angela White, is suing the “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” matriarch and her daughters Kim, Khloe and Kylie for lost earnings from the end of the 2016 spinoff after one season, and the loss of celebrity earning power that resulted from it.
Last Monday’s jury selection saw potential jurors weigh in on the trial, with some bluntly stating they have “a very negative perception of the parties.” Fox News Digital spoke to brand experts to see if the Kardashians’ famous name might hurt them in their $100 million war with Chyna.
Evan Nierman, CEO of global crisis PR agency Red Banyan, said the name Kardashian is “nearly inescapable in America today.”
“It’s highly likely that the jurors will come to the trial with some preconceived notions about the Kardashian name. I don’t think it’s likely to harm them in this particular lawsuit. Jurors who are inclined to like the family will see their point of view while those who find the Kardashian clan distasteful will likely find Chyna equally or even more off-putting,” Nierman, also the author of “Crisis Averted: PR Strategies to Protect Your Reputation and the Bottom Line,” said.
Eric Schiffer, chairman of Reputation Management Consultants and a leading expert in media and branding, said it appears Chyna’s strategy from the beginning “has been to bloody up and attempt to damage the reputation of the Kardashians.”
“There is a risk that the Kardashians’ famous last name might hurt them with some jury members who believe the Kardashians’ star power and influence could have easily and effectively been employed to carnage Chyna’s reality TV career,” Schiffer added.
Kardashian attorney, Michael G. Rhodes, suggested early on in the trial that Chyna filed the lawsuit to enhance her own celebrity.
“Is this trial a publicity stunt?” he asked.
“No not at all,” Chyna said.
“But your career benefits from the attention that you get because of this trial,” Rhodes said.
“No not at all,” she replied, “it’s actually been very negative.”
Schiffer, however, begs to differ. The brand expert said he believes the trial is “going to only be beneficial to Blac Chyna because of the attention.”
“Attention in entertainment is beneficial so whenever you can punch up against a brand that is at a higher level, which is what she’s doing, it’s going to serve her,” Schiffer said.
Aside from their TV fame, the Kardashian-Jenner clan have become known for their record-breaking successes in entrepreneurship. Kylie runs her own makeup empire, Kylie Cosmetics, and was named the youngest self-made billionaire by Forbes in 2019. In 2021, Kim Kardashian was officially declared a billionaire by the same outlet thanks to her KKW Beauty and SKIMS lines. Khloe Kardashian is the co-founder of the popular clothing brand Good American, and a big chunk of Kris’ work is managing all of her children and their businesses aside from ones she’s built on her own.
Some viewing the case from the outside may believe the Kardashians have much more to lose. Nierman says he does not expect the Kardashians’ name to “suffer any lasting damage from this trial.”
“Reality TV thrives upon drama, and the financial fortunes the Kardashians have amassed collectively and independently are linked inextricably to controversy and an unmatched ability to stoke rabid public interest in their every move. Their fans will stick with them, and their haters will no doubt criticize, while at the same time fanning the flames of their fame,” Nierman told Fox News Digital.
Like Schiffer, Nierman said Chyna’s star power will only multiply.
“The trial serves as a media opportunity for Chyna and gets people talking about her again, which could help her secure additional work down the road. So essentially, even if she loses her case, she may end up winning in other ways,” the expert said.
In opening statements earlier this week, Chyna’s attorney Lynne Ciani said evidence includes text messages from some defendants about Chyna. Schiffer said that while the release of personal messages “could be debilitating to family members depending on the context,” he doesn’t suspect any severe damage to the reality TV family’s reputation.
“There could be some damage if there are additional facts that may come out. Right now, the way the facts have been presented you’re not going to see any dumpster fire on their brands,” Schiffer analyzed. “If anything, the defendants’ individual brands may be strengthened because of this family coming together to fight for another family member.”
Nierman reminds the public just how strong the Kardashian brand already is.
“The Kardashian brand is too powerful to be derailed by taking the stand in this trial. Expect to hear all sorts of salacious accusations bandied about in court, but don’t expect it to affect their bottom line,” Nierman added.
“Shakespeare’s assertion that ‘what’s past is prologue’ applies to the Kardashians in this case. Scandals helped propel the Kardashian into global prominence in the first place, so they need not be overly concerned about negative incidents being brought up again. If fact, widespread discussion of them in the media, regardless of the context, will probably end up helping them,” the expert continued.
Though Chyna may be painted as the underdog in this legal fight, Nierman said “it’s hard to imagine the public at large looking at Chyna with sympathy.”
“She, like her adversaries the Kardashians, has built a brand that relies upon public exposure and being over the top. Average people in America are typically not inclined to rally behind someone claiming to be entitled to a $100 million payday,” the expert said.
All four members of the Kardashian-Jenner family are expected to testify in court, as well as “Rob & Chyna” producer, Ryan Seacrest. Chyna’s testimony was the first to come.
Chyna and Rob began dating in 2016, before splitting the summer of 2017. In July 2017, Rob took to Instagram to accuse Chyna of cheating in a series of graphic and expletive-fueled posts. Rob also claimed the mother of his child is an alcoholic and drug addict, making her an unfit mother for their daughter, Dream, now 5.
“You will never see Dream again unless you stop the alcohol and drugs and cocaine and X and E,” he wrote. “When was the last time you realized your daughter [has] been with me instead of that crazy house that you bring men in and out[?] I never been this disrespected in my life by a woman. A woman I just paid 16K rent and Ferrari I just bought and lambo and 400K in jewelry. Damn.”
During this social media outburst, Rob accused Chyna of sleeping with another man “in the bed that we lay in with our baby under the roof that I pay for.”
Chyna has since made a revenge porn claim against her former fiancé, which will be tried after the defamation case. The model claims that in 2017, Rob used his social media platforms to share images of her naked breasts, genitals and backside.
Chyna’s trial against the Kardashians is expected to last one week to 10 days. No matter the outcome, Schiffer said the legal battle is an opportunity for the public to see the Kardashians come together as a family yet again.
“The Kardashians in many ways are stronger than ever and their ability to continue to transform their brand in ways that are to be presented to audiences as modern-day archetypes of what is attractive and what family looks like has served them. If anything [the trial] may just endear the Kardashians further because it aligns with the storyline that the family is going to stand up and fight together for justice,” he said.
Fox News’ Julius Young and The Associated Press contributed to this report.