They met, they married, they’ve graced the covers of magazines and they’ve become one of the most divisive, discussed celebrity power couples of the 21st century. But lost somewhere between the haters and the hype is the notion that the love story of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian may just be the fairy-tale romance of our time.
Kanye West is an artist who doesn’t shy away from expressing exactly what he’s thinking at any given moment, for better (saying truth to power about society’s ingrained racism) or worse (interrupting teenagers in the midst of accepting awards). But there’s always been a greater sadness that followed West around, particularly after the untimely death of his mother in 2007, and a sense that he was always searching for the right person to help rule his self-proclaimed kingdom. Finally, he found her — the perfect pop-culture princess.
Kardashian and her family are usually dismissed as, at best, “famous for being famous” and, at worst, shameless social climbers responsible for the decline of Western civilization. But Kim has built an unimpeachable brand and a business empire to match. Refusing to be waylaid by a sex tape, a highly-publicized marriage and divorce or a child born out of wedlock, Kardashian eschews the shame that’s heaped on her. She advocates for recognition of the Armenian genocide and is a frequent proponent of selfies as a tool of female empowerment. She’s found in West a man to spur her to be better in each aspect of her life — and he’s found the same. The pair are not only well-matched, but also seem to be truly, madly, deeply crazy in love.
So let’s take a look at how a rap genius and a reality TV star-turned-cultural icon ended up falling in love, infuriating critics, defying the odds, and breaking the Internet. We present a timeline of West and Kardashian’s romance — from flirting and courting to the coronation of the phenomenon known as “Kimye.”
West and Kardashian meet and became friends in 2004, when she was still married to her first husband, music producer Damon Thomas. Two years later in 2006, West saw a photo of Kardashian while vacationing with then-close friend Paris Hilton and claims that was the first time he was genuinely smitten. “I remember I saw a picture of her and Paris Hilton,” the musician told Ryan Seacrest in a radio interview, “and I remember telling my boy, ‘Have you seen that girl Kim Kar-dijon?'”
Kanye shoots a pilot for a hip-hop puppet show with the rapper Rhymefest — title: Alligator Boots — that is cancelled by Comedy Central before it ever aired. As batshit amazing as the project sounds on its own, it’s most notable for the special Star Wars-themed appearance by Kardashian, who’s dressed in bikini-slave Princess Leia gear eventually blows off Kanye’s stormtrooper to run off with a bear puppet named “Beary White.” It’s ridiculous — and the chemistry between the pair is real.
Though the pair are still keeping it platonic, they ended up seated side by side at the Y-3 show at New York Fashion Week; at that point, Kim still only had eyes for then-boyfriend Reggie Bush. When guesting on his future mother-in-law’s not-long-for-this-world daytime talk show Kris, West admitted that it was around this time that he started having significant feelings for her daughter. The hip-hop star even went so far as to draw himself into the Kardashians’ Christmas card next to his crush. “He would take the photo when he saw it online, Photoshop himself into the card, and then share it with Kim,” Kris asserted.
Kanye does a guest verse on Keri Hilson’s single “Knock You Down,” where he raps, “You were always the cheerleader of my dreams/Seem to only date the head of football teams/And I was the class clown that always kept you laughing/We were never meant to be, baby we just happened.” He then declares, “You should leave your boyfriend now.” Kim was famously involved in an ongoing relationship with Reggie Bush at the time the song was written.
Kanye’s “Lost in the World,” off his album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, is leaked; when he originally performs the song during a mini-set at the Facebook offices in Palo Alto (while standing on a table), he claims that it “is more like a poem.” Which is appropriate, given that the lyrics were taken from love letters and poems that West was emailing to Kim over the previous months.
December 2010/January 2011
Deciding to dip her toe into the music industry, Kim records the single “Jam (Turn It Up)” with R&B producer The-Dream, with the notion of donating part of the proceeds to charity. According to sources, Kanye had encouraged her to just sing about what she likes: shopping and hanging out. Later, he collaborates on a music video with Kim and director Hype Williams for the song; it’s never officially released, though Kardashian does tweet out some very intimate -looking pics of the two at the shoot.
Kanye releases “Cold” (originally titled “Theraflu”) in which he raps about falling in love with Kim around the time she was falling in love with second husband Kris Humphries. (“And I’ll admit, I had fell in love with Kim/Around the same time she had fell in love with hiiiim/Well that’s cool, baby girl, do ya thang/Lucky I ain’t had Jay drop him from the team.”) By this point, Kardashian and Humphries have already begun divorce proceedings. In an interview with the Today show, Kim shies away from clarifying the relationship, speaking instead of how they’ve been friends a long time and hey, you never know what the future holds. She did, however, assure cohost Ann Curry that “I like the song!” Shortly thereafter, West and Kardashian go public with their relationship.
Kim publicly refers to herself as Kanye’s girlfriend in a tweet.
Kanye appears for the second time on Keeping Up With the Kardashians and helps Kim sort through her closet, a moment he describes later as “coming from a place of love.” It’s a divisive moment, as some critics see it as too controlling and, admittedly; even Kardashian herself found shocked by the process. “They [West and his stylist] put everything that he thought wasn’t ‘cool enough’ in a pile,” Kim said, during an interview on Live With Kelly and Michael. “I walked in, and it was like a pile to the ceiling of shoes. All my amazing shoes that I loved… I started crying.” Happily, Kardashian soon found her wardrobe upgraded by her beau, a move that she ultimately credits for helping her “fall in love with fashion.”
Kim makes yet another appearance in Kanye’s lyrics — this time in “Clique,” as he waxes philosophical at Kim’s rise to fame through her leaked sex tape: “Eat breakfast at Gucci/My girl a superstar all from a home movie.” The lyric supports the idea that Kanye appreciates the way Kim has transformed a personal incident that most would find career-ending into a platform into far greater things.
Kanye joins the Kardashian clan for Thanksgiving festivities and Kim travels with him back to Oklahoma City to visit the grave of his beloved mother, Donda. The pair seems better suited for each other than ever. They would return to Oklahoma City as a family in August 2013 for the funeral of West’s grandfather, Portwood Williams, who’d met Kim on a previous trip and said of her, “She’s just as sweet as she is beautiful – and that’s what I liked about her.”
December 31st, 2012
West announces mid-concert in Atlantic City that Kardashian is pregnant with his child. Kim writes a message to her fans saying, “It”s true!! Kanye and I are having a baby. We feel so blessed and lucky and wish that in addition to both our families, his mom and my dad could be here to celebrate this special time with us.” The oft-photographed pair are overjoyed at the news; an overwhelming number of red-carpet and paparazzi shots capture them smiling giddily at each other.
May 6th, 2013
Attending the Met Gala for the first time (after apparently being banned from the event by Anna Wintour the year before), Kardashian takes a lot of heat for her form-fitting, full-coverage, floral Givenchy dress. She later says, “I thought it was so cool and it got a lot of criticism…I didn’t care because I really loved it.” During his performance, West addresses his beloved from the stage, telling her not to worry about what anyone says because she’s awesome and he loves her. She later posts a pic of him on Instagram, saying, “Baby, you’re AWESOME.”
June 15th, 2013
Kim gives birth to their daughter North (Nori) West five weeks early. Though the Internet celebrates every possible punchline opportunity regarding the punny name, both mom and dad are over the moon for their beautiful baby girl. “I want to figure out a way to do my work and be my daughter’s soccer coach,” Kanye professes. “I’m going to be a soccer coach and redesign their uniforms. I’ll redesign the mini van.” Kim claims that motherhood “completely changed my life. You have a different sent of priorities. Nothing matters except your brand new family.” That same month, Yeezus is released — an album West has said is largely inspired by and about Kim.
October 21st, 2013
On Kim’s 33rd birthday, Kanye rents out AT&T Park (home of the San Francisco Giants) and stages an elaborate proposal for his love — including a Jumbotron, orchestra, and adoring friends and family. And though Kanye seals the deal with a flawless 15k diamond ring, West wasn’t confident of Kardashian’s response going into the endeavor. He elaborated in an interview with Ryan Seacrest, after detailing how he asked Kim’s cousin what they thought she would say: “I’m not arrogant about love or feelings at all. I’m confident in the work I put so much work into, but this is someone else’s feelings. You never know what someone else may feel at the time.” She said yes.
The final track from Yeezus, “Bound 2” receives a steamy music video, features the couple embracing on a motorcycle that appears to be rapidly traveling through space and time. It’s roundly mocked online, even spurring a shot-for-shot remake with James Franco and Seth Rogen — a public tweaking that the pair seems to take in stride. “Nailed it! Sooo funny!” Kim tweets about the parody.
According to a TMZ report, Kanye is involved in an altercation with an 18-year-old who screams obscentities and racial epithets at Kim outside of a doctor’s office. Never let it be said that West is not someone who stands up for his fiancée.
Kim and Kanye land the cover of Vogue and, according to various critics and haters, the world ends. (A sample tweet, from Buffy‘s Sarah Michelle Gellar: “I guess I’m cancelling my Vogue subscription. Who’s with me?”) Though Kardashian friends and family are supportive, there are others in the social sphere that think it a great indignity to be subjected to one of the most famous couples in America on the cover of the fashion magazine in black-tie regalia, in anticipation of their impending nuptials. The cover photo, shot by the legendary Annie Leibovitz, is stunning.
May 24th, 2014
Less understated than the Vogue cover is the actual ceremony at which West and Kardashian tie the knot. Though eventually settling in Florence for their nuptials, the pair and their entourage begin their trek in Paris, where their invitations originally stated the wedding would take place. The affair is star-studded and lavish; the wedding shot of them kissing breaks Instagram records. “It was the most amazing experience just to be able to share [the wedding] with so many family members and friends,” Kim says. “We wanted everyone to be on this love journey with us.”
June 21st, 2014
North turns one and is thrown a huge belated birthday bash in celebration. (Since Nori’s first birthday fell on Father’s Day, the celebration was pushed back.) “It was Father’s Day, so we hung out, we went to a few museums in New York” Kim told the Daily Mail. We just had a really low-key birthday – so it’s kind of her birthday week.” As is only appropriate, the party is Coachella-themed and nicknamed “Kidchella” and is replete with everything you’d expect: a ferris wheel, multiple stages, tie-dyed wristbands, hair braiding, and Jaden Smith. Given the age of North’s peers, one assumes that the amount of public urination is roughly equivalent to that found at grown-up Coachella.
Kanye performs at the Grammys for the first time in six years and sings “Only One,” written for and about Nori, and conjuring up the memory of his late mother in a deeply moving display. (The less said about the incident involving Beck and the Album of the Year, the better.) When the video for the song originally debuts in January on Ellen, West remarked that he “was going through my own version of the Terrible Twos. My daughter, she wants to express herself but she just doesn’t have the words for it” — a feeling he admits that he deeply relates to.
During a family vacation to Armenia, Kanye throws an impromptu free concert in Yerevan, performing six of his songs before literally jumping in a lake. The event was quickly shut down by the National Guard, but not before Kanye made a splash. According to Kim’s Instagram, Kanye woke her up and told her he was throwing a concert and that she was, “so happy I got to rock out with everyone in Armenia on our last night here!”
The beginning of the month sees the release of Kim’s collection of selfies, entitled Selfish. The book sells incredibly well and becomes the subject of numerous pro-Kim essays. Shortly after celebrating their second anniversary, the pair announce that the happy Kardashian/West family will soon be growing — they’re expecting baby number two, a boy, scheduled to arrive in December. “Precious moments like this when we were traveling on tour with you, are what I live for,” Kardashian posted along with an Instagram photo of Kanye and Nori on Father’s Day. “You’re such a good daddy to North & you will be the best daddy to our new son, too!”