Caitlyn: Marketing Ploy or Honesty?

By now everyone knows that Bruce Jenner, well, is no longer Bruce Jenner. She has become quite simply Caitlyn. The news has taken the world by storm. Bruce, once the embodiment of masculinity and deemed “the world’s greatest athlete” is now a woman. Almost immediately many have asked about the real reason behind Caitlyn’s transformation? It seems unfathomable that anyone would go to those lengths just to gain attention or to promote their show. But there is growing speculation surrounding Caitlyn that may never completely dissipate. For starters we have to consider how she is set to gain $5 million dollars for her docu-series and how her appearance fee has shot up from $25,00 as a man to $100,000 after her transformation. She is after all part of one of the most successful clans in showbiz history.

Caitlyn Jenner, as Bruce, was part of a highly successful TV reality series called Keeping Up With The Kardashians. This series at its height averaged 4 million viewers. Currently it averages 2 million viewers. The Kardashians as a family has been highly publicized and if there is something that you cannot say about the Kardasians/Jenner family is that they lack marketing skills. Perhaps it is this mastery of popular culture that has many scratching their heads and doubting Caitlyn’s motivation. Is it a marketing ploy or is it genuine? 17 million viewers tuned in to see Bruce Jenner reveal that he had always felt like a woman. One thing is certain, the transformation purposefully or inadvertently is a money making machine.

When you first heard that Bruce Jenner was going to undergo a sex change, what were your initial thoughts? Having seen Keeping Up with the Kardashians, it might have almost seemed like this was bound to be a PR stunt from the beginning, especially without having any previous knowledge of Bruce’s lifelong struggle with his identity. Undoubtedly, the Bruce to Caitlyn transformation has been a saga of hope and inspiration, but how much of it was also the work of marketing and PR genius?

If you watched the special on Bruce Jenner, you’d know that his claim to fame came from his gold medal in the decathlon at the 1976 Summer Olympics. But this isn’t how Bruce, now Caitlyn, got to where she is today. After the Olympics, Bruce became a media icon and used his status as an all-star athlete to promote products like Wheaties. He also became a motivational speaker, garnering top wages for appearances. Before the Olympics, Bruce was a lower-middle class American and an insurance salesman, but his natural PR talent allowed him to gain great fame and fortune in the years that followed.

This all just seems to beg the question, how much of this most recent story was PR and marketing, and how much was actually the stuff of a real, hopeful narrative of human courage and perseverance? It can be easy to get cynical quickly once you see the numbers. E! Entertainment is reportedly paying Caitlyn $5 million for their special on her to air in July, and Caitlyn is making four times as much as Bruce ever did for appearances at a whopping $100,000 a pop.

Erika Kauffman of 5WPR seems to think otherwise. She notes that there’s obviously the ability to make Caitlyn a profitable venture, including apparel and makeup advertising and even potentially product lines, but she likes to think this is really just about Caitlyn. However, it’s not a stretch to think this isn’t about the bottom line. The Kardashian family, for all their pretense and appearances as celebrity wastrels, are brilliant at marketing and doing business. For all those who criticize their show, which is virtually about nothing, the family maintains a mastermind capability to reel in viewers and get massive press, and they’ve continued to do so for about ten years.

Caitlyn has been boosting the Keeping Up With the Kardashians ratings too. According to E!, the show’s viewership has dropped to 2.1 million viewers recently, which is half the viewers the show had when it originally came on the air, but Caitlyn has been a boon for getting the numbers back up. And for the Bruce special with Diane Sawyer? E! reports that it received 7 million viewers, but the actual number that’s been reported more widely is 17 million. Across the internet, Caitlyn was also a sensation, setting a record on Twitter with more than 1 million followers in a few hours after her new account @Caitlyn_Jenner was created.

So what gives? If you’re thinking that some planning must have gone on behind the scenes to get this just right, you’re not wrong. Caitlyn reportedly hired the legendary Hollywood publicist Alan Nierob to steer the story. Nierob is of highly acclaimed accolades, having helped many famous celebrities and actors through difficult times, including Mel Gibson’s meltdown which was replete with racist remarks. But Nierob wasn’t a new character in Caitlyn’s life; he’d successfully helped Bruce back in the 1980s for suppressing a story about his cross-dressing. Nierob did an outstanding job, and the story never leaked. It was an easy decision for Caitlyn to have gone to him for his assistance during her transformation, and Nierob once again worked his magic between getting the Diane Sawyer interview, the Vanity Fair cover story, and the internet release on Twitter. Sometimes, it’s worth it pay the money to hire a professional who knows what they’re doing, and Caitlyn Jenner clearly made a wise choice for her big debut.

The other side of the coin is the inspiration that Caitlyn will be able bring to the LGBT community who has always felt ousted. She has been adamant about emphasizing how embracing her true identity will help other’s who feel alone and are in the same situation she found herself in for so many years. In her own words, the reason for coming out was because “We are going to make a difference in the world with what we’re doing.”

There are still those who believe that Jenner coming out, while laudable, is far removed from the experiences most LGBT people face. Being rich and a media sensation certainly helps to soften the blow of acceptance that perhaps other’s would not have the luxury of having. It is still uncertain whether Caitlyn will focus her particular brand to the LGBT community, if she will ultimately take up their cause to make significant changes or if she will just ride the Kardashian/Jenner roller coaster and market herself to mainstream media as has always been the case.

Bruce Jenner’s transformation to Caitlyn Jenner certainly shocked the world. It was almost inevitable for the the story to have its share of controversy. It was even expected. However, it is too far fetched to think that someone would go to those lengths to create a persona just for cash. Of course, stranger things have been done for money. Only one person really knows the truth: Caitlyn.