UPDATED throughout with breaking news: Just hours after E!’s Keeping Up With The Kardashians star Kim announced she’s pregnant with her second child with Kanye West — big news in reality TV circles — Kim got totally upstaged when Vanity Fair blasted out to media the cover of its June issue featuring her step-parent/upcoming E! reality series star Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce Jenner, on the cover, in an ivory satin teddy.
In maybe the biggest walk-up ever to a reality-series launch, Jenner also launched her new Twitter account; within an hour she’d snagged 278K followers. Within four hours, she had 1 million followers, reaching that milestone faster than President Barack Obama when he launched his personal Twitter account May 18. It took POTUS just under five hours to hit the 1 million mark. Another benchmark Jenner has yet to hit: stepdaughter Kim has 32.2 million Twitter followers.
The much anticipated Vanity Fair cover — shot by Annie Leibovitz, with accompanying interview written by Friday Night Lights author Buzz Bissinger — is sure to be one of the magazine’s biggest-selling issues ever. That’s pretty big in and of itself, but Caitlyn didn’t stop there. Within hours, ABC made the well-orchestrated announcement Jenner will be honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2015 ESPYs, airing on ABC, live on July 15 from the Nokia Theatre. And that’s less than a week before Jenner’s E! reality series is scheduled to premiere.
“Being honored with this award, which is named after one of my heroes, is truly special,” Jenner said in re the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, adding, “For the first time this July, I will be able to stand as my true self in front of my peers.”
Yup, it’s going to be the most watched ESPY Awards ever. Which, in turn, will probably goose opening night numbers for the E! series, on which the network has not yet announced a name — but the day’s still young.
Back in April, the network announced the as-yet-unnamed eight-part, one-hour series would premiere Sunday, July 26 at 9 PM on E! and will also air on E! channels internationally.
ABC News had landed that Jenner interview after a heated battle in which many navel lint gazers put their money on NBC News grabbing the “get,” given that E! is a network of NBCUniversal. In today’s ESPY announcement, ABC noted that nearly 40 years ago, Bruce Jenner’s Olympic gold medal success (he’s considered by some to be one of the greatest Olympians of our time) “came as a result of strengthening both his mind and body leading to his status as one of the world’s greatest athletes, but the decision to publicly come out as a transgender woman took a different kind of courage and acceptance of one’s self.” The ESPY’s Courage Award is presented annually to individuals “whose contributions transcend sports.”
Jenner already has showered ABC with some record Nielsen ratings back in April when, while still using the name Bruce and referring to herself with masculine pronouns, she gave an exclusive interview to Diane Sawyer on the second night of the May sweep ratings derby. That night Jenner said, for the first time, he was transitioning to a woman. About 21 million people watched that special, 20/20: Bruce Jenner – The Interview in Live+3 viewing stats; it also clocked the best Live+3 demographic result for any newsmag since Nielsen started reporting DVR and delayed viewing numbers in 2007.
It was during the Sawyer sit-down we got our first taste of the well-oiled Jenner promotional machine, when E! finally acknowledged, during one of the ad breaks, what had been rumored for weeks; Jenner was going to star in her own reality series on the cable network that’s home to all things Kardashian, documenting Jenner living life as a transgender woman, and seeing her “new normal.” The eight-part, one-hour series premieres Sunday, July 26 at 9 PM on E! and will also air on E! channels internationally.
Jenner’s first tweet this morning read: “I’m so happy after such a long struggle to be living my true self. Welcome to the world Caitlyn. Can’t wait for you to get to know her/me.”
Today has been quite a start.