The watershed profile that accompanies Caitlyn Jenner’s debut on the cover of Vanity Fair paints a picture of a woman who is happy, healthy, and “finally free” to live her life on her terms. But of course, the path to liberation was long, winding, and hard—and not everything in Jenner’s personal life is perfect.
Writer Buzz Bissinger reveals that Jenner’s older children, Burt, Cassandra, Brandon, and Brody—from two marriages prior to the Jenner-Kardashian union—have refused to appear on the upcoming E! reality show that will document Caitlyn’s life in the wake of her transition to womanhood.
While the Kardashian kids—including Kendall and Kylie, Jenner’s daughters with Kris Kardashian—have bonded with Jenner onscreen for the last eight years, Jenner’s other four kids have remained behind the scenes and sometimes removed from her life altogether. Now, per Bissinger, “they disagree with their father’s decision” to produce her reality show for E!, the same network that houses Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Bissinger writes,
... [D]espite numerous entreaties from their father as well as the head of E! programming, the Jenner children refuse to participate, forgoing financial gain and exposure in the process. At first their decision did not seem to register with Caitlyn. She kept hoping they could be persuaded because she knows from eight years on Keeping Up with the Kardashians the necessity of a family dynamic for ratings success. When she realized the decision was final, she became increasingly frustrated and on one occasion hurled profanities. She told me she felt “terribly disappointed and terribly hurt.”
Though the Jenner kids are vocally supportive of their father’s transition, the Vanity Fair piece suggests that they remain skeptical of the Kardashian machine and question whether an E! reality show would be more committed to affecting social change than devolving into madcap spectacle.
Complicating matters is Jenner’s history of absence from the elder kids’ lives, which Bissinger details in the profile. Jenner herself admits:
I have made a lot of mistakes raising the four Jenner kids. I had times not only dealing with my own issues but exes. [It was] very traumatic and there was a lot of turmoil in my life, and I wasn’t as close to my kids as I should have been.
Bissinger notes, in interviews with Jenner’s past wives Chrystie Crownover and Linda Thompson, that Jenner was not present at daughter Cassandra’s birth, nor at son Brandon’s high school graduation. Son Burt says things really fell apart when Keeping Up With the Kardashians was born:
“I think the nail in the coffin for the relationship was the beginning of the TV show,” in 2007, said Burt. “There was a you-aren’t-part-of-this kind of thing. Kris made the choice to make a good TV show that was in their image and brand.” As she put it in a book she wrote called Kris Jenner … and All Things Kardashian, the title “Keeping Up with the Kardashians and the Jenners just didn’t have the same ring to it.”
Given Burt’s assessment, you can’t blame the Jenner kids for being skeptical of reality TV.
The good news is that since Jenner’s transition, her relationship with her kids has gotten stronger—in part, she says, because she does not have anything left to hide. Bruce Jenner was “always telling lies,” she tells Bissinger. Caitlyn Jenner “doesn’t have any lies.”
Burt is optimistic about the change: “I have high hopes that Caitlyn is a better person than Bruce. I’m very much looking forward to that.”
Cassandra adds, “I feel like he’s been the closest to us and the best parent when he’s been moving toward his true identity.”
Jenner’s reality show is set to premiere this summer.