Kanye West was in tears. After pleading for George Soros to call him and questioning the legacy of Harriet Tubman, the musical maestro-turned-entrepreneur’s kick-off speech to his “presidential campaign” in South Carolina took a turn for the worrisome as West tackled the topic of abortion. He did so via a personal story about his famous wife, Kim Kardashian West—specifically, the time they learned she’d become pregnant.
“She had the pills in her hand,” West said, presumably referring to mifepristone, a medication used to stop an unwanted pregnancy. He said he had a vision from God to keep the child, before drawing a comparison to his own mother. “My Dad wanted to abort me! My Mom saved my life! There would have been no Kanye West…” he wailed, as a sea of iPhones trained on him, cameras rolling, hands clapping. “I almost killed my daughter! I almost killed my daughter!”
It was troubling to see West struggle to cope with his reality in front of a crowd of entertained fans, encouraging him to continue baring his soul for all to see, to give them more, more, more. Rather than loved ones standing by to show him support, he relied on these compliant strangers for affirmation.
Kanye West appears unwell. And his rally on Sunday seemed to elicit concern more than it did interest in his so-called presidential run. But before he started rambling about Second Amendment rights and how he claims to be a Christian, one can’t help but wonder—where were his loved ones? Where was Kim?
Yes, we are in the throes of a global pandemic, and yes, it’s easy to get tired of being around the same people day in, day out.
Still, your first presidential rally is pretty major. You’d think the spouse of the candidate would at least deign to attend. But there was West, alone and unraveling, with only his security detail to protect him.
West has battled mental-health issues for quite some time. In 2016, around the time he first came out in support of Trump, West abruptly canceled his musical tour when police were called to his trainer’s house after an altercation and placed him under a psychiatric hold. During an appearance on TMZ in 2018, he desperately pleaded for people to proclaim their love for him whilst proclaiming that American slavery was a choice and announcing his love for President Trump. He’s opened up on his albums about being bipolar, and how he’s neglected taking his medication in order to “truly” be himself.
In the midst of these apparent breakdowns, West has found himself manipulated and co-opted by conservative commentators who have been eager to take advantage of his pliability. During his TMZ meltdown, far-right activist Candace Owens was right there by his side, feeding him talking points. President Trump has notoriously used West for performative photo ops, with the hopes of improving his popularity in the Black community. And on Monday night, Fox News’ resident white nationalist Tucker Carlson seized on West’s South Carolina rally to push his own anti-abortion agenda, and mock those expressing concern for the rapper’s mental health.
While it isn’t the Kardashian-Jenner family’s responsibility to police West’s actions, their absence during his more concerning public episodes does raise questions about where their interests lie. This is, after all, a family with a rich history of mining tragedy for reality TV spectacle. Is it all about protecting The Brand at all costs, no matter the stakes, no matter the consequences? And generating premium, cringeworthy #content for their reality TV show?
You can bet your bottom dollar that Kardashian Inc. will use this latest West breakdown as more Keeping Up with the Kardashians fodder. Clips of a crying West will be spliced with concerned phone calls between Kris Jenner and Kim Kardashian West, shot well after the rally, with the two expressing concern, assessing their options, and hustling for sympathy points (for them, not West). West will then be dragged into a reality-TV confessional interview, as he has in the past when Kardashian West complained of having to “babysit” him, and forced to unpack everything for an audience of millions. Rinse, repeat.
How can anyone suffering be helped when the cameras won’t ever stop rolling?
On Monday night, after it was ruled that West would not appear on the South Carolina presidential ballot, he fired off a series of increasingly disturbing tweets that seemed to target his wife and her family, claiming that they’ve tried to have him committed to a mental institution on numerous occasions, referring to Kardashian West’s sex tape as her “sex rape,” alleging that Kris Jenner was not accepting his phone calls, and claiming that the movie Get Out is about him. (The tweets were soon deleted.)
One thing is certain in all of this: West’s support system has broken down. And the Kardashian-Jenners will, as ever, be spinning, posting, and filming through it.