‘I Am Cait’ Premiere Recap: Caitlyn Jenner Reveals Her ‘True Identity’ to Family

27 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘I Am Cait’ premieres; New York transgender woman says Caitlyn Jenner is ‘a real activist’.

Those looking for a waist-deep wallow into the further reaches of the Kardashian swamp with Sunday night’s premiere of “I Am Cait” would be disappointed by what aired instead: a clean, clear, and often compelling slice of TV, documenting the day-to-day unreal reality of Caitlyn Jenner, fresh from her public debut as herself.

With exclusive footage and interviews, this documentary shows how Vanity Fair’s editors and Caitlyn Jenner collaborated on her culture-shifting debut.”Look at that cover, baby!” The opening moments of I Am Cait, E!’s new eight-part series following as she goes public with her gender transition, featured a tense Jenner waking up at 4:30 a.m. the morning of her Vanity Fair cover debut.”You should just come over at a time when I know she’s there and I’ll just pick out an outfit for her to wear and I’ll say, ‘Oh my god, I’m gonna take you to dinner. Over the years, the grand arc of reality TV has described a changing relationship with celebrity: The initial allure of the stuff was its chance for regular people (those willing to live on an island or sing on a stage) to step into the momentary glare of the spotlight.

Last month, Caitlyn Jenner introduced herself to the world in a groundbreaking, 22-page Vanity Fair feature photographed by Annie Leibovitz and written by Pulitzer Prize winner Buzz Bissinger. She couldn’t sleep because she was so anxious about the now-iconic cover reveal, but once it hit the Internet, she received nothing but positive responses. The moment the pair laid eyes on one another, the elder Jenner beamed and enveloped her daughter in a hug. “It’s OK,” Caitlyn told her mother, to which Esther responded, “I knew it would be.” Over the course of the episode, however, the pair sat down to hash out the emotions that lay beneath the surface.

Now, in this new documentary by Jeremy Elkin for VF.com, Jenner, Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, and the magazine’s staff reflect on putting the story together, keeping it under wraps in the hacking-scandal era, and unleashing it to a response that was even more overwhelming than expected. Obviously, Caitlyn (formerly known as Bruce) was incredibly famous on her own, winning the decathlon gold medal at the 1976 Olympics and becoming known as the greatest athlete in the world. The first hour of the show went from tense to happy to tearful and back again — a much more serious affair than the typical episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. She admitted that it’s going to be difficult, as she put it, “for me to think of you as ‘she’ and to say ‘Caitlyn’ when I want to speak with you or call your attention.” But her attitude, more than anything, was one of resolve to do the work she needs to do to come to terms with her daughter’s new life. “I loved him with all my heart, and I certainly love her with all my heart.”

Moments after wrapping her session with Leibovitz, Jenner reflects: “You look at some of the people, the [transgender] pioneers who tried to get the message out. That is, until she met ex-wife Kris Kardashian, who thrust the entire family in the spotlight, from covers of magazines to landing a reality show on E! I really thought that Caitlyn was very sincere when she went to see the parents of Kyler Prescott, the 14-year-old transgender teen who killed himself.

I really feel she is trying to use her spotlight to draw attention to the problems that transgender people have, and that’s what impressed me the most about the show and about Caitlyn Jenner herself. She caught her first reflection of “Caitlyn”—in full hair, makeup, and clothing—in a mirror positioned behind her during the photo shoot. “From a distance, I looked in the mirror and thought, Oh my God,” she said. “It’s the first time I really saw an image of me, who I am.” Jenner says the image assured her: “This is going to work. . . . One of Caitlyn’s goals is to show how coming out as a transgender woman affects her family, through the good and the bad, and she’s particularly concerned about the well-being of her kids. But despite the fact that the 88-year-old will need time to get used to calling Caitlyn by the right name and using the correct gender pronouns, she had beautiful things to say every time she reflected on the transition. “It’s a lot of getting used to, but I will,” she said. “You have the same soul you were born with,” she told Caitlyn.

And we see her mother: “He’s still Bruce to me,” she tells the camera through tears, closed eyes, and clenched teeth, her words still finding themselves, her smile gently collapsing. Says Carter, “It’s a way that a magazine cover [still works] and you can use the Internet rather than fight the Internet on a big story.” The magazine did, however, have to take special security precautions to protect its exclusive. “The photos and text were put onto one computer that was off-line,” explains associate managing editor Ellen Kiell. “Each day, the designer, copy editor, researcher would work on that one computer.” When it came time to deliver the feature to the printer, Kiell flew to Lexington, Kentucky, to personally hand-deliver the finished product. But that’s where Kim Kardashian and her superstar rapper husband Kanye West arrive — in a surprising twist, they are the family ambassadors charged with representing the Kardashians during Caitlyn’s first episode.

The first glimpse of Caitlyn that Kylie saw was via FaceTime after having dental work done, and Caitlyn was so nervous that she kept pointing her phone’s camera away from her own face. While 17-year-old Kylie Jenner had a very touching scene where she bonds with Caitlyn, Kim and Kanye’s appearance was so Kim and Kanye, and it shows how the family will fit in future episodes: A mix of emotional moments but also typical Kardashian ridiculousness. And despite no slack in the expected glam factor, the grim facts of the difficulties facing transgender people are kept firmly foregrounded throughout. (This episode culminates with a visit to the family of transgender teen Kyler Prescott, who comitted suicide at age 14.) It’s a side of the transgender experience that few of us, Jenner included, have witnessed before; and it’s moving to watch Jenner let her story figure out how best to tell itself. But I remember there was one time where my mother was meeting me in Queens to go to a friend’s wedding, and she looked at me all made up, and she said, “You look very beautiful. The secrecy worked, and the feature gracefully launched Caitlyn as the elegant, inspiring, authentic person she had spent decades struggling to become.

At first, Kanye stands grinning on the sidelines as Kim raves about Caitlyn’s look: “You know, the one thing I’m really shocked about is how skinny you are,” Kim assesses. “You literally look like Kendall. Marveling how her coming-out story eclipses all of Bruce’s achievements—Olympic gold medal included—Jenner says tearfully, “I never thought that someday I would be able to do this.” Like Kendall’s mom.” Then Kanye pipes up: “I mean I think this is one of the strongest things that have happened in our existence as human beings that are so controlled by perception,” he tells Caitlyn. “‘Cause you couldn’t have been up against more. They then traveled to a beautiful beachside park where they released balloons in Kyler’s honor and Caitlyn spoke to friends of the late teen who’d also contemplated suicide. “Seek help,” Caitlyn said. “You just have to get through the day.” But now, with some new clothes by Tom Ford and Diane Von Furstenberg, Kim is satisfied. “Secretly dying?” Caitlyn asks, remembering Kim’s loud objections.

Then she pulls out a little black dress that she really loves — only to be informed by Kim that her mom, Kris Jenner, has one exactly like it in chocolate brown. They even devise a plan where she’ll trick Kris into wearing the dress, and then invite Caitlyn over. “Wouldn’t that be the funniest thing ever?” Caitlyn exclaims. Having the therapist there when she told her mom was a great touch for the TV show, because the therapist gives a broader insight to the audience that this isn’t just one family’s struggle — it’s all families.

Probably not to the many viewers who can imagine that unbelievably awkward scenario — but to the Kardashians, that’s just the sort of wacky prank they pull.

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