On Oxford Street in central London, hundreds of teenage girls caked in make-up push against the firmly closed side entrance of Debenhams. Nearby, a sexagenarian woman with a clipboard barks instructions at an army of nubile ladies wearing violet mini-dresses and clutching little glass perfume bottles. "When she arrives I want all of you, in the crowd, spraying," she orders. Blue Cross Sale Day this isn't.
After a long wait, a black Range Rover pulls up. The door opens, and suddenly the air is on fire with a noise like a billion lobsters being boiled alive. The crack unit in violet springs into action, but their frenzied dousing does nothing to abate the excitement of those who have waited, many overnight, for a glimpse of the world's most famous backside. Socialite, model, actress, campaigner, reality star, blogger, entrepreneur. So reads Kim Kardashian's list of occupations, confirming her as possibly the brightest star of the post-Jade Goody firmament. In a world where an absolute lack of any discernible talent has been firmly established as no barrier to fame and fortune – and where the greater a person's stated number of professions often provides a guide to how little they can actually do – Ms Kardashian, and her sisters Kourtney and Khloe, are the undisputed masters.
Many might be forgiven for never having heard of her. But viewers of entertainment channel E! or regular readers of red-top newspapers, showbiz and gossip columns would probably recognise her voluminous posterior from space. Glamour magazine this week named her its Entrepeneur of the Year. The Kardashian name first entered the public consciousness way back in 1994, when Kim's now deceased father, the US-Armenian lawyer Robert Kardashian provided room and lodgings to his friend OJ Simpson in the days after the murder of Simpson's ex-wife and her alleged lover. Kardashian would later form part of Simpson's defence team during the so-called "trial of the century". But it was a 2007 reality TV show called Keeping Up With The Kardashians that propelled the family – and particularly middle daughter Kim – into the dubious glare of the celebrity limelight, where they have remained ever since, becoming arguably the most-discussed family in America. Kim has since appeared as a judge on the US version of The Apprentice, launched perfumes and other products, and appealed to President Barack Obama to recognise the Armenian Genocide of 1915.
She is also easy on the eye, as Piers Morgan's beaming grin acknowledged when she and her elder sister Kourtney took up position on each of his knees to promote their recent appearance on his talk-show.
Keeping Up With The Kardashians, which starred the sisters alongside their mother and her new husband, Olympic gold medal-winning decathlete Bruce Jenner, is among the most popular in the US. It was hardly the first, or best, show of its type when it launched in 2007, but the intrigue was stoked somewhat by the "leaking" some months earlier of a less-than-amateurish sex tape of then 26-year-old Kim and rapper Ray J.
This week the Kardashian circus's biggest act arrived in London. Kim may be less well known here, but still drew the crowds. "She's amazing. She's what every girl wants to be," said Jessica, 20, from Horsham, who had slept on the pavement outside Debenhams to be among the sacred 150 who would be granted a chance to meet their idol (provided they had forked out the requisite £29.95 for a bottle of her perfume). "She's got fragrances, she's got a shoe line, she's got her own reality TV show."
Angela, at 34 is a little older than most of the assembled masses, said: "Everyone's done something in their lives they regret", in reference to the leaked sex tape. She had arrived by train from Birmingham the previous night, and also camped out on the street. The fact that Kim Kardashian is not really famous for anything is an argument her fans do not accept. "The people who say she's got no talent, she doesn't do anything, well, look at her, she could easily be a model and people would respect her for that," protests Jessica. "People say her TV show is scripted. Well, if it is you've got to be a good actor to carry it off, haven't you?"
The male demographic, to whom her appeal might seem fairly obvious, is conspicuous by its absence, but a few are present. "My girlfriend loves her. I wanted to get her an autograph," says Joe, 19, from Croydon, before adding: "I didn't know it was going to be like this."
Kim Kardashian Inc. in numbers
4.1m Average ratings for the most recent series of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, making it the top-rated show among free-spending 18-to 34-year-old females, much coveted by advertisers.
$2m Cost of the engagement ring given to Kim by her basketball-playing fiancé, Kris Humphries.
$35m Kardashian's estimated wealth. She and her fiancé are negotiating a prenuptial agreement.
$10,000 Amount Kim is paid per tweet by advertising service Ad.ly to tweet product plugs to her 7 million followers.
$5m Amount she was paid by adult film company Vivid Entertainment for the distribution rights to her sex tape.
$1m Price for which Kim said she would sleep with Britney Spears.
1 Number of cosmetic procedures that Kim has admitted to having. "I tried Botox once," she said. Her mother and sister Kourtney have both had breast implants.