Kendall Jenner Opens Up About Modeling, Shying Away from Family Name and Parents' Divorce

Kendall Jenner sat down with ABCs Juju Chang in an interview for "Nightline."PlayABC News
WATCH Kendall Jenner, Stepping Out on Her Own

Although Kendall Jenner is known for being a part of the reality TV Kardashian-Jenner clan, the 19-year-old says she has tried to distance herself from her family in an effort to make it as a serious model.

“I’m not trying to use a family name or anything,” Jenner said in an interview with “Nightline.” “In reality I worked pretty hard for this… It wasn’t like I just got it magically and it just happened.”

And her hard work has paid off. Jenner has been anointed by Vogue’s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, she has appeared in the magazine, often considered the fashion world’s Bible, she has been in Givenchy ads. And this weekend, it was announced that she had landed a massive cosmetic contract as the newest face of Estee Lauder.

“Estee Lauder is one of the most prestigious brands in our entire business,” said Jenner’s modeling agent, Chris Gay of The Society Management. “They are very careful when they choose and select a model... To actually wrap up a deal like that within your first year, is unheard of.”

Joining the Estee Lauder family, Jenner said, was one of the biggest breaks of her career, followed by walking in a Marc Jacobs Fashion Week show in February. Jenner, then 18, wore a see-through top and fierce make-up, which included bleached eyebrows, on the runway, and many people were shocked by the revealing outfit.

“Who’s going to argue with Marc Jacobs when he’s putting you in an outfit, you know what I mean?” Jenner said. “It was an amazing moment. And I do not regret it.”

In trying to make a name for herself on her own, Jenner dropped her last name from her modeling cards and initially told Kim and her sisters not to come to her runway shows.

“It was more of a mutual understanding,” Jenner said. “I remember getting a phone call from Kim… ‘I just wanted to let you know, I just got an invite to the Marc show. I don’t think it’s a good idea that I go. Do you agree?’ And I was like, ‘I completely agree’ ... She obviously is who she is, and it would’ve almost taken the attention away from me.”

While her sister Kim is trying to "break the internet," Jenner is focused on modeling. Her mother Kris Jenner is her manager, and the last place you might expect to find Jenner is in the boxing ring when her face is, quite literally, her fortune. But so is her physique, so she incorporates boxing in her workout routine.

“I would just always be looking at these supermodels who were just so amazing to me,” she said. “They were like superheroes. ... They were magical. ... I want to be some little girl’s superhero. I want to be, I want to be the best role model I can be to a little girl or to a little boy or to anybody.”

Jenner is the second youngest of nine siblings in a complicated family whose day-to-day is captured on reality TV. Jenner literally came of age on “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” a minor character on the series and its spinoffs, and that’s the way she likes it.

"Everybody knows I’m like a little more shy, especially when I was younger, I was super shy,” she said. "When I was a kid, I was so homesick at all times. I would go to a friend’s house and I would be 'all right, I’m going to have a sleepover, Dad.' He would be like, 'great.' I would call him at like 9 p.m., 'Dad, come pick me up please.'"

Despite her celebrity family, Jenner says her childhood was a happy one with a glamorous mom, with whom she and her sister Kylie, the baby of the family, are incredibly close.

Jenner is equally tight with her father, Bruce Jenner, an Olympic gold medalist, who once leant his expertise to Kendall’s track and field team.

“He was like the main coach for the high jump. It was more like technical stuff. And I ended up being the number one high jumper in my entire school."

Jenner said it wasn’t easy seeing her parents’ separation and ultimate divorce play out in public.

“It sucked, but it’s not-- I try to think of it as it’s not the worst thing that could have happened,” she said. “I still am so close with both my dad and my mom. Nothing has really changed, except for the fact that now my dad lives on a beach, which is awesome. That’s not that bad... everybody’s happy.”

But that didn’t stop the tabloid headlines from running amok, to which Jenner said she will usually just “brush it off.”

But even the triumphs come at a cost when you’re part of such a polarizing family. This fall, the Australian tabloid “Famous” ran a photo of Kendall with the headline, “You’re Too Fat For Runway,” but Jenner chose not to acknowledge it.

“I don’t feel the need, you know what I mean? Let them do what they want to do. Let them sit behind a computer and write stupid things about a young girl and make her feel bad about herself,” she said. “I think it’s cruel and it’s evil.”

Instead, she just chose to just move on, because, as she put it, the scrutiny “comes with the territory.”

“Why would you ever want to live your life like that? So like, just traumatized, by what everybody is saying about you?” Jenner said. “If you just ignore it and go on and you’re like, ‘I know what’s real.’ My family, my friends, they know what’s real. So what else, why does that matter?”