Caitlyn as popular as Kim? Americans cautious as Jenner transgender show airs

Thu Jul 23, 2015 12:27pm EDT
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By Jill Serjeant

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Caitlyn Jenner is ready for her close-up with the launch of her reality show on Sunday but Americans may not be as eager to welcome the former Olympic champion as a transgender woman onto their televisions, cereal boxes and billboards.

Despite the furor last month over Jenner's glamorous coming out Vanity Fair photo as Caitlyn, she still has a way to go to keep up with Kim Kardashian - her reality queen step-daughter - in terms of popular appeal, according to marketing experts.

"In New York and California, she (Jenner) has become a very accepted story. It remains to be seen what people think about all this in Ohio or Oklahoma," said New York branding consultant Hayes Roth.

With "I Am Cait" set to make its premiere on E! television on Sunday, the market research firm E-Score, which tracks the popularity of some 8,000 celebrities, said this week that Jenner is liked by 23 percent of those it surveyed and disliked by 34 percent.

People are unsure about Jenner's motives for the show, said Gerry Philpott, CEO of E-Poll Market Research, which produces E-Score. "They will be looking to see if she is exploiting the transition for publicity and money or is sincere in her efforts to present transgender issues."

After becoming the fastest account in Twitter history to reach 1 million followers in June, @Caitlyn_Jenner now has 2.7 million Twitter followers.

Kim Kardashian, perhaps the world's best-known reality TV star thanks to "Keeping Up with the Kardashians," has 32 million Twitter followers and estimated earnings last year of $52 million, according to Forbes. That comes largely from her clothing, kids clothing, sun tan, fragrances and video game products, some of which are joint ventures with her sisters.


Caitlyn Jenner, recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, is seen on a TV set in the press room during the 2015 ESPY's award show at Nokia Theater in Los Angeles, California July 15, 2015. Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports