When Refinery29 published a 4,000-word profile on Kim Kardashian’s assistant yesterday, I regret to inform you I dropped my work tout de suite and read it feverishly. Fortunately for all involved, my work does not involve power tools.
It was a surprisingly informative read, and not in the way I expected. If I came for the behind-the-scenes scoop on America’s royal fam (sorry everyone, I don’t make the rules!), I stayed for the woman behind them, Stephanie Shepherd. Sure, her story — which takes her from rural Ohio to driving to Kanye’s house in her Audi A4 while dictating texts to Kim via Siri — might be a little rag-to-riches cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less compelling. It’s hard to come by a Hollywood-adjacent success story that celebrates quiet, hard work over fame.
The piece is packed to the gills with work tips, without even meaning to be. Shepherd, who’s in her late 20s, came to Los Angeles to be a dancer and ended up the COO of Kardashian West Brands. A casual career arc. If you’re looking to make a leap of equal or lesser value, consider the below advice, which I’ve gleaned from Stephanie’s professional rise. Apply it to your own career and who knows, this could be you:
1. Build North’s stroller and plan her parents’ wedding, too.
Be as down for the menial work as you are the glamorous work.
Shepherd does her work — all her work — with excitement, no matter the task. “Assistant to Kim since 2013,” writes Refinery29’s Arianna Davis, “Shepherd has been responsible for everything from putting together North West’s first strollers to getting Kim down the aisle in Italy.”
2. Be such an incredible assistant that your boss will want to refer you.
Don’t underestimate the importance of being a competent and hardworking employee, even if you don’t feel important. It will open doors.
Shepherd came to L.A. to dance, but ended up assisting a choreographer instead. But she took the gig, and worked hard. “After a few years working for [choreographer] Minden and Girardi and a few freelance backup dance gigs for artists like Pitbull, Minden’s business partner and former Pussycat Doll Robin Antin asked Shepherd if she might be interested in an assistant job with a friend of hers: Kim Kardashian. And just like that, dancing became a distant memory.”
3. Tell Kim you can do it and then figure the rest out later.
It’s okay to be nervous and fake it at first.
Of her interview with Kim for the assistant gig, Shepherd explains, “[Kim] had no makeup on and was in her sweats, super pregnant with North. She was just like, ‘Look, I need help, Robin loves you and says great things about you; this is what I need. Can you do it?’ And I was like, ‘Okay, sure, I can do that — and if I can’t, I’ll figure it out!’ Meanwhile in my head, I was so nervous.”
4. Stay late at Kim’s until shit is more than taken care of.
Exceed your boss’s expectations whenever possible.
“I was doing her whole schedule, doing her laundry, booking travel, putting the stroller together and all of these things. But I wasn’t nervous. I was just excited,” Shepherd says of her first months on the job, “always staying longer than I needed because I was trying to prove myself.”
5. Keep your trunk stocked with Kimoji merch.
Anticipate your boss’s needs and be ready in the wings.
“Shepherd is still in assistant mode,” Davis writes of her time with Shepherd, “constantly checking her iPhone and revealing a trunk fully stocked with Kimoji paraphernalia. ‘With Kim, you never know when you might need to gift some merch!'” A good employee is always prepared.
6. Once you know the exact amount of time it takes to get from Kris’s to Kourtney’s house (to the minute), ask for a promotion.
Get your job down to a science, then move up.
Shepherd explains the transition she made from acting as Kim’s executive assistant to helping with Kim’s growing businesses. “My role has expanded outside of just an executive assistant… I’m basically Kim’s liaison at this point,” she tells Davis. “Every time she launches a product or makes a move to own her brand, it’s essentially like launching a startup. … The assistant stuff is like second nature now; I don’t even have to think about it. I know her, I know her schedule, I know how long it takes to go from Kourtney’s to Kris’ down to the second, I can map it out.”
“It was time for a title change.”
7. Hire Michael — he’s saved your ass so many times!
Extend a hand to people who have helped you in the past.
At one point Shepherd hired an old coworker from her dance assistant days to be Kim’s personal assistant. “…I’ll check in with her personal assistant, Michael, who I also brought on to the team — he used to work with me and Erika,” Shepherd explains. “I knew I could trust him because when we worked together before, he saved my ass so many times!”
8. Text Kim all day every day.
Stay in close touch with your boss. Communication is key.
“Obviously Kim and I text all day every day,” she says, “from the second we wake up until we go to bed, so we just bounce off ideas, like, ‘Oh my God this is so funny, let’s make it a Kimoji!’ It’s fun to have an idea and see it brought to life.”
9. Absorb everything you can from Kris Jenner.
Find a good mentor, figure out what they do well and then emulate it.
“Kris Jenner is a fucking G,” Shepherd says. “The biggest lesson she’s taught me is to not procrastinate. When you want something done, get it done. If you’re a procrastinator, this is not the world for you. If someone tells her no, she has no problem standing her ground…”
(Or just make Kris your mentor from afar?)
10. Appreciate the spoils, but don’t forget you still have to schlep the bags.
Don’t let work perks distract you from your responsibilities.
As Kardashian staff, Shepherd gets to travel the world and enter spaces she’d otherwise never get to, but she never forgets her job. “Truly, this family is so much fun, and we go to some amazing places and do some incredible things. But don’t forget that when you’re an assistant, with all of that glamour comes schlepping the bags and the suitcases and taking the fall when the car doesn’t show up or the flight is delayed or something goes wrong.”
11. Don’t let the followers go to your head.
“Sometimes I think about how it’s such a weird thing that people want to know or even care about me,” she says, of her 700,000 IG followers, “just because I work for Kim.”
12. Tell Kim when you fucked up.
Own up to your mistakes and then fix them.
Shepherd says she’s made plenty of mistakes, but that hasn’t slowed her down. “I’ve fucked up a lot. I’m only human,” Shepherd says. “…[I]f you mess up, take responsibility and own it. I’ve fucked up, I’m human. But I will just say, ‘I am so sorry, and I will fix this.”
13. Find Kanye that board game he wants and don’t complain.
Don’t think “no,” think “how.”
“I say be resourceful. If your boss wants or needs something, you gotta do whatever it takes to make it happen. Don’t ask questions, just make it happen.” She tells a story about being in San Francisco when Kanye suddenly wanted to play Cards Against Humanity (lol). She had to find the game immediately, no questions asked.
14. Don’t expect a makeover from Mario Dedivanovic, but say yes if he offers.
Delight in gifts, don’t demand them.
Shepherd has developed a healthy attitude about the perks of her job, keeping in mind that they are frills. It keeps her focused. “I’m not that fussy about all that stuff,” she tell Davis of her beauty routine. But if Mario Dedivanovic, Kim’s makeup artist, offers to do her face: “I’m not gonna tell him no!”
15. Be willing to take a bullet for Kim.
Be protective of and serious about your work.
Shepherd has developed a rep for being super protective of Kim. “Wherever we are, my instinct is just to protect her. I would truly take a bullet for her. But somehow she remains so composed in these huge crowds, or when she’s being followed by photographers.”
^Here she is protecting Kim from a creepy dude.
16. Go to yoga, but text Kim first.
Take PTO, but plan for it in advance.
After years of working so hard she didn’t even have time to date, Shepherd says she’s started to take some time for herself. This became particularly important late last year when Kim was doing the same thing post-robbery. “[W]e needed those four months to just really reflect on what’s important,” Shepard explains. “Now I’ll text Kim and her assistant Michael to say, ‘Hey guys, I’m off the grid in yoga for the next hour,’ just so they know where I am in case the world ends in those 60 minutes. But that one hour is me time.”
17. Remember Kim’s wedding is about Kim and not you.
Put your job before yourself when you’re on the clock.
Shepherd puts Kim first. “I didn’t even get to watch the ceremony because I was also filming — I often producer-cam the more personal moments for the show, when they don’t want full-on cameras around — so I was filming everyone getting ready,” she explains, regarding Kim and Kanye’s Florence wedding in 2014. “And then Caitlyn lost her suit, so I had to locate it; all the girls are getting ready, we’re getting Kim together, we’re in this castle; Kanye is down rearranging the floral arrangements and all this stuff, all while I’m trying to film. I was in Adidas sweatpants and a T-shirt and hadn’t showered that day!”
Wow. Have you sacrificed your hygiene for your boss lately?
Photos by Stephanie Shepherd via @steph_shep.