“People think all I do is hang about with Kim, but that’s not the case at all!” Jonathan Cheban is an entrepreneur extraordinaire and friend to the stars, particularly the Kardashian family.
As a regular on Keeping Up With The Kardashians, and a social media star in his own right, he knows the influencer world inside out. He’s now branding himself as The Food God, because if anyone knows dining out, it’s Jonathan Cheban.
We spoke to Cheban about the future of influencers, how to stay relevant, and his thoughts on how the Ariana Grande concert tragedy has shocked the celebrity world.
On food snobery
“I grew up in New Jersey and I had to grow into this lifestyle of eating out a lot at nice restaurants. I didn’t do that growing up, I worked hard for it. We started going to Nobu and all these places and I thought wow this is unbelievable. We used to order the rock shrimp tempura. Then over the years, I would go with people who would order that and I began to think that’s so basic. It’s literally Nobu 101 not to order that. You just don’t order the rock shrimp. I’m uncomfortable as soon as I see someone ordering rock shrimp. I think oh god no, this is going to be an awful meal – they just seriously don’t know what’s going on.
I don’t cook. I don’t even have water in my house, unless someone brings it to me. I would never go to stores, like supermarkets, and buy stuff – that’s just weird. People have to bring it to me. One thing I hate more than cooking is cleaning. I also go to people’s houses who cook and the smells. My god, it’s so terrible for me, those food smells just don’t work with me.”
“In this business everything is about timing. If you rush things, you’ll burn out too fast. I’ve been on TV for like 9 years now so I know. I have a lot of different businesses. One of the ones I am focussing on is launching my new site, called Food God. I also have a food delivery business in the US called Prepped, and we deliver to half the country right now. I’m also launching some new Food God products such as deserts and things with truffle and caviar and all that kind of stuff.”
On being an influencer
“I’m an entrepreneur, an influencer and a reality star. You know I worked for so many years in publicity and working at making people and products and brands famous, and now I’m doing that with myself. Reality TV has been my main thing for so many years, but off the back of that businesses happen. I’m more than an influencer because I’m also on television. Some influencers are only on social media but I’m a super influencer – people want to see what I wear and do more so than just on Instagram. I’m way more than an influencer, because those kids are just showing you what they do on Instagram.
Influencers are becoming such a ‘thing’ and now everyone wants to be one. It’s either going to get all washed out and become like a big mess, or there will be the ones that stick out, like there are now, like the Kardashians. Every kid at like 10 now wants to be an Insta-star, Insta-famous. It’s not that easy either!
Snapchat you have to build from your Instagram. You have to tell people on Instagram to follow you on Snapchat and then do it on Instagram Stories too. My Snapchat is non-stop fun, it entertains people. I see some other people’s Snapchats and I’m bored out of my mind. Mine is just non-stop fun – it’s a movie.”
“I have always wanted to be famous. Before reality TV there were only TV and movies. I was like ‘I’ll never be famous because I don’t know how to act, nor do I want to read scripts’. I thought I was never going to be an actor so that’s how I got into PR. I loved the whole Hollywood thing and the red carpets and the fans. Then people started getting famous through reality TV and now there’s even more chance for people to become famous. Everyone’s phone is their own TV. People can try, but you know, it’s harder than it looks!
It’s important to be seen in as many places as possible, because people only see one thing. To be really famous, you need to get yourself across all platforms – not just Instagram, and not just TV. Not everybody is watching that show, they’re watching another show, so it’s about getting yourself everywhere. People see me on TV here in the UK and they see that part of me, then they see me on the Kardashians and that’s another part of me, and so on.”
On the Mail Online
“I absolutely love the Mail Online. The days of hiding from them, and from the paparazzi are over. If celebrities aren’t seen, they just disappear. Before those ones who were hiding were the only ones in town, but now those lot are the losers. Actors and actresses were the ones hiding from the paparazzi, but now it’s like there are hundreds of hot girls on the beach getting their photographs taken instead. I’d say to those actors and actresses that you’re getting old anyway, bye, keep hiding.
The Mail Online is so great because it’s like a diary of my life. Sometimes I’ll just look at old pictures on there of things I wore. They do have amazing pictures on the Daily Mail. It’s just so amazing I love it.”
On brands, brands, brands
“I love brands. It’s amazing and I do so many endorsement deals. I’m doing something in LA on Thursday for Star Vision where they will film me teaching people how to do stuff. Everybody just wants to corporate brands. You have to know where to put yourself. You can’t think yes I’ll do 7 Instagram pictures for money. I’m careful and I don’t just do deals for the money. The money has to be right, of course, but it also has to make sense for your personal brand. Honestly, 95 out of 100 deals I say no, sorry, I’m not doing it. I just pass it up. I’m so picky. I would rather get a big hit that pays 10 times what I could earn for one Instagram picture, and it’s the same for the Kardashians. I’m flying off soon to start filming again for Keeping Up With The Kardashians. We’re in the middle of Season 14 which is crazy. I was filming for two weeks before I came over to London, so I’ll be back and right into it again.”
Jonathan Cheban on the attack in Manchester at the Ariana Grande concert
“The attack has really rocked the showbiz world. What I’m hearing from inside the celeb world is that people are still going to carry on putting on concerts, and people will still go to them. Everyone wants to make it not a big deal and support Ariana. Big artists wants to show that they’re not scared, because otherwise people will just stop going anywhere. Then they [the attackers] win. I feel that definitely for the next few months it’s going to be very scary and uncertain, but from what I’m hearing, artists will still carry on doing their shows and tours. I was supposed to be in Manchester that day but I didn’t go. That got cancelled obviously, but that would have been the first time me going to that part of the UK.”
On inspiring others
“It’s a tough world out there and you have to stay relevant. For me, I love to keep going. For people who slow down or stop, their fame just fizzles out. There have been thousands of them. Being on TV for this many years I have seen so many people start shows and things which fail. If you are lucky enough to get this life, and everything that comes from TV and social media fame, you just have to go for it 24/7, which I try to do.”
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