From king of the track to queen of the jungle? She's already an I’m A Celeb favourite, writes ALISON BOSHOFF, but nothing in the jungle could be as big a trial for Caitlyn Jenner as her astonishing transition
- Rarely has there been such a rapturous, excited reaction to a contestant on the show, now in its 17th year
- ITV bosses are surely hoping this will justify her reported £500,000 fee, the largest in the history of the show
- She has already astonished viewers by skydiving from 10,000 ft without any apparent nerves
Passing a first night in Australia, in the quiet of the Bush Telegraph, there were tears and doubts. Caitlyn Jenner mused: 'I'm 70 years old now and is being in here the right way to use my time? Should I be home with my kids, playing with the grandchildren?
'I've never quit at anything I've ever done and I'm thinking maybe it's time I learned how to do that.'
However, by the time dawn had broken, her indomitable spirit had returned. 'The day has started, I have the hat on, let's get it on,' she said.
Indeed, her sang-froid is such that on Monday, barely 24 hours in, she became the joint favourite to win I'm A Celebrity. Bookies report a run of wagers on her — at one point around 25 per cent of all bets placed were going on Caitlyn to win.
Creature discomfort: Braving snakes in a trial on I’m A Celebrity. Rarely has there been such a rapturous, excited reaction to a contestant on the show
Online fans have been gushing their love for this 6ft 2in, Olympic decathlete gold medallist turned glamour-puss. 'I am LIVING for Caitlyn Jenner,' one enthused. Another equally smitten fan declared: 'Caitlyn Jenner is absolutely hilarious! She's going to make the show this year.'
Rarely has there been such a rapturous, excited reaction to a contestant on the show, now in its 17th year. But then there has never been anyone like Caitlyn Jenner before.
Indeed, her no-guts, no-glory transformation from all-American hero Bruce Jenner — a three-times married father of six — to designer-clad woman called Caitlyn is a story more riveting than any told in the jungle before.
ITV bosses are surely hoping that this will justify her reported £500,000 fee, the largest in the history of the show.
She has already astonished viewers by skydiving from 10,000 ft without any apparent nerves, and emerging perfectly made up.
Online fans have been gushing their love for this 6ft 2in, Olympic decathlete gold medallist turned glamour-puss
No less impressive was her reaction to a large spider in a Jeep — which sent muscle-bound rugby tough guy James Haskell scrambling for the door, screaming. She just arched a perfectly made-up eyebrow at the kerfuffle and stayed in her seat.
Not much, you sense, will scare Caitlyn.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Caitlyn doesn't spook easily. After all, she married and divorced Kris Jenner, the infamously manipulative and terrifying Kardashian matriarch, and lynchpin of the hugely popular Keeping Up With The Kardashians reality TV show, which made the family household names.
She also underwent repeated surgery to become the woman she is today.
To physically become Caitlyn, she had a nose job, breast surgeries, a tracheal shave to reshape her Adam's apple and ten hours of facial feminisation surgery, creating that dainty chin.
She finally took the plunge and had her 'irritating' penis surgically removed in 2017, explaining: 'I was tired of tucking the damn thing in all the time.'
Along the way, considerable physical discomfort was involved. She once tried to fix a drooping eyebrow herself by using glue — a procedure she doesn't recommend. 'It's a bitch to get off,' she advised.
She also had electrolysis — a painful procedure that destroys hair follicles — on her facial hair every week for two years, without anaesthetic.
So what's a piffling little spider when faced with all that? While Kate Garraway struggled with the first Bushtucker Trial — locked in a box with 50,000 insects as well as rats — Caitlyn remained cool.
She was even able to crack a joke: 'That's right, send in the American to feed the Brits,' when the public voted for her to do a trial, which is how contestants earn their meals.
Jokes aside, her transformation to the gender she had yearned for since childhood has come at a high cost to herself and her family.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Caitlyn doesn't spook easily. After all, she married and divorced Kris Jenner, the infamously manipulative and terrifying Kardashian matriarch, and lynchpin of the hugely popular Keeping Up With The Kardashians reality TV show (pictured), which made the family household names
Relations with biological daughters Kylie, 22 — the lipstick billionaire — and Kendall, 24 — the supermodel — are rocky. Neither woman has mentioned Caitlyn's latest project on social media (on which they are prolific), which is telling.
She is also estranged from son Brandon, 38, from her second marriage, although building bridges with daughter Cassandra, 39. She has said she regrets her past failings as a 'selfish' parent.
Even today, her love life is complicated. She says she remains attracted to women, although she is now one herself. However, she says that she has 'no appetite' for sex and 'little interest' in it. Whether she has a girlfriend is a moot point.
King of the track: At the 1976 Olympics as Bruce
Her current companion, Sophia Hutchins, was born male. And while they call each other 'loving partners', it is unclear whether this is a business relationship or a love affair. Hutchins is 47 years Caitlyn's junior and the director of her charity foundation.
So far, so complicated. So who is this would-be Queen of the Jungle? The Caitlyn Jenner story starts in October 1949. She was born and raised as Bruce Jenner in Westchester county, New York, the son of a tree surgeon and veteran of the Normandy landings.
A talented athlete and formidable competitor, she achieved national fame after winning gold in the decathlon at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. By this point, she was married to first wife Chrystie, an air hostess. Bruce and Chrystie had married in 1972 but in 1973 she confessed to her that she wanted to be a woman.
Chrystie later recalled: 'There was no indication in any area of our marriage. I loved him, and tried to be understanding. He said it was a fantasy and he wasn't going to act on his desire.'
They had a son, Burt, now 41, and Chrystie was pregnant with Cassandra, known as Casey, when they decided to separate. Caitlyn had by then fallen in love with wife No 2. As Chrystie said: 'He fell in love with someone else so there wasn't any way to make it work.'
Her second wife was Linda Thompson, famously one of Elvis Presley's girlfriends. They were married from 1981 to 1986 and had children Brandon and Brody, 36.
In 1985, Caitlyn was once again thinking about gender reassignment surgery. After her second marriage ended, she lived on her own in Malibu and started to take hormones in order to transition. Her breasts grew to a 34B.
She thought she might have gender reassignment and come back into her children's lives as 'Auntie Heather'.
Caitlyn told the camp on Monday night that she would drive around LA listening to Aerosmith's Dude (Looks Like A Lady) while dressed as a woman.
She said: 'I thought I was gonna transition before I was 40. I didn't want to be an old chick. But this is the late Eighties and I never felt like I fitted in anywhere. I was trying to figure myself out, running around town, cross-dressing, running around.'
She met Kris Kardashian at a Hollywood golf tournament and married her in 1991 after they had been dating for only five months. They had daughters Kendall and Kylie, and Caitlyn was a step- parent to Kourtney, Kim, Kylie and Rob, Kris's children by the late lawyer Robert Kardashian.
Her second wife was Linda Thompson, famously one of Elvis Presley's girlfriends. They were married from 1981 to 1986 and had children Brandon and Brody, 36
She even appeared in the American version of I'm A Celebrity in 2003, and came in fourth place.
In Keeping Up With The Kardashians, the reality TV phenomenon which started in 2007, she was only a bit-part player.
Kris, the 'momager', was front and centre and remains the manager of all six children. Bruce, on the other hand, was a clueless, perpetually disgruntled patriarch in a house of strong, successful women.
Kim Kardashian said she caught her stepfather dressing as a woman in 2005 and was told it would be explained to her one day but that she needed to keep the secret for now otherwise 'Kris will kill me'. Did Kris know? She has always maintained she didn't. She said: 'There was no, 'I am transgender.' She keeps saying she told me but she didn't.'
They separated in 2013 and a year later questions were being asked about Bruce's changed appearance. Kris shook them off, saying: 'He's a great guy. I love him. I don't know what he's going through right now.'
At this early stage, Caitlyn seems to be going out of her way to be nice to her fellow campmates.
Caitlyn Jenner with her current partner Sophia Hutchins. At this early stage, Caitlyn seems to be going out of her way to be nice to her fellow campmates
Caitlyn Jenner And First Wife Chrystie Scott
Caitlyn came out as transgender in 2015, telling Vanity Fair magazine that her marriage breakdown with Kris was '20 per cent gender and 80 per cent the way I was treated', adding: 'I think in a lot of ways Kris became less tolerant of me. Then I'd get upset, and the whole relationship kind of fizzled.' Stepdaughter Khloe found it hard to deal with finding out about what was going on from the media rather than from Caitlyn herself.
Kris has struggled to understand what the transition meant about their 24 years together. She said: 'I have these memories of this life, and I feel sometimes like it didn't exist. Why would you want to be married and have kids if this is what you wanted since you were a little boy? Why would you not explain this all to me?'
Another time she raged on camera: 'I honestly wish I never met this man. I mean, just f*** you, Bruce.
Caitlyn was hurt because she felt estranged from the children. She said: 'Day after day, month after month, nobody calls, nobody checks in. Just, 'Hey, how are you doing?'
'I haven't gotten that phone call from anybody. You can't help but sit there and think, 'OK, is it because I transitioned? They don't like me any more?'
Relations fell to a low again after Caitlyn's memoir, The Secrets Of My Life, was published in 2017. 'Everything she says is all made up,' Kris raged. But they are now on good terms.
Daughter Cassandra says that she is on better terms with Caitlyn than she ever was with Bruce. She said: 'We didn't talk for years, and now we see each other every couple of weeks and talk on the phone, which I am grateful for. She's happier and more appreciative of her family. She is trying harder and there is a softness to Caitlyn that is new to me.'
In an interview before she went into the jungle, Caitlyn said: 'Dealing with other people is by far the hardest thing. It's much more difficult than dealing with the most poisonous snakes in the world. That's easy: just stay away from them!
'You can't get away from the other people and it will be a very different experience for me. Last time, I did it with a bunch of people from the States who I knew of. This time it's a bunch of people from the UK I potentially won't know.'
At this early stage, Caitlyn seems to be going out of her way to be nice to her fellow campmates.
The former Girls Aloud singer Nadine Coyle was comforted by Caitlyn when she started weeping at the prospect of a skydive. Caitlyn told her: 'It'll be the greatest experience of your life. When it's over, you'll say it was great.'
They are words you can imagine Caitlyn has repeated to herself many, many times.