Why is Blac Chyna suing the Kardashians? The trial explained

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The Kardashians and Blac Chyna are squaring off in court this month to determine whether the reality TV family defamed the model and conspired to ruin her career.

The trial, which is expected to last about a week, stems from Chyna’s $100-million lawsuit in 2017 that accused the Kardashians of defamation and contract interference.

Chyna — whose legal name is Angela White — was previously engaged to reclusive reality star Rob Kardashian, with whom she shares a 2-year-old daughter.

Jury selection in the case began Monday in Los Angeles, where potential jurors aired their grievances about the Kardashians and the brand of reality TV they represent. Eight male and eight female jurors — including four alternates — were selected to hear the case during a trial presided over by Superior Court Judge Gregory W. Alarcon, according to the Associated Press.

Opening statements were made Tuesday. Here’s what you need to know to catch up on the case.

Who are the key players?

A man in a black polo shirt and shorts puts his arm around a woman in a white dress

Rob Kardashian, left, and model Blac Chyna attend the Sky Beach Club at the Tropicana Las Vegas in 2016.

(Gabe Ginsberg / Getty Images)

Chyna, 33, is a former stripper who got her initial break when the rapper Drake saw her working in a Miami club and named her in a song. Rob Kardashian, 35, is the youngest child and only son of Kardashian “momager” Kris Jenner and late O.J. Simpson defense attorney Robert Kardashian.

Chyna and Rob Kardashian began dating in 2016 after the former broke off her engagement to rapper Tyga.

Not long after becoming a couple, the pair starred in their own E! reality show, “Rob & Chyna,” a short-lived spinoff of the cable network’s wildly popular “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” The offshoot was canceled after one season.

Chyna and Rob Kardashian got engaged in April 2016 and welcomed their daughter, Dream, that November. It later became clear that their on-again-off-again relationship was over for good amid a heated legal battle between the exes.

Though Rob Kardashian was Chyna’s way into the Kardashian empire, he is not a defendant in the current case. This time, Chyna is suing matriarch Kris Jenner and her daughters Kylie Jenner, Khloé Kardashian and Kim Kardashian. Siblings Kendall Jenner and Kourtney Kardashian are not named in the lawsuit.

The Kardashian-Jenner women stand accused of sabotaging “Rob & Chyna” to further their own interests, resulting in a loss of income and celebrity clout for Chyna.

What is Chyna’s argument?

A woman with short blond hair

Blac Chyna attends a news conference after a July 2017 hearing in Los Angeles.

(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Chyna originally named Rob Kardashian as the lead defendant in the lawsuit, but the differences in her allegations against him — such as revenge porn — prompted a judge in 2020 to sever that part of the case. He will be tried separately following the defamation and tortious interference trial currently underway.

The prosecution argued Wednesday that Kris Jenner falsely accused Chyna of physically assaulting Rob Kardashian as part of a coordinated effort to prevent “Rob & Chyna” from moving forward on E!

“Kris Jenner set out to have ‘Rob & Chyna’ canceled,” Chyna’s lawyer, Lynne Ciani, told the jury, according to the Associated Press. “And she brought in her three daughters to help accomplish that.”

Ciani claimed that Kris Jenner told the head of “Rob & Chyna” that Chyna beat Rob Kardashian with a pole and strangled him with the cord of a phone charger that left marks on his neck. However, Chyna’s attorney contended that her client did not significantly harm Rob Kardashian, citing unaired footage from the series.

Ciani accused Jenner and her daughters of reporting the abuse allegation to the decision-makers behind “Rob & Chyna.”

On Dec. 4, 2016 — the day Chyna and Rob Kardashian celebrated the renewal of their show for a second season — both sides confirmed that they got into an argument that permanently damaged their relationship.

Chyna testified Wednesday that she wrapped a cord around her then-fiancé’s neck that night and pointed an unloaded gun at him. But she claims to have done so to get his attention and in jest. The day after that, she alleged that a jealous Rob Kardashian swiped her phone, which led her to smash a gingerbread house and a TV and move out of their home. But she contends that she never hit him, nor did she do anything beyond damaging property.

What is the Kardashians’ defense?

Five women standing at a premiere, four wearing black dresses and the fifth wearing white

From left, reality TV stars Khloé Kardashian, Kourtney Kardashian, Kim Kardashian, Kris Jenner and Kylie Jenner arrive at an event in West Hollywood in 2015.

(Jordan Strauss / Invision / Associated Press)

In opening statements, the Kardashian and Jenners’ defense attorney, Michael G. Rhodes, argued that Chyna badly wanted the fame that the global superstars have.

“The evidence is going to show you that Miss White would say or do anything to be part of this family,” Rhodes said, and suggested Chyna’s lawsuit is a publicity stunt meant to enhance her own celebrity.

In court on Wednesday, Rhodes continued his argument that the alleged assault led to the couple’s breakup, and that’s why E! producers canceled “Rob & Chyna” — not because of the family’s machinations but because the show was about their relationship.

“There is no ‘Rob & Chyna’ show if there is no Rob and Chyna,” Rhodes said.

Aside from the current lawsuit, the couple has had a contentious legal history involving a temporary restraining order against Kardashian, a previous assault case and a protracted custody battle over their 5-year-old daughter.

Chyna was granted a restraining order in June 2017 after Rob Kardashian posted sexually explicit images of the model on Instagram and Twitter and accused her of cheating on him. The order barred Kardashian from coming near her, cyberbullying her or posting anything about her online of a personal nature including photos and videos.

Chyna also brought a domestic violence case against Kardashian in which she alleged that he hit her. But she dropped the case that September after they reached a private agreement.

The exes also initially reached a custody agreement that year, but neither formally followed it.

In December 2020, the pair reportedly agreed to share physical custody of Dream across an alternating weekly schedule and to share equal time over holidays and vacations.

They also agreed to be drug- and alcohol-free while caring for their daughter, a stipulation that stemmed from Kardashian — who at one point wanted sole custody but was denied it — accusing Chyna of using illicit substances while taking care of their child.

Chyna also has a son, King Cairo, with Tyga, the rapper who briefly dated Kardashian’s half-sister Kylie Jenner.

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