The best Kardashian on Keeping up with the Kardashians isn't even a Kardashian. It's Mary Jo "MJ" Shannon, who's Kris Jenner's mom and the Kardashian-Jenners' grandma (she's also a great-grandma to all the kids). MJ has been making more and more appearances on recent episodes of KUWTK, which Kardashian fans love. MJ is known for being super blunt, hilarious, and one of the most loving humans on that show. She's also the OG momager and entrepreneur in the family — and has a super fascinating background.
What's MJ's story?
MJ was born in Arkansas in 1934, and got married when she was just 18. "We were only married two months. Less than Kimmy," MJ said on a recent KUWTK episode. She later told Kim, "Right out of high school I was given an engagement ring. Guy I had been going out with for four years. And then I just thought 'this really isn't that much fun' so I got out of it." That should already tell you what a progressive lady MJ is — getting divorced like that was simply unheard of in the '50s.
MJ got married a second time to an engineer named Robert True Houghton (yup, baby True Thompson is named after him!), who is Kris's (and her sister Karen's) biological father. MJ and Robert got divorced seven years later. MJ's third husband was businessman Harry Shannon, and the two were together for 40 years until his untimely death (Harry died in a car crash in 2003). Kris has said before that his death was "so devastating for my family." Although Robert was Kris's "real" dad, Harry and Kris had an amazing relationship.
If you know Kris, then you know that she didn't come from riches. Everything that Kris learned about business came from her mama. When MJ was 15, she enrolled in a charm school (basically a school that taught women proper etiquette back in ye olde times) called Fashionality. She modeled for awhile, but then started up a children's boutique called Shannon & Company in 1980, after she married Harry. The original location in La Jolla, San Diego, has been reported as closed.
Kris said, "I used to work there when I was young. My dad was in a car accident in 2003, and when he was in the hospital, my mom wanted to close the store, but I said I would run it for her." The Kardashian sisters would also spend a lot of their time at the shop, too. MJ remembers Kim "sitting on this very floor and counting money. She would sing, 'Counting is the game, and money is my name,' or 'Money is my name and counting is the game.' Something like that." Sounds about right!
MJ and her family spent most of their time in San Diego, although they did move to Oxnard for a short time before Harry's business partner stole all their money. MJ, Harry, Kris, and Karen moved back to San Diego. Currently, MJ owns a condo in La Jolla *and* Calabasas. She's been pretty vocal about not really loving it up north. In an episode where Scott Disick takes MJ to a tea shop, she tells him Kris basically tricked her into moving to Los Angeles. At least she gets to back to La Jolla whenever she wants.
MJ beat cancer — twice.
MJ had both breast and colon cancer, and beat both. According to Kim, she's doing "amazing" now, even though MJ had a health scare last year when she was diagnosed with pneumonia and the doctors found a mass (it turned out to be an infection). In an episode if KUWTK, Kris brought up the fact that she moved her mom to be closer to her so she can make sure she's doing well. "This is why I wanted her up here in Calabasas so I can pop in and see if she's okay," Kris explained.
And not to worry, MJ has been self-isolating for nearly two months at this point. Since she's 85 and has already had cancer twice, she's much more at-risk to develop COVID-19 complications if she were to test positive for the virus. Please stay safe, MJ!
Mary Jo is all over the Kardashian-Jenners' social media accounts.
Not only is MJ featured in all the Kardashian-Jenners' social media pages, but Kylie got a tattoo of her name (and also named her first classic red Kylie Lip Kit after her). The Kardashian-Jenners are just as obsessed with MJ as we are, which is totally understandable. The family made a special legacy video in honor of the matriarch (grab tissues before watching).
We love MJ because she's honestly the realest one on the show — literally. Although she doesn't judge her family and their personal choices, she confirmed to Kim that she's never had any Botox, fillers, or plastic surgery. She's completely, 100 percent natural. She's also totally cool with eating weed gummies with Kris (remember that episode? MJ told Kris that her cooking was really good after eating chips out of a bag), and all the Kardashian-Jenner thirst traps.
"I think you like to be nude, all you guys. And half the people on the internet. I think it's a thing now. I don't got it, so I don't flaunt it," MJ told Kim. But when she was younger, she too, would forgo clothes. "I wore a bikini when I was younger. Even at home, I'd be dusting with an apron on and I'd have a bikini." YASS, Grandma MJ!
MJ, we love you. Keep doing you.