Two years ago and two tubs of ice cream deep, the now-29-year-old Philadelphia native was surfing the web when he came across ads looking for people who were "fat and depressed," two words which immediately resonated with him, he told PopCulture.com exclusively.
He sent in a video to the casting company then and there, Häagen-dazs in hand, talking about his tough upbringing, suicide attempt and unrelenting thoughts that he had "failed at everything."
The casting director for what would become Revenge Body with Khloé Kardashian called him back the next day, and the two talked from sunup to sundown.
On Jan. 7, the charming former foster kid appeared in the season premiere of the E! reality show, which featured his dramatic and inspirational 12-week, 50-pound weight loss. Instantly beloved by the Kardashian fans known as "Ken Dolls," who embraced him, he brought a smile to fans' faces with an instantly meme-able moment in which he sprinted from the gym when confronted by the intensity of no-nonsense trainer Corey Callie.
Butler had always been a fan of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, he says, but didn't know that he'd be coming face-to-face with Khloé and Kim Kardashian during his weight loss journey when he first applied.
Sitting one-on-one with the Good American designer, Butler said his life felt surreal.
“I can’t believe I’m sitting here; I used to watch [Khloé's] show since it started," he told PopCulture.com. "I never talked about that ... nobody knew!"
Later, when Khloé set him up with sister Kim for help getting his fashion career off the ground, Butler was shocked once again, bolting at the sight of his idol, who he hilariously called "Shesus" to the delight of many fans.
"I still hate Khloé for that," he joked.
Getting to meet the women to whom he looked up to for so long was amazing, he said, but when it came time to open up about what led him to his miserable state to Khloé, he halted.
“In the beginning, it was so hard to trust somebody with my story … so to say that to her on such a global platform was a humongous deal," he said. “She literally said, If you don’t say it here, I can't protect you from the world or media or nothing.”
Khloé was pushing the self-admitted "bulls—ter" to open up about a rough past, which started with him taking care of his disabled mother at a young age until he was placed in foster care at age 14. Fashion design had always been a passion, and he began to work as a sales associate and brand ambassador for companies such as Chanel and Gucci, interning at Vogue Magazine until the death of his mother and constant pressure caused him to gain a significant amount of weight.
No longer fitting into designer sizes, Butler found himself depressed, unemployed, and eventually homeless, but continued to stunt on social media to hide his internal pain.
Shortly after he was cast in the first season of Revenge Body, Butler discovered there was a warrant out for his arrest for writing bad checked and theft by deception. Butler was able to negotiate with the credit card company, who eventually dropped the charges against him, and worked overtime for a year to pay off the debt. The reality show had moved on without him, but was overjoyed when he was able to film for the second season of the show, he said.
But as soon as filming began, the media caught wind of his brush with the law, forcing Butler into a shame spiral that almost derailed his journey.
"It got the best of me for a minute," he told PopCulture.com, until he got a motivating call from Khloé, who threatened to block his exit physically herself until he agreed to stick with the program.
“She never gave up on me, even when I almost gave up on myself," he said, adding that she kept telling him, "You're gonna change so many people's lives, you don’t understand.”
Since then, not only has he slimmed down from 242 pounds to a lean, mean 192, Butler has used his connections and paycheck from the show to launch an online fashion magazine and lifestyle website, KenButlerWorld.com. The night the episode aired, the website crashed four times from the unexpected surge in traffic, Butler says, and he can't wait to move his eye for style and candid writing to a print product in the near future.
"It’s been the craziest experience ever, because how I was with Kim, people are now with me," he said.
His suicidal thoughts have also stopped since the end of filming Revenge Body, and the fashion blogger is now in therapy twice a week to keep himself well mentally.
To the haters who call the Kardashians self-absorbed or talentless, Butler has one message: "At the end of the day Khloé and Kim didn’t change your life. ... They don’t know them in real life.”
He continued: “For me, I have the utmost respect and loyalty to them for the rest of their lives.”
Revenge Body returns to E! on Feb. 11 at 10 p.m. ET.
Photo credit: Instagram/@kenbutlerworld