I remember the first time I heard about Kim. It was 2003 and her sex tape had just been “leaked.” My mother (along with every other adult woman I knew) talked about her with a palpable level of disdain. After the notoriety she received early in her career, the talk surrounding her grew more and more polarizing. I would often hear that she was slutty, untalented, and most often, “famous for being famous.” I wasn’t too interested in her. At the time I thought she would fade out of the public eye and live a quiet life… but I was wrong.
Not only has Kim Kardashian West stayed in the public consciousness, but she has created billions of dollars of opportunities for herself and her family well beyond that one initial tape. She’s a reality star, beauty mogul, model, and icon. She has leveraged her fame into a powerful empire. In the minds of most of the general public, she’s an obscenely wealthy celebrity who’s also a great businesswoman. And for much of her mainstream fame, she hasn’t done much to change that… until, that is, April of last year.
After seeing Alice Marie Johnson’s story in a Mic op-ed video on Twitter, Kim took her platform and did the unexpected, meeting with President Trump to pardon the first-time, non-violent drug offender who had received a life sentence for her charges. Working with Jared Kushner (then Senior Advisor to the President) and a team of lawyers, Kim asked Trump for clemency for Johnson, and he agreed. After years of incarceration, Johnson was now a free woman.
When I first heard about this benevolent action I didn’t quite believe it.
The public’s perception of Kim being a self-obsessed celebrity had clouded this objectively good deed.
I, like many others, wondered how she had gotten into politics — and was she even qualified?
When a photo of Kim and Trump came out, The New York Post tweeted a sexist cover of the two, with the headline “TRUMP MEETS RUMP”, once again reducing her to her ass (which, quite frankly is a tired insult that needs to disappear). The comments on that photo expressed similar sentiments praising The Post while simultaneously belittling any good she may have done.
As the dust settled the public figured this was going to be a one-time thing — Kim would help this woman and it would be the end of it. But then she kept going and even decided to become a lawyer like her father (who had become famous for being an integral part of OJ Simpson’s legal team).
Suddenly, she had aided in the release of 17 inmates in just 90 days. And the public was forced to admit that she is serious about this — and she’s actually making quite a difference.
Currently, Kim is staying (mostly) out of the spotlight as she studies for the 2020 bar exam which will make her an even more adept advocate for those in the prison system. Her focus on prison reform and restorative justice practices, similar to abolitionism, will undoubtedly change many more lives.
Love her or hate her, she’s one of the few people who have gotten the President to make moves for inmates, including her role in passing the FIRST ACT bill that ensures inmates are released from prison job-ready, with major incentives to pursue life-changing classes that will help them succeed.
Despite her prior choices, the public’s misconception of her, and all the hate she’s endured for the past decade, she has slowly but surely shown the world that she’s more than just a pretty face, an outlandish personality, or a sex object. This is what Kim Kardashian West should be famous for.
Johanie Cools is a blogger, writer, book editor, and aspiring author. Follow her on Twitter @jmartdotcom.
Artwork by: Juliet Romano Design.