As the Alpha and the Omega of influencers, Kim Kardashian came out with perhaps the most surprising revelation of her career Monday when she announced that she had taken one step closer to being able to practice law in California by passing the state’s First-Year Law Students’ Exam. Over the last few years, Kardashian has been instrumental in freeing unfairly imprisoned Americans like Alice Johnson, a Memphis grandma hit with a life sentence for a bit part in a cocaine selling operation in 1996. But much of Kardashian’s good work has been dismissed or ignored in some circles because it took the cooperation of the Trump administration to get it done.
On this week’s episode of Bari Weiss’s Honestly podcast, the world’s most famous woman discussed why she decided to take on this mission, what it’s like to wield true influence beyond the realm of social media… And why even she couldn’t stop Kanye from wearing that MAGA hat.
Bari Weiss: You were credited for helping swing Trump’s support for the First Step Act, which has changed the lives of so many Americans. There were a lot of people who on the left who criticized you a lot for working with Trump, for normalizing him. What do you say to that?
Kim Kardashian: I really don’t care about the criticism. I mean, my reputation over someone’s life? Destroy me then. I really don’t care. It was not even an option. And he did the right thing.
I’m just about doing the right thing; I’m really not about politics at all. It’s really about the people inside and if I can do anything—no matter if it’s Obama, Biden, Trump, I’m willing to work with anybody. It’s not really about being liked. If I could change someone’s life, that’s what it’s about for me.
BW: Why are you doing this now? Why decide to study law when you are at the height of your business career and a mom of four?
KK: I was always that girl who was really interested in staying home and watching true crime shows and listening to true crime podcasts. Then I saw [the Alice Johnson] case that really resonated with me. I didn’t understand why someone who had a low level, first-time drug offense had the same exact sentence as Charles Manson. I sent the case to my attorney, and once I saw that I was able to make a difference there was no way that I could stop.
I got invited to a clemency meeting in the Roosevelt Room. And there were all of these really high-profile, high-powered people, and everyone seemed to speak this other language that I didn’t. I was bringing my attorney everywhere with me to translate, so I could really digest what everyone was saying. I wanted to know more so that I could do more.
BW: I remember in 2020, when Alice Johnson was pardoned, there was a picture of you meeting with Donald Trump… Some people saw it and thought, “Are we living in a simulation?” And others were like, “Why does it take a Kardashian lobbying Donald Trump to get a person like Alice Johnson out of prison?” I wondered what you thought of that. Do you think that celebrities have too much power?
KK: I would probably think the same thing, too. “Why does it take a Kardashian to get someone like Alice Johnson out of prison?” I think our laws are completely unfair, and that experience really opened up a lot for me. I would have done anything to fight for her, and I don’t care if it took a Kardashian or who it took to fight for what’s right to get her—and so many people—out.
BW: One of the biggest explosions of online outrage that I can remember was in 2018, when Kanye performed on SNL and he wore the red MAGA hat. What lesson, if any, did you learn from that?
KK: I was very nervous. I didn’t want him to wear the red hat. I’m not really a rule breaker, so my personality would be like, “OK, you guys don’t like the red hat? I’ll take it off.’” I remember other people were around and it became a thing where he wasn’t going to go on because he wanted to be who he is. I’m very neutral, but that night I was very forceful with him, and argued with him like, “You have to take that hat off.” And now looking back, I think, why should he take that off if that’s what he believes in? Why can’t he wear that on TV? Half of the country voted for him, so clearly other people like him.
I learned a lot from that situation. No matter what, it taught me to be a little bit more empathetic for people that just want to do what they want to do: freedom of speech! And if you want to wear the hat, wear the hat. I respect the fact that he knew exactly what he believed in and always stood by that. To me, that’s a good quality to have, no matter who is against you and no matter what the circumstances are. I think that it’s just admirable and it’s just a really cool quality. Even if it’s not what I agree with, or even if I would have done it differently, I think it’s commendable.
BW: The strangest thing someone’s asked you to sell or promote?
KK: I think the irony of selling diet pills and cupcakes and promoting Carl’s Jr. and Sketchers to work out all at the same time was really wild.
BW: What do you smell like?
KK: I smell like gardenia and like tuberose all the time.
BW: Who’s your favorite SNL cast member?
KK: What a setup! Bari, you know.
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