Kim Kardashian is no stranger to the spotlight. After nearly 16 seasons of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, the world has been let into nearly every aspect of her life, and what the show missed, social media and the press filled in. But recently Kardashian has caught our attention for reasons other than her A-list lifestyle — her activism, and Van Jones' quotes about Kim Kardashian and President Donald Trump make an important point about activism.
Kardashian is featured on the cover of Vogue's May 2019 issue, and with it comes a spread diving into her activism work and her role in the release of Alice Marie Johnson, a nonviolent first-time drug offender who was serving a life sentence in prison without parole and was pardoned by Trump on June 6, 2018 at 63 — 21 years into her sentence. Kardashian met with Trump in the Oval Office on May 30, 2018, along with CNN's Van Jones and several attorneys, according to Vogue. Following their meeting, Trump granted clemency to Johnson a week later on June 6.
According to Vogue, this was the result of long and hard work on Kardashian's part. She had been working with #cut50, a national bipartisan advocacy group focusing on criminal justice reform, co-founded by Jones and attorney Jessica Jackson. For months, Kardashian had been working with the group, making visits to prisons, petitioning governors, and going to meetings at the White House, and apparently, when it comes to the latter her role was crucial.
Jones told Vogue in their April 2019 issue that while he and other activists were in the room, "Kardashian wound up playing this indispensable role." Jones explained that he was in the Oval Office during the June meeting and she's the one that managed to make an impassioned plea to Trump. He said,
I was in the Oval Office with Kim and Ivanka and Jared and the president, and I watched with my own eyes Trump confess to having tremendous fears of letting somebody out of prison and that person going and doing something terrible, and the impact that that would have on his political prospects. He was visibly nervous about it. And I watched Kim Kardashian unleash the most effective, emotionally intelligent intervention that I’ve ever seen in American politics.
But how was it that Kardashian was the one able to get through to Trump? Vogue noted that they were the only two in the room who had some common ground: fame. Jones told Vogue that Kardashian uniquely "understood" how to appeal to the nature of Trump, and had the perspective of what it's like to have your decisions be made in the public eye. He said,
Kim understood that he needs to be seen as taking on the system, and she helped him to see that there are people who the system was against and that his job was to go and help them. And it was remarkable.
Jones also made a great point about Kardashian's public image and the stereotypes about her, noting that yes, she's entirely capable of promoting makeup lines and addressing criminal justice. He brought up the point that people who know Kardashian as just a reality start or "party girl" might truly be underestimating her. He told Vogue,
For people who have fallen for this media caricature of the party girl from ten years ago who hangs out with Paris Hilton? This is the daughter of an accomplished attorney and the mother of three black kids who is using her full power to make a difference on a tough issue and is shockingly good at it.
Kardashian first learned about Johnson in 2017 after seeing a short documentary made by Mic, and decided to become her advocate. Johnson, a grandmother, had been sentenced to life in prison for a non-violent drug crime in 1996.
“I knew that I had the resources to do that. It became this mission that I just didn't want to give up,” Kardashian said during a June 2018 appearance on the Today show after Johnson was set free. She said that it had been more than seven months in the works.
It's pretty clear that there's a whole other side to Kardashian that maybe the public hadn't noticed before, but it's definitely worth paying attention to. Good on her for pursuing it.