Kim Kardashian is starting a new career. She announced in Vogue’s May issue that, after 12 years of starring on Keeping Up with the Kardashians and assorted spinoffs — plus using the associated notoriety to launch a multimedia empire — she’s adding a new responsibility to an already full plate: She’s studying to become a lawyer. And predictably, social media responded to the news by erupting with jeers.
“Why make a mockery of the hard work, diligence, respectability and INTELLIGENCE it takes to be a lawyer?” one Twitter user asked in response to Vogue’s tweet about the news. “You can have ambition, but not too much. Please stay in your lane.”
The general idea seems to be that Kim Kardashian’s thing is her famous body and the spectacle she creates with it on her reality shows. Anything else — anything that might require intellectual labor — is outside of her purview.
But Kardashian has already pulled off an impressive legal accomplishment. Last year, she successfully convinced Donald Trump to commute the prison sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, a grandmother serving life in prison without parole for a drug crime.
Kardashian told Vogue that she loved the experience of making a tangible difference in someone’s life, but it also made her realize that she was out of her depth. “The White House called me to advise to help change the system of clemency,” she said, “and I’m sitting in the Roosevelt Room with, like, a judge who had sentenced criminals and a lot of really powerful people and I just sat there, like, Oh, shit. I need to know more.”
To that end, she decided to post up in a law firm. She’s following an apprenticeship path to the bar: Since Kardashian didn’t finish college, she’s studying with a group of practicing mentor lawyers for four years, rather than going to law school. After that, she’ll take the bar exam, and if she passes, she’ll have all the credentials she needs to practice law.
Kim Kardashian’s background actually makes a certain amount of sense for a lawyer
It’s not hard to see why Kardashian’s announcement is funny or surprising to a lot of people. The slots to which pop culture has assigned the Kardashian dynasty (famous butts, baby drama, trashy TV shows) don’t mesh easily with the things we generally associate with lawyers (prestige job, probably extremely smart). But Kardashian’s background actually makes a certain amount of sense for this career move.
In early episodes of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kim’s “thing” is that she’s extremely good at digging up dirt on people: You see her gleefully hacking into the voicemail accounts of her sisters’ boyfriends to figure out if they’re cheating or not. In later years, she uses these chops more publicly, leading to juicy gossip fests like the #KimExposedTaylorParty, when she released video evidence that seemed to show that Taylor Swift was lying about Kardashian’s husband Kanye West. That’s the kind of skill set that is extremely useful for a lawyer.
Kardashian has also become more political over the past few years. Besides working to get Johnson out of prison, she also campaigned for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. She certainly hasn’t become a progressive icon, as the recent scandal over her promoting appetite suppressants to her teen fan base illustrates, but she’s demonstrated that she’s interested in politics now and that she wants to make a difference.
And Van Jones, the activist who led the charge to get Johnson out of prison, pointed out to Vogue that Kardashian’s family history would make her turn to the law if she wanted to work toward these political efforts. “This is the daughter of an accomplished attorney [her father Robert Kardashian famously defended OJ] 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,” Jones said.
The other easy comparison to make here would be to Trump. Like Trump, Kardashian is a reality TV star who decided she wanted to jump into something more serious and consequential. But Kardashian is not running for the highest office in the country without any political background whatsoever. Kim Kardashian’s educating herself. She’s picking up the credentials she needs to make a difference in a field that makes sense for — and inspires — her.
“I just felt like I wanted to be able to fight for people who have paid their dues to society. I just felt like the system could be so different, and I wanted to fight to fix it,” she told Vogue, “and if I knew more, I could do more.”