Kim Kardashian is facing intense criticism after her “advice for women in business” went viral across social media.
In case you haven't seen it, Kim, her sisters Khloé and Kourtney Kardashian, and their mom, Kris Jenner, recently sat down for a wide-ranging interview with Variety, during which they discussed their booming business empire.
Variety released a short video clip of the interview, with a caption stating that Kim was sharing “her best advice for women in business.”
“I have the best advice for women in business. Get your fucking ass up and work,” Kim says in the clip, before adding, “It seems like nobody wants to work these days.”
She goes on to say: “You have to surround yourself with people that wanna work,” garnering agreement from her sisters and mother, who can be seen nodding beside her.
“Have a good work environment where everyone loves what they do, because you have one life. No toxic work environments,” she adds.
In the hours after their interview was published, Kim’s comments in particular sparked a rapid wave of criticism from readers who expressed their outrage online.
People were quick to highlight the fact that Kim — despite having risen up the ranks to her current billionaire status — was born into a life of immense privilege in Beverly Hills. In case you didn’t know, Kim is the daughter of Robert Kardashian, who was famous for being a member of O.J. Simpson’s “Dream Team” of attorneys.
With Kim having grown up with a significant head start in life, people on Twitter suggested that she should not be lecturing the general public on what it takes to achieve success, as her comments signified a lack of awareness.
“It’s probably true that the Kardashians work hard, and Kim seems to have the most hustle of the bunch,” one Twitter user wrote. “But to ignore the pre-career privilege — a famous, uber-rich father & vast LA network that included Paris Hilton at her peak of fame — is tone deaf at best, offensive at worst.”
“I love when people who were born to obscenely rich, highly networked and well connected parents pontificate about importance of work,” agreed another.
One Twitter user even shared photographs of Kim at age 16 receiving a BMW from her father, demonstrating that she started out with far more wealth access than the vast majority of those she was offering business advice to.
Others claimed that Kim’s statements directly promoted a damaging capitalistic narrative by suggesting that a person’s work ethic directly correlates with their monetary success without acknowledging the vast number of economic and systemic factors that impact a person’s access to wealth and work opportunities.
“I think if you grew up in Beverly Hills with super successful parents in what was simply a smaller mansion… nobody needs to hear your thoughts on success/work ethic. This same 24 hours in the day shit is a nightmare. 99.9% of the world grew up with a VERY different 24 hours,” wrote actor and activist Jameela Jamil.
“It's easy to work hard when you work for pleasure rather than survival, when you're free to take a vacation or a mental health day whenever you like, without the worry of losing your home, or going hungry, or losing your children because you can't provide for them,” someone else tweeted.
And calling out the unhelpful narrative that hard work directly equates to success, another user, who calls himself a "CEO just trying to stand up for the underdog" in his Twitter bio, wrote: “Kim K is one of the hardest working people out there but hard work is not a very good predictor of success in business. For every success story there are 100 other people working 2 jobs and living paycheck to paycheck.”
“I don’t doubt that Kim Kardashian works hard, but let’s not diminish the struggles of many women in the world,” one person agreed. “Her success and the struggles of others are not solely related to work ethic and more successful individuals need to acknowledge that.”
Others suggested that as a billionaire, it was likely that Kim had profited off the poorly paid — or even exploitative — labor of those who work for her garment and cosmetics businesses, SKIMS and KKW Beauty.
“Esp billionaire kim kardashian saying this. you know that there is no ethical way of being a billionaire and the only way you can be a billionaire is by labour exploitation? who are you to say anything about hard work and people not wanting to work?” someone said.
A running theme in the criticism was that nobody was denying that Kim has worked hard.
It’s no secret that Kim — with the help of her mother and likely an army of employees — has cleverly marketed herself to the very top of the media industry, owns several thriving businesses, is dedicated to studying law, and has become a force in the world of criminal justice reform. She's done this all while parenting four young children (likely with significant childcare help).
In the wider Variety cover story from which the original comment was taken, Kim hit back at the decade-spanning accusations that she is simply “famous for being famous,” asserting that she and her family have worked their “asses off” to get to where they are today.
“Who gives a fuck,” she said in response to the assumptions about her rise to fame. “We focus on the positive. We work our asses off. If that’s what you think, then sorry. We just don’t have the energy for that. We don’t have to sing or dance or act; we get to live our lives — and hey, we made it. I don’t know what to tell you.”
With all this in mind, plenty of commenters were quick to give Kim her dues, highlighting just how far she’s come since she first shot to notoriety in the 2000s.
“For y’all to think Kim K doesn’t work her ass off is comical. Just cause she STARTED with a sex tape doesn’t mean she doesn’t put the work in,” one person said, seemingly hitting back at a surge of new comments about Kim’s leaked sex tape, which surfaced in 2007.
Another person praised Kim’s individual work ethic, spotlighting how she’s dominated the business world in a way that her equally privileged Kardashian siblings have yet to match.
“If all of @KimKardashian’s success could be attributed to privilege then Kourtney, Khloe, & Rob (who had identical resources) would also be billionaires. As much as everyone hates to admit it, Kim K is one of the most intelligent & hardworking female entrepreneurs of our time,” said another Twitter user.
But on the other side of the debate, one person noted that Kim, having been born into money, had the financial security and connections to take risks on her journey to the top, writing: “She could afford to fail over and over and over and over again and still be richer than a majority of the world.”
Echoing the same line of thought, another Twitter user added: “No doubt that she worked hard, but starting off wealthy and connected gave her a great head start — and also allowed her to take risks that many people without those advantages can't afford to do.”
And of course, Kim is able to balance her numerous business commitments with the help of nannies, chefs, and on-call assistants who probably take care of a large amount of her day-to-day tasks at home.
When contacted, a representative for Kim declined to comment on the situation. However, it appears that the backlash has made waves in the family’s inner circle.
Tracy Romulus — who Kardashian fans will know as the chief communications officer at KKW Brands and one of Kim’s closest friends — issued a statement in Kim’s defense on Wednesday evening as the criticism began to peak online.
“Kim is right. It takes blood, sweat and tears to start and build a successful business - and in her case, businesses,” Tracy wrote on Instagram. “It also takes building teams and empowering great, [hard] working people and being smart and humble enough to surround yourself with people who are smarter and more talented than you.”
“Kim answered with what she knows — GET OFF YOUR F—ING ASS AND WORK. And it’s true. That’s what it takes,” she went on. “Any entrepreneur will tell you that, and any successful woman in business will tell you that they’ve had to work so much smarter and harder than any man to disrupt whatever industry they are in.”
Fans remain divided, and Kim has yet to comment on the backlash herself.
Regardless, it seems many are in agreement that in the midst of a pandemic — where women across the world have been forced to balance their careers with three times as much unpaid childcare as their male counterparts — it doesn’t quite feel like the right time to be calling women's work ethics into question.