Vacuous celebrity could be on its way out its no longer enough to be famous for being famous, says Guardian columnist Gaby Hinsliff
Kim Kardashian West is studying to be a lawyer.
The reality TV star who once tried to break the internet with a photograph of her bottom has enrolled for the first stages of the California bar exam, and is currently ploughing through the basic principles of tort, contract and criminal law under the supervision of two mentoring attorneys.
This is not a belated April fool, but the gist of a Vogue magazine shoot during which she earnestly explained her decision to start reading up on the law after being invited to the White House to advise President Trump on criminal justice reform. (For the avoidance of doubt, thats not an April fool either; she was there lobbying for the release of a 63-year-old woman who had spent two decades in an Alabama prison on a charge of nonviolent drug trafficking.) Sitting in a room full of judges and lawyers, she told Vogue, she felt, Oh, shit. I need to know more. Or to put it another way, a woman who practically invented being famous for being famous is suddenly signalling to teenagers everywhere that celebrity alone doesnt give you credibility; that knowledge, substance and expertise matter. We seem, in other words, to have entered the era of Dumbing Up With the Kardashians.
Those intellectual snobs who responded by sniping that she should stay in her lane, as if a woman could only have a hot body or a brain, never both, are wide of the mark. There is always something moving about the idea of anyone who never made it to university going back to school in later life. And even if this one does turn out to be doing it for attention, or just to create a new plot twist in the Kardashians endlessly lucrative public story, then in a sense that makes it more significant, not less. Kardashian West did not get where she is today without having a manicured fingernail on the popular pulse, and if she thinks a woman trying to do something purposeful with a once vacuous-looking life is where the zeitgeist is right now, then shes probably right.
This Sunday brings a nearly sold-out gig by Michelle Obama at the O2 Arena in London, as part of her worldwide book tour. Her memoir, Becoming, has struck a chord for lots of reasons, not least as a story of a happy marriage. But at its core is a message of black female empowerment. Obama has recast working hard, doing well at school and becoming a seriously substantial person not only as an individual means of getting on but also as a means of social change. These days she stands for wanting to be much more than just some powerful mans wife, even if thats originally how she came to public attention.
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