We’ve heard it before—“to whom much is given, much is expected.” But how often do we truly see it in our favorite celebrities—or at least the ones that seemingly have the largest platforms? Many corners of the internet swirl with comments of fans battling it out over which celebrities simply do not do enough for communities of color, but profit off of them all the while.
At the center of many of these conversations is none other than Kim Kardashian and her Klan. While they twirl the world profiting on women of color from every angle—from makeup lines to waist trainers—we often muse about whether that same community can ever reciprocally profit off of—or at least gain from—their platform.
Several conversations about whether women of color can not only buy from these celebrities, but also benefit from their platforms and product sales, popped up when Rihanna launched her Fenty beauty line. It was one of the few times we saw a celebrity woman with a platform selling products for her own profit, while also sparking broad awareness about the need for more representation for women of color. She gained and she gave.
The collection received near universal praise for its inclusion of a broad range of skin colors and sparked the attention of other celebrity women with product lines. Consumers will now find that Kim Kardashian’s product line, KKW Beauty, carries a range of shades that incorporates colors for darker toned women. It must be noted, however, that the first celebrity to support her community with an inclusive product line while simultaneously profiting off it was, in fact, a woman of color. Rihanna broke the mold, and Kim + Ko. were quickly called out and immediately made a change.
Representation is not the only area where we’ve seen women of color leading a charge for change to support the communities that have always supported them (read: black and brown women). More recently, the news cycle flooded with stories about Kim Kardashian’s trip to the White House to meet with President Trump about commuting Alice Marie Johnson’s prison sentence. Johnson, a first-time drug offender convicted more than 20 years ago, was serving a life sentence, until Kim advocated for and ultimately won her freedom.
It would be remiss to not highlight the incredible work done by Kim. But it would be equally, if not more, remiss to not acknowledge the women of color who came before her in the fight against the criminal justice system that disproportionately imprisons people of color.
Before Kim, there was Dascha Polanco. Before Kim, there was Angie Martinez. Before Kim, there was Bianca Jagger. And the list goes on and on. While one simply cannot appropriate advocacy and activism, we are seeing that white women are watching. They’ve begun to take a closer look at the women of color who lead the charge in fighting for justice and now follow suit.
Kim even joined Rihanna recently in a fight for another individual victim of the criminal justice system, Cyntoia Brown.
We’ve arrived at a new movement then, where these celebrities—both white and non-white—have begun to tirelessly use their platform to advocate, truly offsetting the endless financial support provided by women of color who buy their products, see their movies, and listen to their records. And many of them have done so without fanfare or major recognition from the media. Meanwhile, Kim Kardashian certainly received media attention—going as far as a nationally televised TODAY Show appearance with the recipient of her advocacy and support.
Still, there may be no right way to go about advocating for women of color (perhaps, a media tour even has its upsides, as it sparks broader awareness of pervasive issues), as long as celebrities are acting on their responsibility to fight for those who have gotten them where they are. And if women of color must be the first to set that precedent, so be it.