Less than a year ago, Alice Johnson, a 63-year-old grandmother serving life in prison for a nonviolent drug offense, had no clue who Kim Kardashian West was. Two weeks ago, Kardashian met with President Trump at the White House to talk about Johnson’s case. A week later, the president pardoned her.
On Wednesday, Kardashian and a newly freed Johnson met for the first time.
“Kim has been anointed to do this,” Johnson said in a joint interview with Kardashian that aired Thursday morning on NBC’s “Today” show. Sitting across from the morning show’s co-anchor, Hoda Kotb, the two women declared their love for each other while recounting one of the most famous examples of expertly harnessed star power this year.
When asked why she decided to champion Johnson’s cause outside social media, Kardashian, who first shared Johnson’s story with her 60 million Twitter followers in November, said she had tunnel vision.
“It became this mission that I just didn’t want to give up,” Kardashian said.
The reality star, who is perhaps better known for her selfies than social justice reform, described the process of securing Johnson’s release, which had been in the works before her much-photographed visit to the Oval Office.
“We had been in talks and working on this for seven months,” Kardashian said. “It wasn’t an instant thing.”
The strategy, in Kardashian’s telling, was pointed.
The “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” star’s first call was to Ivanka Trump, a White House adviser and the president’s elder daughter. The two women had “a really great conversation about women,” Kardashian said.
“I knew that she would’ve understood Alice, and she immediately was so receptive and so great,” she added. Kardashian was then connected to Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, also a White House adviser, and a meeting with the president eventually followed.
“I was like I can’t believe we’re in the Oval Office. This is crazy. This is just insane,” said Kardashian, who brought her personal attorney, Shawn Chapman Holley, to the meeting. “It was overwhelming in the most amazing way.”
Another strategic move during that face-to-face? Flattery. Kardashian began the meeting by making a joke about “The Apprentice,” the reality show that catapulted Trump to national fame. With Trump sitting across from her at the Resolute Desk, Kardashian wanted to know why Trump had kicked her younger sister Khloe off the show.
“That was the first thing that I said, and he laughed and it broke the ice, and then it got focused,” Kardashian recalled. She added that Trump, with whom she has clashed politically, “had compassion for her right away; he felt like it was the right thing to do.”
After the president pardoned Johnson, who had already served two decades of her life sentence, it was Kardashian who delivered the good news.
“Thank you is not big enough,” said Johnson during the “Today” show interview filmed at her sister’s house in Tennessee. “I think I have to walk it out. I have to live it out for her,” she added.
So does all this mean a career shift for Kardashian, who has a reality show, a makeup and fragrance line, and several other businesses under her belt?
“No, I’m still doing me,” she said. “But I enjoy this. This, like, fulfilled my heart, and so since I feel so fulfilled, why would I stop that?”