When Kim Kardashian West was robbed at gunpoint two weeks ago, the responses I saw across the internet really shook and depressed me.
As the co-founder of BlogHer, the largest community for women online, I have long lived my life online. I have found oceans of support and seen barrier-breaking connections take place there. But what I saw in the aftermath of this crime was a stunning lack of empathy and dehumanization of a person who had done no harm to the people most relishing in her frightening experience.
I worked briefly with Kim Kardashian at the BlogHer 2016 conference, a gathering of content creators and social media influencers that SheKnows Media produces. The disconnect between people claiming she “deserved” such a nightmare and the reality of how she behaved backstage at our event was striking.
I’ve communicated with, met and interviewed a lot of celebrities throughout my 12 years producing the BlogHer conferences. Without fail, such celebs are personable and well-spoken onstage — after all, they’ve had a lot of practice.
So I tend to watch how they behave out of the spotlight to gauge their true character.
How tightly do they want to control the interview? How demanding are they? How do they treat the team backstage? How willing are they to engage with fans?
What I’ve discovered after years of hosting folks like Kerry Washington, Martha Stewart, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sheryl Sandberg, Mayim Bialik and many more is that celebrities? They really are mostly just like us.
When they have “demands” for backstage, they are for a rational reason…no “remove all yellow M&Ms” requests have ever come our way.
They’re generally polite. Sure, some are warmer than others, but none have been raving divas.
I had very few preconceived expectations of Kim because I wasn’t a fan or a detractor. Until we secured her appearance at BlogHer, I wasn’t following her on social; I didn’t watch her show. Despite people claiming the Kardashian-Jenner clan is inescapable and ubiquitous, I found it effortless to know remarkably little about them.
I did, however, know her level of fame, so the team was ready to deal with a pretty demanding star. Ultimately (and I guess surprisingly), Kim Kardashian West ranks among the most calm, cooperative, collaborative keynote speakers we’ve ever had.
How tightly did she want to control the interview? Not much at all. She let me decide the questions I would ask and in what format, telling me that I would know best what was interesting to my audience.
How demanding was she? Not much at all. She came with an entourage (including security and a film crew for her show) but they did their best to be unobtrusive.
How did she engage with her fans at the conference? When her keynote was over, Kim came to the front of the stage and took selfies with dozens of attendees. She knows her fans and what will really send them over the moon.
Perhaps my most important metric: How was she backstage? This is what I really paid attention to. Kim was like the eye of the storm… a lot of things were buzzing all around her, but she was very calm, seemingly serene. She was polite and agreeable with everyone, from our company executives to the sound guy. She even quickly agreed to do some impromptu filming with our editorial team after the keynote was done, something she wasn’t obligated to do in her speaker agreement.
In other words: She was human. And no different than the other 100 “regular” women who spoke at the conference across its three days. She was nice. Polite, smart, open, appreciative, quiet, even.
And two weeks ago she was bound and robbed at gunpoint. She thought she could be raped or killed or worse. She was far from her husband and her two children and wondered whether she would see them again.
I share my brief experience working with Kim not to explain why I have empathy for her, nor to imply that if you only met her, you would too. I share it to underscore that celebrities are really no different than anyone else at their core. She didn’t ask to be robbed. She isn’t immune to terror.
To say Kim was robbed because she posts pictures of herself (and her jewelry) on social media (I’m looking at you, Piers Morgan) is not much different than asking what a woman was wearing when she got sexually assaulted. And I am not here for it.
You want to criticize her work. Fine. You want to say you wouldn’t behave the way she does in aspects of her life. Understood.
However, if you want to say she got what was coming to her in this situation?
I’m not here for it. Not. At. All.
Today Kim is coming back, slowly, to social media, and behaving in a very typical way for a victim trying to exert more control over her surroundings (online and off). I’m going to respond with kindness and well wishes.