Harvard Professor Explains Why It Actually Did Make Sense To Let Kim Kardashian Speak At The University, Despite Backlash

kim kardashian on the kardashians
(Image credit: Hulu)

Many people might say that becoming a reality TV star, after appearing in a sex tape brought your name to public prominence, is a less than desirable way to begin your time as a businessperson. But, few of us can argue that Kim Kardashian hasn’t made all of those things work for her and her entrepreneurial spirit. The Kardashians superstar was officially named to Forbes’ billionaire list in April 2021 because of her many business endeavors, but now a Harvard professor has had to explain why it made sense for the Ivy League university to invite her to speak there, despite the backlash.

Why Did A Harvard Professor Say That It Made Sense To Have Kim Kardashian Speak There?

For a bit of background, it was near the end of January that the mother of four spoke at Harvard Business School, for a short term class focused on direct-to-consumer (DTC) businesses, much like her SKIMS line. After her lecture, she posted about it on Twitter, which led to a lot of negative comments (though there were some who supported the move, as well). Former Marvel star Scarlett Johansson also spoke at HBS on the same day, about her skincare line, Outset, but that talk garnered little outside attention. Professor Leonard Schlesinger opened up to Poets & Quants about inviting Kardashian to speak, and said:

A number of our students are going to want to be investors in this space. If [students] meet a celebrity, how do you understand what the two of you need to do to make something happen?...It is really important for our students to be able to see the juxtaposition between those two businesses and business strategies as they think about how it actually fits for them…I mean [Kardashian’s] got 350 million followers, so the issue becomes, that’s a natural asset that every other traditional DTC is chasing.

According to Schlesinger, the DTC business model really took off about a decade ago, and while they are easy to ideate and start, the difficulty comes in growing those businesses. He noted that the SKKN BY KIM founder’s extremely large number of followers and influence on social media is one of the things that allows her to keep her enterprises growing every year, and added that celebrities in the DTC space have new perspectives to offer those in the business world, largely because they have intriguing approaches to how they interact with the public (i.e. potential consumers).

What Did The Backlash Against Kim Kardashian Speaking At Harvard Say?

Honestly, you can probably guess what many of the comments on Twitter said about Kanye West’s ex-wife speaking at Harvard. There are, more and more, general (important) conversations happening about how we applaud the successes of people who were born into wealth and privilege and started with advantages most of us do not. Kardashian and others in her family have already seen such conversations directed at them, especially when Kylie Jenner was labeled a “self-made billionaire” by Forbes, and with recent nepo baby talk hitting Kardashian and North West.

One twitter user suggested that HBS was “desperate” for anyone to come speak at the university, and were “taking the low fruit,” and other responses included:

  • “She went from millionaire to billionaire by paying her employees minimum wage. I don't listen to ‘how to succeed’ from rich people that don't pay a livable wage to the people that make their business thrive.”
  • “Kim Kardashian speaking at Harvard proves that college is a pyramid scheme.”
  • “I’d hate to pay that Harvard tuition $$$$ to only get her as a speaker. Do Better, Harvard.”
  • “Kim Kardashian was born into wealth. Attempted to use a sex tape to launch an acting or singing career; neither launched. Kim K was wealthy enough to make a scripted reality TV show work because she & her family are shameless. Harvard is just as tacky as the Kardashians now.”
  • “I can’t imagine how insulting this is to the people who actually worked their asses off to get their degrees and so forth. Wow I’m sorry to you all.”

Though those who don’t believe that the reality star was a good fit for the Harvard lecture are unlikely to be swayed by the professor’s thoughts on the matter, the fact remains that she has been able to turn her fame into multiple profitable ventures, and will probably continue to do so for many years to come.

Adrienne Jones
Senior Content Creator

Covering The Witcher, Outlander, Virgin River, Sweet Magnolias and a slew of other streaming shows, Adrienne Jones is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend, and started in the fall of 2015. In addition to writing and editing stories on a variety of different topics, she also spends her work days trying to find new ways to write about the many romantic entanglements that fictional characters find themselves in on TV shows. She graduated from Mizzou with a degree in Photojournalism.