There were plenty of jabs at the Oscars on Sunday night — including a Chris Rock joke about Jada Pinkett Smith that led Will Smith to hit him in the face. But one notable burn involved reality star Kim Kardashian and Dame Judi Dench.
Academy Awards co-hosts Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes did a bit where they handed out consolation prizes to the nominees who didn’t win, including Dench, 87, who was up for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for “Belfast.” (The Oscar went to Ariana DeBose for “West Side Story.”) Hall told Dench, an acting legend, that “we’ve got an inspirational quote for you. This quote is from Kim Kardashian.” And she held up a sign that said, “Work harder.”
“‘Work harder,’ that’s what we need you to do,” Hall said, while Sykes cracked, “You gotta move that ass babe.”
Dench joined in the laughter at the joke. After all, her record shows that she’s one of the most decorated figures in showbiz. Dench has won 56 awards throughout her career, including an Academy Award, a Tony, two Golden Globes and a couple of Screen Actors Guild awards.
The Oscar gag stems from the Kardashian sisters gracing the cover of Variety in March — and one particular quote from Kim Kardashian that got working women talking.
Kardashian, 41, a reality star turned entrepreneur whose businesses include her shapewear brand Skims, had some strong words of advice for women and their careers. Basically, they need to bust their butts and work, since “nobody wants to work these days.”
““I have the best advice for women in business. Get your f—ing ass up and work. It seems like nobody wants to work these days.””
— Kim Kardashian
The Variety interview also described Kardashian as “bristling” over the characterization that she and her sisters are famous simply for being famous. While Kourtney, 42, has drawn most of her wealth from her “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” salary and her endorsement deals, she also runs e-commerce site, Poosh. And Khloe, 37, who also earns from “KUWTK,” which went off the air last summer, has profited from her Good American denim line and executive-producing a true crime series called “Twisted Sisters.”
Kim, who is worth an estimated $1.8 billion, saw Skims’ valuation spike to $3.2 billion in January after a $240 million financing round led by hedge fund Lone Pine Capital. Kim owns an estimated 35% of the company, which is valued at approximately $900 million. She also founded the KKW Beauty cosmetics brand, and sold a minority stake to Coty
in 2020 for $200 million.
“We work our asses off,” she told Variety. “If that’s what you think, then sorry. We just don’t have the energy for that. We don’t have to sing or dance or act; we get to live our lives — and hey, we made it. I don’t know what to tell you.”
Much of the conversation on Twitter since the interview was released, however, was less about whether or not the Kardashian sisters work hard (although such critiques were certainly being aired.) It was more about how much of a head start the Kardashians and their younger half-sisters Kylie and Kendall Jenner got by virtue of their wealth and privilege. Kardashian’s late father, lawyer Robert Kardashian, reportedly left his children with a $100 million estate in trust when he passed away from esophageal cancer in 2003, for example.
So veteran broadcast journalist Soledad O’Brien responded to a Variety tweet highlighting Kardashian’s “get your ass up and work” line with, “Also: be born rich. Really helps.”
“Yeah sorry but this is completely out of touch,” tweeted presenter and occasional professional wrestler SoCal Val (nee Paige Nicole Mayo) in agreement. “I’m sure she has and does work hard now … but for someone with an insanely rich family/past and who’s the star of a reality show this rubs us all the wrong way.”
“The absolute brilliant tone-deaf example of being born on 3rd base and thinking you hit a triple,” added actor/filmmaker/producer Andy Ostroy.
“Ah yes, bootstrapping your way up from *checks notes* being the daughter of a wealthy celebrity attorney,” chimed in another reader.
Some working women chafed at the idea and the assumption that they aren’t working “hard” enough to be successful — especially during an ongoing pandemic when millions of Americans have lost their livelihoods, and while inflation has driven the cost of living up the highest it’s been in decades.
Oh, these remarks were also published during Women’s History Month, and with the story hitting right after International Women’s Day, to boot.
“We can’t discredit the work [the Kardashians] all achieved but to say such a broad statement about women. during this month specifically… yikes,” tweeted commentator and radio host Ryan A. Mitchell.
“Many women don’t ‘hustle’ because of current money needs, no help with childcare and lacking capital,” wrote another reader.
Indeed, research has shown that the high cost and scarcity of childcare is holding many employees back — and women in particular — from rejoining the workforce. Many families were already struggling to afford childcare before the pandemic, and the problem has only gotten worse. One economist previously told MarketWatch that the childcare crisis “has the potential to set back women not just in 2020, but for years to come. It’s a body blow to gender equality.”
Dave Kamper from the Economic Policy Institute also chimed in. Earlier on Wednesday, he had tweeted that the Great Resignation is really the “Great Reallocation” as people leave their current jobs to find better ones. “If you’re a business owner and your experience of the current labor market is, ‘no one wants to work anymore!’, you need to understand that what’s really going on is no one wants to work for YOU,” he said. And he shared that previous tweet under Variety’s post.
Of course, the Kardashians had their supporters online, too. “A lot of people are knocking this but the Kardashian sisters had failures before success,” wrote one reader under a Variety tweet with the controversial quote. “Yeah they’ve had wealth but they have no idea, these girls actually worked.” Her comment drew more than 100 likes.
And others suggested the controversial quote could have been a shrewd publicity move to make the Kardashians’ latest interview go viral.
The Jenner-Kardashian clan is certainly a polarizing family, after all. When Forbes named Kylie Jenner, then 22, its youngest self-made billionaire ever after Coty Inc. bought a controlling stake in Kylie Cosmetics in 2019, the response was just as heated. Many questioned the “self-made” part, which Forbes defined as ”any person who built her own fortune, and didn’t inherit the money.” It noted that Jenner started Kylie Cosmetics in 2015 by funding the first 15,000 lip kits with money she’d made from modeling, telling Paper that her parents cut her off at 15.
“The self-made thing is true,” she said then. “My parents told me I needed to make my own money, it’s time to learn how to save and spend your own money, stuff like that. What I’m trying to say is, I did have a platform, but none of my money is inherited.”
And indeed, many of the world’s richest people are born into the elite club — not just the Kardashians.
Anne Vandermay wrote in a 2018 Bloomberg column that Facebook’s
Mark Zuckerberg had the opportunity to create an instant-messaging platform for his dad’s dental practice when he was just 12, for example. And Twitter
co-founder Jack Dorsey had a programming internship at 15. She suggested these two weren’t called out as much for their head starts because, unlike the Jenner-Kardashian sisters, these guys were, well, guys.
Related: Would we mock Kylie Jenner’s $900 million fortune if her name was Kyle?
“Today’s prototypical founding story involves an upper-middle-class childhood, early access to a computer and an elite education,” she wrote.