This article originally appeared on VICE US
Last year, Kim Kardashian apparently helped convince President Trump to pardon Alice Marie Johnson from a life sentence for a first-time, non-violent drug offense. Now, Johnson is modeling for Kardashian's new shapewear line SKIMS Solutionwear in a new ad that dropped Thursday, which connects her new freedom to the way her shapewear makes her feel.
Social media users have been quick to point out that Kardashian seems to be using a woman who may feel indebted to her to improve the questionable image of her new line. The line was originally called "Kimono," and the name sparked enormous backlash from Japanese media personalities and politicians who claimed the use of the name was appropriating their culture. Kardashian announced on Monday that the line will now be called SKIMS Solutionwear. Now, Kardashian seems to be using Johnson both to advertise her clothes as well as for damage control.
The ad itself is also disturbing to watch. In the video, Johnson essentially praises Kardashian as her savior, using dramatic language with echoes of abolition. She says, "I call [Kardashian] my war angel, because nothing stood between her and my freedom. I was set free on June the 6th 2018, so now every moment in life is precious to me." Her praise for Kardashian wouldn't necessarily feel quite as suspect if she shared it on her own accord, and it wasn't in service of a shapewear line.
Inviting former inmates, or a 64-year-old Black grandmother, to model for a line whose ethos trumpets diversity makes a lot of sense in theory. But however grateful or indebted Johnson may feel, Kardashian looks to be using their relationship to rehabilitate her line's own failings. That context, inherently, makes Johnson seem much less free.