Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 August 2019

Comment: Is Kylie Jenner the youngest-ever self-made billionaire, really?

Business-minded, yes. The queen of opportunity, yes. Smart, absolutely. But self-made? It’s a hard pill to swallow

Kylie Jenner is the youngest-ever self-made billionaire. Reuters 
Kylie Jenner is the youngest-ever self-made billionaire. Reuters 

Eight months ago, a 20-year-old Kylie Jenner appeared on the cover of Forbes as the magazine declared that, with an estimated fortune of $900 million, she was on track to becoming the youngest-ever self-made billionaire.

Yesterday, she was back on the cover, after officially surpassing the 10-figure fortune mark. The now 21-year-old make-up mogul has done it, she’s officially become the ‘youngest-ever self-made billionaire’. But has she, really?

Kylie is the youngest of the six Kardashian-Jenner siblings, and had been publicly living in the shadow of her famous older siblings since the age of 10, when reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians first aired. But while the rest of Forbes’s billionaires spent their childhood blending in with their classmates, still unknown to the world, Jenner was busy becoming a household name.

Along with supermodel sister Kendall, Kylie spent her teen years launching clothing lines, covering magazines and dominating social media. But it was when Jenner turned 16 that she fully stepped out of the Kourtney-Kim-and-Khloe shaped shadows, armed with her billion-dollar weapon – a newly-enhanced pout.

Despite the very obvious enhancement, Jenner spent months citing clever make-up tips – such as over-lining and using a matte base – as the reason for her changing appearance. Cue, her 120-million strong Instagram following trying desperately to recreate the look.

Jenner’s pout had single-handedly started a movement; big lips were in. And as the obsession grew (and led to some dangerous social media crazes along the way), Jenner felt the need to confess her worst-kept secret – it wasn’t make-up, it was filler.

But it was too late, the quest for big lips was on, and Jenner, along with 'momager' Kris, saw their opportunity. Six months later, in November 2015, Kylie Cosmetics was born. The star created the tools she had previously credited with her lip enhancement, and she was selling them to the masses at $29 (Dh105) a pop.

With no formal advertising and no in-store outlet, Kylie’s first three lip kits sold out within a minute. And as the company has expanded to include eyeshadow palettes, ‘Kylighters’ and many, many more lip kits, the hype has remained.

There’s no denying that Jenner is good at what she does. The products are quality and affordable, she actually uses them, filming real-time tutorials, and she knows what her customers want – Kylie Cosmetics isn’t just another celebrity-endorsed make-up line. Its loyal customers have stuck around way past the gimmick, and with her lip kits now available in Ulta Beauty stores around the US – it’s only set to attract more.

But the problem with all of this is that phrase “self-made”. A teen celebrity, with an astronomical social media following, enhances her appearance and, with the help of her famous family and their business empire, capitilises on it. Can we really deem that as self-made?

If Jenner wasn’t Jenner, if she didn’t start out by creating an unrealistic dream, would her company now be worth $1 billion? Whichever way you look at it, the answer is no. Business-minded, yes. The queen of opportunity, yes. Smart, absolutely. But self-made? It’s a hard pill to swallow.

Self-made is, by definition, “having become successful or rich by one's own efforts”. Jenner started the 100-metre race five metres from the finish line.

In officially taking the title, she topples Facebook-founder Mark Zuckerberg, who reached his billion-dollar-worth at 23. Other twenty-somethings to hit the big B include Evan Spiegel, the Snapchat found who was 25 when his net worth hit ten figures, and founder of Stripe online payment company, John Collinson, who was 26.

Forbes has received some backlash in categorising Jenner alongside these names, with a lot of people pointing out the very obvious problem with the awarding her the title, but the publication is standing strong. "To be clear, Forbes defines self-made as someone who built a company or established a fortune on her own, rather than inheriting some or all of it,'' the publication states.

Self-made or not, Jenner seems mildly happy at the news. “That’s a nice pat on the back,” she told Forbes.

Updated: March 6, 2019 02:34 PM

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