I venture to guess that probably everyone under the age of 30 in the United States has come across the August Forbes cover, which showcased Kylie Jenner as the soon to be “youngest self-made billionaire woman.” In her black suit and light makeup, Jenner took on the typical Forbes cover expression — a serious look with big dreamy eyes, exactly what legends like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates did in that position. The praise Forbes attached to the makeup mogul was, however, very unusual. Unlike the articles about Buffett and Gates’ articles, the one on Jenner used the words “pout” and “booty” in them. Forbes is definitely changing it up.
The cover and article took the internet by storm. People debated the use of the word “self-made” in reference to Jenner. Some said the word was used because of the creative incentive behind her cosmetic line “Kylie Cosmetics” and the revolutionary products she came up with, while others say Jenner is not self-made due to her high-profile family, fame and money that her background already provided her with.
I agree with the latter opinion. It would be impossible to deny the success Kylie Cosmetics has achieved and how her products changed the makeup industry. It would also be impossible to deny her strong influence on young women in the United States, even if you might not like the nature of that influence. But for someone like Jenner, it could seem that the creativity, the marketing strategies or the product effectiveness were what rendered her cosmetic line “one of the hottest makeup companies ever,” which seemed to be the picture Forbes tried to paint.
But what Forbes failed to mention is that Jenner, just like her siblings and close friends, has very good connections in virtually all industries. She could connect with the best makeup labs, the most creative marketing companies and overall the best team that would jump at the chance of working with her. Furthermore, she could get a team that would do all the work for her, even the brainstorming, in exchange for her name and face on the product.
Another point Forbes didn’t mention is that Jenner built up to her lip kit launch very slowly, starting out with her appearance on the family reality TV show. Whether she had a say in that or not, it definitely helped build her career in many ways. Just by being on that TV show, and by being a member of the Kardashian-Jenner family, she became a familiar face to the American audience. This TV show helped her gain popularity and fame, especially among young audiences. In addition, she also appeared in commercials and collaborated with brands like Pacsun in 2013 that targeted young, wealthy girls in the United States. Through these platforms and more, Jenner built a strong following, which she continues to keep “entertained” by posting her daily fashion pictures on Instagram.
My point is that Jenner didn’t need to grow a customer base after the start of her business unlike many other business owners. She already had a loyal following who would buy whatever product she made. Some of the products she sold weren’t even good, with many complaints about quality and overpricing. Yet, many people worked and saved for a good lip kit or brush set, trying to be part of the trendy masses. You could say she’s a modern day Marilyn Monroe: she does something, everyone else does it – or attempts to do it but fails, as seen with the infamous Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge.
In addition to that, the financial benefits that Kylie has always had were a game changer for her success. Kylie didn’t need investors, as she came from money and fame. She just had an idea and was able to apply it with the snap of a finger. The struggle that most people go through with creative business ideas are mainly financial, and that hurdle did not exist for Kylie. For that reason and all the others before it, Kylie is not a “self-made” billionaire. It is her ties and her background that make this title absurd, and even a little offensive, to all the hard working business women in the world.
Asmae Benzireg ’21 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is from Rabat, Morocco. Her major is Psychology.