Forbes names Kylie Jenner “the youngest ever self-made billionaire”

Photo: Forbes 

And even Dictionary.com is annoyed by it

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By Hannah Banks-Walker on

On the latest cover of Forbes, 20-year-old Kylie Jenner is hailed as the “$900 million cosmetics queen… set to be the youngest ever self-made billionaire”, alongside a portrait of Jenner in a sharp blazer. Part of a feature about “America’s women billionaires”, Jenner is profiled alongside the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Tory Burch and Meg Whitman, a business executive, political activist and philanthropist. While the success of Jenner’s beauty empire is undeniable, many have been quick to point out that the term “self-made” seems slightly at odds with reality. If Winfrey, someone born into poverty in rural Mississippi, is “self-made”, then can the same description really be applied to Jenner, a product of the mega-machine that is the Kardashians?

Naturally, many opinions on the semantics of Forbes’ feature have been expressed on Twitter, where even Dictionary.com seemed to take umbrage with Jenner’s new title: “Self-made means having succeeded in life unaided. Used in a sentence: Forbes says that Kylie Jenner is a self-made woman.” Other comments ranged from “calling Kylie Jenner a ‘self-made billionaire’ is like claiming you made soup from scratch because you opened a can and reheated it” to “Self made lol. Born into privilege and used that as a start up. Honour the women and men who started with nothing and made billions. The real entrepreneurs who literally had nothing and made it.”

It would be ridiculous not to acknowledge the fact that, privilege or no privilege, Jenner has taken an idea and spun it into a much-hyped, multimillion-dollar business that is clearly speaking to young people – mostly young women aged 18-34. The issue here is not whether Jenner deserves to be celebrated for her success, but rather whether she should be held up as “self-made”, alongside other women who succeed despite their background – not because of it. As the Forbes article states: “Basically, all Jenner does to make all that money is leverage her social media following… social media has weaponised fame to the point that a real-estate mogul can be president and a 20-year-old from a family ‘famous for being famous’ can approach billionaire status by monetising that to the extreme.”

There’s also an argument to be made about the fact that Jenner, who had lip fillers at the age of 17 (although she denied it at first), leveraged the seeming obsession with her own, cosmetically enhanced appearance to sell products to mostly young women and girls. Is Jenner empowering young women with the suggestion that only cosmetic surgery, or indeed a Lip Kit, will make you beautiful? One could argue that’s just marketing, an essential component in the machine that is capitalism. But one could also argue that the level of narcissism perpetuated by the Kardashian Klan isn’t doing anyone any favours.

Kylie Jenner is almost a billionaire. She, as the youngest member of one of the world’s most famous families, has out-earned her siblings and built herself a beauty empire. However you feel about the Kardashians that is obviously an achievement in the truest sense of the word. Is she, however, “self-made”? Not one bit.


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Photo: Forbes 
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Hannah Banks-Walker
women in the media

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