Kate McCabe / Gavel Media

Kylie Jenner: Family-Made Billionaire

Last year, a Forbes magazine cover stirred up some controversy by claiming that Kylie Jenner is the youngest SELF-made billionaire ever. There is no question that Kylie Jenner is a billionaire. Her cosmetics company has been extremely successful. However, people took issue with the "self-made" portion of the headline. According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, "self-made" is defined as "having achieved success or prominence by one’s own efforts." Although Kylie manages her business on her own, none of her success could have been possible without her famous family.

Kylie Jenner’s name had plenty of starpower even before the release of Kylie Cosmetics. Her fame can be attributed to her famous family, specifically her half-sister, Kim Kardashian, who propelled the family into stardom. Kylie’s prominence was simply not achieved by her own efforts, since Kim had already given her a head start. Kylie even claimed in the Forbes article with regards to social media that she “had such a strong reach before [she] was able to start anything.” Her fame allowed her to reach millions of fans and makeup consumers while starting up her cosmetic line.

Without Kylie’s millions of followers garnered through association with her famous family, would she be a billionaire? Most likely not. For this reason, her title of “self-made” billionaire is rightly in question.

Furthermore, Kylie not only has a famous family, but also an immensely wealthy one. She is a white woman born into a prominent, upper class family with so much privilege that allowed her to become the successful woman she is today. That privilege includes prestigious schools, business connections, and other advantages that the ordinary person does not have access to. Belonging to a wealthy family, Kylie had access to an infinite amount of investment capital to play around with. She didn’t have to worry about her cosmetics line failing and then struggling with debt, because her family was already loaded. She didn’t have to work for her own money to start up her cosmetics line, because she was granted money to appear in ads and play her role on the reality TV show Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

So, what’s the big deal with calling Kylie a self-made billionaire? Essentially, it’s awarding praise to the rich for becoming richer. I do believe that Kylie deserves some credit for her success, and she is definitely an intelligent woman for utilizing her fame to create her own successful empire. However, I don’t believe she deserves the title of self-made. Proclaiming Kylie as a self-made billionaire perpetuates a false story of empowerment. The article implies Kylie started from the bare bottom and brought herself up to prosperity alone which is far from reality.

In addition, praising Kylie Jenner for being a self-made billionaire with no acknowledgment of the head-start she received allows people to look at the poor and wonder why they haven’t worked hard to become billionaires themselves. Forbes’ overlook of the insane amount of privilege and assistance that Kylie had in achieving her billionaire status is representative of how our society fails to acknowledge privilege and instead reprimands the unsuccessful for being “lazy.”

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