Self-made or self-seeking?

Lori Harper investigates the Forbes statement that Kylie Jenner is a self-made billionaire...

Lori Harper
18th March 2019

If you haven’t heard of Kylie Jenner by now, then you really are living under a rock. The 21-year old Kardashian star, mother of Stormi Wesbter, girlfriend to Travis Scott and, oh- the owner of billion-dollar brand Kylie Cosmetics, was announced the world’s youngest self-made billionaire by Forbes last week. With an estimated worth of $900 million, Kylie’s makeup empire supersedes Mark Zuckerberg, who was 23 when he reached the billion-dollar mark.

Her success is undeniable, but there is one thing that has left many with an underlying bitter taste, and that is what it means to be “self-made”.

There’s no disputing that Kylie’s “self-made” success is largely due to her enormous internet following, which was prominent long before she launched her cosmetics brand. When Keeping up with the Kardashian’s first aired all the way back in 2007, Kylie was the youngest of the sisters, at just 10 years old, to be part of the show. From such a young age, Kylie’s future was already destined towards fame and success with the hit TV show. After the success of her family, a mould had already been made for kylie, all she had to do was to grow into it. Kylie comes closely after sister Kim, as one of the most followed celebrities on Instagram, with such a huge social media following, Kylie’s cosmetics company has not needed to rely on traditional methods of marketing; the products sell because of Kylie herself.

Flashback to 2015: young girls everywhere are going crazy for the #KylieJennerChallenge which involves putting a shot glass to the lips, creating a vacuum that leaves a large, pouty lip when the glass is removed. Despite being completely dangerous- and might I add, stupid- the trend sprawled across social media, with people everywhere trying to create the same signature kylie pout.

Kylie’s lips had long been speculated by many of her fans, yet the star insisted she was simply using a makeup trick to accentuate her noticeably plumper lips. It was no coincidence then, that Kylie and “momager” Kris, made a business out of Kylie’s notorious pout: meet Kylie Cosmetic Lip Kits. The success of the launch was incredible, her lip kits sold out within minutes, causing the site to crash and many to be resold for triple the original price. Kylie has capitalised on the attention stirred by her lips, with many young women buying her products in the hope to buy exclusive access into the glamorous Kardashian lifestyle.

Kylie is selling her fans a lot more than just her lip-gloss, she is selling them herself. Women hope that through buying her products they are one step closer to becoming kylie Jenner.

The success of the billion-dollar brand is not without mention of its unique “momaging”, that is the management of her mother, Kris. The notion of “momager” itself has become its own trademark success, with fans everywhere wishing their mother was as cool, headstrong and successful as Kris. Kris also has her own strand in the collection, hinging on her business woman/ mum-manager image, she offers a range of highlighters, eyeshadow's and lipsticks.

But is this really the case? On the surface we see a cute mother-daughter owned business, yet in reality, is this not just a case of control freak mother micromanaging her daughter’s success?

Certainly, Kylie’s career was already planned out for her since before she was born. Kris is also said to own 10% of Kylie’s company and manages all its PR and finance.

With a mother that has primed her kids for success from the moment they could speak, to a deeply rooted fanbase carved out by the Kardashian name, is it truly fair to term Kylie “self-made”? It seems that what self-made really means today is to manufacture and sell yourself as the real brand.

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