Kylie Jenner being named as “self-made” in Forbes’ roster of billionaires was heavily questioned online due to her being born into the wealthy Kardashian family whose last name is a popular brand itself.
Jenner is known as the founder and owner of her own eponymous cosmetics line aside from being a TV personality and part of the Kardashian brand.
On March 5, Forbes named her as the youngest self-made billionaire at 21 years old, replacing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg who was at the spot at 23 years old.
She was also previously featured in Forbes’ list of richest self-made women in 2018 which report likewise gathered criticisms.
Forbes’ entertainment writer Natalie Robehmed cited Jenner’s distribution deal with popular US-based retailer Ulta as the reason for her sweeping revenue growth.
“Forbes estimates Jenner’s company is worth at least $900 million. She owns all of it. Add in the cash Jenner has already pulled from the profitable business and the 21-year-old is now a billionaire, with an estimated fortune of $1 billion,” part of the article said.
Jenner, meanwhile, was thankful for the recognition.
“I didn’t expect anything. I did not foresee the future. But [the recognition] feels really good. That’s a nice pat on the back,” she said.
The broad “self-made” term ascribed to her was scrutinized online with many saying that Jenner did not really start her company entirely from scratch.
I give her props cause she is doing her thing but she was also handed the key to success so 🤷🏽♀️
The Twitter handler of Dictionary.com shared its definition in a post.
Haven't we gone over this?
— Dictionary.com (@Dictionarycom) March 5, 2019
Similarly, Merriam-Webster defines self-made as “having achieved success or prominence by one’s own efforts” or “made such by one’s own actions.”
How does Forbes classify people’s success as self-made?
“Forbes defines self-made as somebody who built a company or fortune on their own rather than inheriting some or all of it. But Forbes is well aware that that term is incredibly broad and that some folks have a leg up and an easier start than others,” Robehmed said in an interview with National Public Radio.
She explained that Forbes came up with a scoring system from 1 to 10 in 2014 that determines how self-made a billionaire or millionaire is. With Jenner, the staff gave her a seven score because she came from a wealthy family.
Robehmed admitted that the reputation or popularity of the Kardashian family contributed to Jenner’s success. However, what most people don’t see is how much effort Jenner puts into her business.
“She really truly does live and breathe this stuff and is thinking about it kind of constantly,” Robehmed said.
“I also think there’s kind of no limit to what she could do given how big her following is and how – just how many people are paying attention to her. This whole debate over self-made just plays right into that,” she added.
Power of social media
Jenner attributes her massive success to her large social following.
“It’s the power of social media. I had such a strong reach before I was able to start anything,” she said.
Prior to launching her brand, she starred alongside her sisters in the long-running reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians, as well as its spin-offs, aired on Entertainment channel. She also has several modeling stints with her sisters Kendall Jenner, Kourtney, Khloe and Kim Kardashian.
When she started her cosmetics line in 2015, she only has a total of 12 employees, seven full-time and five part-time.
Jenner outsourced the manufacturing and packaging processes to a private-label producer in California called Seed Beauty, which also owns drugstore brand Colourpop.
Her products were handled by e-commerce Shopify while her mother Kris Jenner helps with the finance and public relations. The rest of the marketing is done on social media.
Her partnership with Ulta, which has physical stores across the United States, allowed her products to be available to a larger market.