The world’s youngest self-made billionaire

She means business: In August last year, Kylie Jenner was worth an estimated $900 million. © Forbes

Is she a role model? Aged 10, Kylie Jenner was a reality TV star, standing in the shadow of her sisters. Aged 21, she is one of the world’s most successful businesswomen with an Instagram empire.

At only 21, she is already richer than the Queen, J.K. Rowling and Beyoncé. Now Forbes has named Kylie Jenner the “world's youngest self-made billionaire”. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg didn’t pass that milestone until he was 23.

“I didn’t expect anything. I did not foresee the future,” says Jenner. “But [the recognition] feels really good. That’s a nice pat on the back.”

Last year, after Forbes declared Jenner was “set to be the youngest-ever self-made billionaire,” a storm immediately erupted on social media over the term. Many users pointed out that Jenner was born into a very wealthy, pre-eminent family and has based her cosmetics business on her image as a reality TV star.

Jenner was only 10 when Keeping Up With The Kardashians first appeared on E!, commissioned off the back of her older half-sister Kim Kardashian West’s leaked sex tape in 2007. Her father, Caitlyn Jenner, is a former Olympic decathlon champion, while her mother, Kris, is said to be the shrewd mastermind behind the family’s fame, and for whom the term “Momager” was coined.

Aside from her TV career, the bulk of Kylie Jenner’s wealth comes from her make-up company, Kylie Cosmetics, which is valued at $800 million. Kris Jenner handles the finances and production of the range is outsourced, leaving Kylie to come up with new product ideas and market them to her 128 million Instagram followers.

And Jenner has proved herself a master of using social media to build hype: her initial range of “lip kits” sold out in one minute after months of teasing through Instagram. Her skilful image control is perhaps no surprise, as the Kardashian-Jenners are widely credited with popularising the selfie, which triggered a revolution in how people post about themselves.

Some observers have accused the family of promoting unrealistic beauty standards for young girls. Jenner started using lip fillers at the age of 15, although she had them removed last year. The decision was reportedly the result of her growing confidence following the birth of her daughter Stormi.

Is she a role model?

Like, realising stuff

Absolutely, say some. It would have been easy for Jenner to coast on her family’s wealth and fame, but thanks to her ambition and business instinct, her success has eclipsed the other Kardashian-Jenners. Young women can look up to her as a daring, focused entrepreneur who challenges negative perceptions of young mothers.

No way, argue others. Mark Zuckerberg and other young tech billionaires were part of a revolution that transformed society forever. Jenner takes pictures of herself in different shades of lipstick. Her success is a symbol of society’s shift towards narcissism and promotes narrowly-defined definitions of physical beauty above all else.

You Decide

  1. Is Kylie Jenner a role model?
  2. Has society become more narcissistic?

Activities

  1. Look at Kylie Jenner’s Instagram. Write three reasons why she is an effective marketer on social media.
  2. Look at Forbes’s list of the top 60 self-made American women under Become An Expert. Research one person from the list and write one page on whether they can accurately be described as “self-made”.

Some People Say...

“The more people love you, the more there’s going to be people that hate you.”

Kylie Jenner

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Kylie Cosmetics launched in 2016 and has become a $900 million dollar company in less than four years. The business only has seven full-time and five part-time employees as so many tasks are outsourced. Kylie is now worth almost three times as much as Kim Kardashian West, who has an estimated wealth of $350 million.
What do we not know?
Whether Jenner will stay above the billionaire mark. While Forbes said last year that it would take more than a year of bad sales to stop her reaching the figure, revenue on her signature lip kits fell by 35% in 2017, and there are questions about their quality. When the product launched in 2016, poor reviews from beauty bloggers led to the company sending out thousands of replacements to customers.

Word Watch

The Queen, J.K. Rowling and Beyoncé.
The Queen and Beyoncé are worth around £325 million and $350 million (£266 million) respectively. J.K. Rowling was a billionaire until recently, but in 2017 Forbes estimated her worth at $650 million (£490 million), largely due to charitable donations.
Caitlyn Jenner
Caitlyn Jenner was known as Bruce Jenner until she came out as transgender in 2015. She starred in her own reality TV series, I Am Cait, from 2015 to 2016.
“Momager”
Kris Jenner manages all of her children. She takes a 10% cut from Kylie Cosmetics for handling the finances and public relations.
Outsourced
When a company pays another business to carry out tasks. Kylie Cosmetics are manufactured, packaged and sent out by Seed Beauty.
Narcissism
Excessive admiration of oneself.

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