Just as last week’s cheating scandal begins to fade from our collective memory, another KarJenner bombshell hits: Kylie Jenner, the youngest of the clan, has become the youngest billionaire in the world.
Forbes magazine declared as much in its annual billionaires list, published Tuesday. Having accumulated an estimated $1 billion by age 21, her entry states, Jenner is “the youngest self-made billionaire, reaching a 10-figure fortune at a younger age than even Mark Zuckerberg (who was 23 when he hit that mark).” The Kylie Cosmetics founder ranks No. 2,057 on a list of 2,153. Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates still hold the top two spots.
There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to Jenner’s feat, but social media users zeroed in on the term “self-made” — and not for the first time. A similar reaction ensued when Forbes selected Jenner to be the cover star for its 2018 list of the country’s richest “self-made” women. Was it fair to use that word to describe the cosmetics mogul, the public asked, given that she was born into a rich family and owes much of her early fame to half sister Kim Kardashian West? And what about their momager, Kris Jenner, who pulls all the strings?
For what it’s worth, Forbes noted that it uses “self-made” to describe anyone who didn’t inherit their business or fortune. “But the term is very broad,” the magazine acknowledged, “and does not adequately reflect how far some people have come and, relatively speaking, how much easier others have had it.”
Jenner falls into the latter category. She was born in 1997 to Olympic gold medalist Caitlyn Jenner and Kris Jenner, the ex-wife of lawyer Robert Kardashian, known most for defending his friend O.J. Simpson during a sensational murder trial. Kylie grew up with an older sister, Kendall, and several half siblings: Burt, Brandon, Brody and Casey Jenner from Caitlyn; Kourtney, Kim, Khloé and Rob Kardashian from Kris. The Kardashians were thrust into the spotlight after Robert died in 2003, and they eventually landed the E! reality series “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” in 2007. The show premiered eight months after an old sex tape of Kim’s leaked to the public.
Kendall and Kylie appeared in the E! series as tweens, but their screen time grew as they did. As leading members of the Instagram generation, the teenagers leveraged their fame and, as a pair, launched clothing and accessory lines with PacSun and Steve Madden. In late 2015, the youngest Jenner set out on her own and launched the Kylie Lip Kit, a lipstick and lip liner kit that became the foundation of Kylie Cosmetics.
“It’s the power of social media,” Jenner told Forbes, which notes that she boasts more than 175 million followers across Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter. “I had such a strong reach before I was able to start anything.”
But to truly understand how Jenner was able to turn a makeup kit into an empire, you must understand the obsession with her perfect pout. Her lips grew in size sometime in 2014, and as happens with such an intensely public family, tabloids took notice almost immediately. She insisted that it was just good makeup — “I think contouring and lip liner definitely changed my life,” she famously said — but curious teens refused to take heed. Instead, they invented the Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge, which involves sticking your lips in a shot glass and sucking out all the air. (This was obviously a horrible idea, and you can see why here.)
Jenner generated quite a response when she finally fessed up to having temporary lip fillers in May 2015, and the business instincts she inherited from her mother kicked in. She paid for 15,000 lip kits with her own money and teased them on social media, eventually putting them up for sale online for $29 in November. They sold out in minutes.
The company was renamed Kylie Cosmetics the next February, when Jenner stocked the site with 500,000 more lip kits in multiple shades, and it has since expanded to all sorts of makeup products. (The lip kits still go for $29.) Forbes reports that Kylie Cosmetics made a whopping $307 million in its first year but that sales grew only slightly until this past November, when Jenner partnered with the beauty store Ulta to sell her products at brick-and-mortar retailers.
Thanks to Ulta, Kylie Cosmetics made roughly $360 million last year. (She also attracted quite a bit more attention than usual thanks to a secret pregnancy and high-profile romance with rapper Travis Scott.) Forbes says Jenner’s company is worth at least $900 million, and, when you add in the money Jenner already had and subtract her mother’s 10 percent management fee, that puts her at $1 billion. Must be nice!