Recently, Kylie Jenner made headlines yet again. According to Forbes, “at 21, she’s on track to become the youngest-ever self-made billionaire.”
By definition “self-made” literally means “made by oneself,” and “having become successful or rich by one’s own efforts.” In my opinion, this does not describe her success because she has always had help. She was born into a rich upper-class family who already had access to media and societal influence. Someone that comes from generational wealth and influence- Jenner in this case- will always have an easier time reaching their accomplishments.
She was always able to get her foot in the door without any difficulty. Of course, Kylie Jenner has been extremely successful at a young age, but to say that she’s “self-made” is a reach. She’s privileged (white, has inherited wealth and a large social media following) which has helped her significantly to propel her into the fame and wealth she has today.
Kylie Jenner is now worth approximately $900 million. According to Forbes “what her half-sister Kim Kardashian West did for the booty, Jenner has done for full lips.” They both used their ‘scandals’ to their own advantage. Three years ago, Kylie Jenner admitted to having temporary lip-fillers. With this in mind and seeing the amount of controversy it caused, she decided to develop her own cosmetic company.
Along with the money she made from outside sources like modeling and endorsement deals,, she developed her Lip Kits. The problem is that she has used her lips, which have been altered, to generate fame and money. Her social media posts are objectifying and exploitative.
This is nothing new to black women who have seen the Kardashian-Jenner family exploit our culture for years. We have always owned the features and style that Kylie Jenner and her sisters continue to sell for profit. Instead, we are seen by the public as “ghetto.” Racial fetishization is real. The way Kylie Jenner is idolized for her lips and other features she’s altered to copy those of black women shows how little regard she (as well as her family) have for us.
Kylie Jenner’s means for success has a common theme, which is social media. Kylie Jenner has one of the largest followings on social media with millions of followers on Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. She uses her social media following to market her company and products to the world, allowing her to make most of the money she has.
According to Forbes, “on social media, teenagers popularized the ‘Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge,’ a viral fad in which they inserted their lips into a shot glass and then sucked out the air.” I remember seeing many of the videos that people were making for this challenge and I couldn’t help but think about how degrading it was to see others (especially those of other racial groups besides black people) participate in this.
This challenge was doing nothing but making fun of the very features that black women have had since the beginning, and continue to be criticized over. Forbes continued to note that Kylie Jenner continually markets her products predominantly on Instagram, which has launched many other cosmetic brands into success. Outside of social media, Kylie Jenner does have previous ventures that have helped get her to where she is now. As a child, she was a part of “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” alongside her siblings Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, Kendall, Rob, her parents Kris and Caitlyn.
It’s alarming to see how many people consider Kylie Jenner an example of female empowerment. A woman that empowers is someone that shows women and young girls that they don’t need to live up to the standards of others. An empowered woman shows others that success doesn’t come from the outside, but from what you give to the world.
Due to Kylie Jenner and her sisters having each built their own empires, “inspiring young women,” and “voicing” their opinions on important issues in society, they are seen by many as positive female figures. In my opinion, they are the complete opposite.
They exploit and objectify black women and our culture. I’m not discrediting the work that Kylie Jenner has done on her own. But saying that she’s self-made is ignoring the many ways she’s benefited from her family’s generational wealth, influence in the media and black culture.