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Forbes calling Kylie Jenner “self-made” proves it’s a useless term without context

Forbes calling Kylie Jenner “self-made” proves it’s a useless term without context
[Photo: David Livingston/Getty Images]

As you may have heard, the latest Forbes cover crowns Kylie Jenner, who is worth at least $900 million, as one of the richest self-made women in the United States. “At 21, she’s set to be the youngest-ever self-made billionaire,” a cover line reads.

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The exponential growth of Kylie Cosmetics, as Fast Company has previously reported, is impressive. Forbes values Kylie Cosmetics at $800 million, less than three years after Jenner started the brand. (The remaining $100 million to Jenner’s name comes from endorsements, TV payouts, and after-tax dividends from her company.) Kim Kardashian West, meanwhile, is reportedly worth a mere $350 million.

But the Twitterverse has opinions on Forbes using the word “self-made” to describe someone who had $250,000 laying around—money Jenner had earned from modeling gigs—to jump-start her business. (For comparison: Huda Kattan, who also makes an appearance on the Forbes list, started her billion-dollar beauty brand with $10,000 of her own savings and a $6,000 loan from her sister.)

Has Jenner built her company “unaided”? Of course not. She has benefitted enormously from the financial aid afforded to her by her family name, as well as the intense scrutiny it has yielded. Jenner used her own money to start Kylie Cosmetics, but it was money she earned by virtue of the Kardashian name. For Jenner, marketing Kylie Cosmetics means hawking products on Instagram, where she has 110 million followers.

As Forbes notes, Jenner’s success may be fleeting; Kylie Cosmetics’ revenue growth reportedly slowed last year. But a month shy of her 21st birthday, Jenner has parlayed Kardashian West’s fame—and infamy—into a thriving business and a net worth of nearly three times that of her sister’s. And surely other people on Forbes‘s myriad lists (including the “30 under 30” lists) have had privileges of their own, financial or otherwise, that might weaken the “self-made” descriptor.

Soon, when she’s worth a billion dollars, Jenner will be the youngest “self-made” billionaire bar none, beating out even Mark Zuckerberg, who earned the title at 23. And for that, we can tip our hats to her.

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