Her cup runneth over: Is Kylie Jenner truly 'self-made'?

After being celebrated by Forbes for her estimated net worth of $900 million last year, Kylie Jenner reached a new milestone last week when the magazine declared that the 21-year-old TV star and makeup mogul had become the world’s “youngest self-made billionaire.” 

In reality, Jenner’s alleged billionaire status is questionable. Since Jenner’s company Kylie Cosmetics is private, Forbes’ numbers for this declaration were largely based on its own estimations and reports from Jenner herself that are hard to actually prove. But the claim that quickly became even more debatable is that the Kardashian brood is “self-made.” Forbes caused a minor controversy after using the same terminology to describe Jenner’s multi-millionaire status in its July 2018 issue, yet still gave the star self-made credit last week.

Dictionary.com hilariously retweeted the Jenner article with the caption: “Haven’t we gone over this? Self-made: Having succeeded in life unaided.” The tweet went viral for its sarcasm and sass, considering most people agree it’s hard to classify Jenner as such. The question is still up for debate: Does the fact that Jenner used her privilege and following to make something of her own prove her to be self-made, or does being born in the lap of luxury disqualify her from such claims?

Let’s start with the latter. Not only was the young businesswoman born wealthy, giving her a financial boost in funding the launch of Kylie Cosmetics, but also she’s a member of one of the most arguably famous families in America. She has been a reality TV star since the age of 9, when “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” first aired, and her large fan base and recognizable family name practically secured her company’s wild success. When we hear the words “self-made,” most of us think of individuals who grew up in poverty and worked their way up to fame and fortune. Jenner, on the other hand, was raised with privilege, although she insists she has worked hard for her own money. 

In an interview with Paper Magazine, Jenner said her parents cut her off financially when she was 15 years old. "My parents told me I needed to make my own money, it's time to learn how to save and spend your own money, stuff like that," she said. "What I'm trying to say is I did have a platform, but none of my money is inherited." Evidently, Jenner has worked from her very privileged starting point to make a name for herself and more money she could have ever earned from her famous name alone. This claim lends credence to the argument that Jenner is, in fact, self-made, just incredibly lucky, too.

Still, it’s hard to imagine she started from the bottom. The counter-argument is that being a star on an immensely popular reality show is the type of advertising that nobody else in the world could buy, meaning she didn't succeed off the strength of her product, but from the social reach she has: A social reach the Kardashians built the foundation for. 

Either way, the question still remains: If Jenner isn’t self-made, where do we draw the line regarding who is and who isn’t? When it comes down to it, we’ll have to rely on the short and sweet Dictionary.com entry. While Jenner might have been smart to use her millennial fan base to her advantage, her undeniable wealth, privilege and fame make it nearly impossible to consider her success as unaided. As for her billionaire status? We’ll have to break the probability of that down in another article. 

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