SHAH: Kylie maintains her false self-made title

Opinion Column: The Progressive's Hot Take

This past July, Forbes called Kylie Jenner “self-made.” And despite even mocking that claim, Kylie Jenner still cannot seem to let that title go. Just last week, when speaking with Interview, Kylie Jenner said: “There’s really no other word to use other than self-made because that is the truth.”

So, I suppose — one more time for the people in the back, an audience that seems to include Jenner herself — she cannot, and absolutely should not, be considered self-made. 

Described as “unassuming,” Jenner is painted as the more casual and down-to-earth of her sisters, despite out-earning all of them with her company Kylie Cosmetics. Her brand has become equivalent to industry giants in such a short amount of time, even in the face of copious reports that claim that her products are simple markups of the famously inexpensive ColourPop Cosmetics, which sells the same lipsticks Jenner sells at $30 for a mere $6, and that workers at Spatz Laboratories are treated poorly. 

In reality, it is entirely fair to attribute the success of her company to her last name and family brand, though I am sure Jenner's business acumen and grind did help in whatever way it could. Without the Kardashians’ monopoly on much of our pop culture, it is hard to see how Jenner's cosmetic company — a near carbon-copy of many other makeup lines — could find the success that it did. 

To be fair, Jenner does not deny any of this. In her profile in PAPER, she said: “I had such a huge platform, I had so many followers already and I had so many people watching me.” The issue is, she does not stop there. “Still, she’s eager to assert that ‘the self-made thing is true,’” according to the interview. In order to back up the ‘self-made thing,' she cited that her parents cut her off at 15 years old, which apparently does not include her housing, car, medical expenses or vacations.

Correct me if I am wrong, but starting your own business when your backup plan is your über-wealthy, billionaire family is maybe a little less anxiety-inducing than other entrepreneurs who risk just about everything to get their startups off the ground. Praising Jenner's business aptitude and ignoring her privilege is not only wrong, but also serves as an insult to every American who has had to work hard to afford the same privileges that she was born with. 

The truth is, things like racial privilege can be incredibly hard to see, and oftentimes they unintentionally are not acknowledged. But these monetary privileges are so blatantly obvious, and yet we seem to be letting Jenner off the hook for constantly failing to check those privileges when discussing her successful entrepreneurship venture. If we find it difficult to acknowledge overt privileges such as these, how are we expected to create a more equitable environment for majorly disenfranchised groups across the country and world? 

“(Jenner) doesn't feel guilty about exposing her young followers to a filtered vision of beauty that apparently requires millions, close to billions, of dollars to achieve, isn't losing sleep over the occasional piece of diet pill sponcon,” according to the PAPER interview. So, while Jenner understands that her platform allowed her to become the “youngest self-made billionaire,” she fails to recognize her complicity in the dangerous and ridiculous standards that the beauty industry profits from.

Not only does Jenner lack an understanding of what a life without luxury looks like, but also she does not understand what attributing her appearance to natural causes does to the young women who follow her every move. 

I do respect Jenner's handling of her wealth and the mobilization of her platform to create a successful and brilliant business venture. These are not monetary achievements to simply be scoffed at, and yet, the Kardashians’ inability to accept their inherent privileges is purely insulting. Even after the much-discussed controversy of calling Jenner "self-made," the family defended the title and Kim Kardashian even came back at critics and said: “I really didn't get it, because she is 'self-made' — we are all ‘self-made.’ What, because we came from a family that has had success? To me, that doesn't really make sense.” 

So, it is not just Jenner. Her entire family and celebrities of similar stature are not being held properly accountable for their impact and have no true grounding in the real-world issues everyday people face. And even when they are held accountable by the public, the family still consistently denies the lethal detriments associated with the diet pills, waist trainers and other harmful beauty products they endorse and continue to immorally profit off of impressionable young girls. They still deny their blatant privilege. 

There is nothing wrong with taking advantage of your circumstances, and it is natural to feel under attack when people attribute your success largely to external factors. But making excuses for your advantages only further perpetuates the American myth that claims that anyone can find success by working hard and ignoring the systemic issues that serve as insurmountable obstacles for those who come from a low socioeconomic status. Shielding these systemic issues by conflating the success of penniless immigrants and reality television moguls stops us from dissecting the root causes of such issues. 

Everyone’s struggles are relative, but celebrities with the name, household recognition and brand as the Kardashians have no right to ask for pity from the masses when their struggles are simple privileges many of us cannot even begin to afford, such as making excuses about the wealth we were born with. 

Anjali Shah is a Rutgers Business School sophomore, contemplating her primary major but minoring in political science and philosophy.   Her  column, “The Progressive’s Hot Take,” runs on alternate Fridays.


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