Self-Made or Selfie-Made? Kylie Jenner Set To Achieve Billionaire Status


In the past decade, there has been much discussion about the rise of social media, but today, in 2018, social media is no longer on the rise. We are living in the digital age, with social media as the new form of socialization. While social media had previously been begrudgingly adopted by many companies as a necessary means of appealing to younger, more tech-savvy audiences, today it is a necessity, with virtually any company that does not sustain an online presence doomed to fail. This idea of an economy and lifestyle being driven by the internet has been solidified with Forbes' latest magazine cover, announcing that 20-year-old media mogul Kylie Jenner is slated to become the youngest self-made billionaire ever. 

Kylie has only been producing cosmetics for two years, yet her company is already worth approximately $800 billion. How did Jenner accomplish this at such a young age? To understand how Jenner has managed to surpass Mark Zuckerberg as the youngest self-made billionaire ever, it is necessary to first examine the circumstances that made this feat possible. Anyone who has ever perused the internet is bound to have stumbled upon the name Kylie Jenner at least once. She is the youngest child of Kris Jenner, the ex-wife of the late Robert Kardashian, friend and lawyer of OJ Simpson. The family was extremely well off and well connected, allowing the Kardashian daughters to befriend celebrities. Through this social circle, Kim Kardashian met and dated rapper Ray-J, with whom she notoriously made a sex tape that was leaked in 2003. Kim immediately became a public figure, and four years later, the family got their own reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, featuring "momager" Kris, step-father, Olympian Caitlyn Jenner (then Bruce), siblings Khloe, Kourtney, and Rob, and half-siblings, Kendall and Kylie. 

Forbes' latest cover figure was 10-years-old when cameras began following her every move, and they haven't stopped since. Kylie grew up onscreen and watched and learned from her increasingly famous siblings as they elevated their celebrity statuses. Just by proxy of being related to and within the realm of the Kardashian universe, both Kylie and her older sister Kendall began receiving offers to promote various products and events, proving that any bit of celebrity is better than none. The sisters put out nail polishes via Nicole by OPI and launched their PacSun clothing line in 2013. While Kendall eventually chose to focus her career on modeling, Kylie continued to garner deals and solo ventures, such as her 2016 deal as the new face of Puma. She was 17 when she released her first of many lip kits. 

The most powerful and consistent factor attributed to maximizing her success has been her endless stream of updates on social media. While other celebrities may rely on assistants or publicists to keep their social media in check, Kylie dedicates much of her day updating Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat with the goings-on in her daily life. This allows her to easily show off her latest products. Fans who adore her style are kept satiated by Kylie's daily reveal of what combination of products she is featuring. The simple and free marketing tactic works more efficiently than any ad campaign ever could. She preludes her make-up line launches with countdowns on her social media, and the products typically sell out within an hour, or sometimes within a minute.

The idea that no amount of marketing strategies and campaigns can compete with celebrity has become the reality facing companies today. With consumers glued to their phones and interminably bombarded with ads, it is nearly impossible to stand out as a singular brand. Jenner's brand may not be for everyone- she is frequently criticized for getting lip augmentations, having a child at such a young age, and posting promiscuous pictures. Despite the critics, she embodies a desirable lifestyle to many millennials- her 111 million Instagram followers proves that. She is attractive, rich, famous, and according to her Snapchat stories, her life seems pretty great. Who wouldn't want to casually buy a Ferrari or zip off to Paris for a fashion show? Followers never see a bad picture of the meticulously made-up Kylie, and this flawlessness is an unattainable dream that consumers will pay to edge towards any and every time Kylie releases or endorses anything.  

Forbes has titled Jenner "self-made", but in consideration of all the advantages she has had, is this term truly accurate? Would Kylie Jenner be in the position she is in today if it weren't for her rich and famous family? She grew up onscreen, and so it is hardly unusual that she continues to live on camera even when Keeping Up with the Kardashians is not filming. When she took an unprecedented break from social media during her secret (although highly speculated) pregnancy, fans craved and demanded more Kylie, making her glorious return all the more satisfying. Kylie certainly puts in time and works to make her empire the force it is today. The work that she puts in, however, is made feasible by simply uploading content, usually angular selfies to her profiles. 

By birth, Kylie has been put into an enviable position that has significantly augmented her ability to create the astounding brand she has today. It is not accurate to put her in the same category as business owners who have worked from the ground up, with little to no funding, pursued and failed at various ventures before finally getting a break. Becoming self-made is all about capitalizing on the opportunities at hand, but not many people can say their sister's best friend is Paris Hilton and their father is an Olympian. Most people also probably would not want to have their teen years played out on E! either, but Kylie managed to garner a loyal fan base and empire through it. 

Perhaps then the continuous fascination of Kylie Jenner is not the how but the why. As fans read her Forbes article, double-tap her Instagram posts, and tap through her Snapstories, they see an alluring, perfectly styled and happy 20-year-old. They apply their Kylie lipstick, take a selfie, post it, and wonder, "why not me?".