At the beginning of March, Forbes made an announcement: Kylie Jenner, daughter of Kris and Caitlyn Jenner, sole proprietor of Kylie Cosmetics, had become a billionaire. Her eponymous beauty brand, the magazine estimated, was worth $900 million; the additional $100 million, the cover story explained, was “the cash Jenner has already pulled from the profitable business.”
But not only was Jenner a billionaire—at age 21, she was the youngest billionaire in the world, and the youngest self-made billionaire, younger even than Mark Zuckerberg when Facebook crossed into the 10-figure range.
This accolade, though, prompted immediate resistance from the Internet. What, after all, does it mean for a woman born into a monumentally famous family, with an established network of publicity, wealth, and fame, to truly be “self-made”? Forbes describes “self-made” as “someone who built a company or established a fortune on her own, rather than inheriting some or all of it.” The magazine admits that this does not take into account the specific advantages leveraged by that existing network, how it might be easier to pitch a beauty brand coming from the Kardashian-Jenner family than it would be from pretty much anywhere else.
But Kylie Jenner herself is sticking to the Forbes definition, in any case: “There’s really no other word to use other than self-made because that is the truth,” she told Interview Germany in a new interview. “That is the category that I fall under. … I did not get money from my parents past the age of 15. I used 100% of my own money to start the company, not a dime in my bank account is inherited,” she continued, “and I am very proud of that.”
She did, however, admit that she was privy to certain advantages, between her massive Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter followings and her extremely visible position as one of the stars of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. “I am a special case because before I started Kylie Cosmetics, I had a huge platform and lots of fans,” she added. InStyle points out that she also receives checks from Keeping Up With the Kardashians,* which she most certainly did not make herself.
“It’s the power of social media,” she told Forbes in an interview accompanying the announcement that she’d crossed into billionaire territory. “I had such a strong reach before I was able to start anything.” CNN points out that Forbes also evaluates its richest subjects based on the advantages they could access before minting their own millions on a scale from 1 to 10. Zuckerberg ranks at an 8; Oprah Winfrey, who was born to a single mother in Mississippi and worked her way out of poverty to host her own talk show, launch a magazine, and generally love bread, is ranked at 10. Jenner merits a 7: pretty self-made, but not totally self-made. Or, as Forbes puts it, “self-made who got a head start from wealthy parents and moneyed background.” Kylie Jenner might be the hardest working Kardashian—but she’s still a Kardashian.