When it comes to the Kardashian-Jenner clan, many are quick to point out the assumed hand-me down of wealth, connections, and success. Is it reasonable that each sister is successful due to the connections their mother has made or that they’re still relevant due to Kim Kardashian’s standstill in the media? Definitely. But is that the only reason Kylie Jenner’s multi-million-dollar cosmetics company is successful? I don’t think so.
In any other instance, the story of hard work and hustle by a 19-year-old young woman who becomes a Forbes cover star for a series on America’s Women Billionaires would be huge news. Kylie built her company from the ground up and was able to grow quickly due to her large social media following. Many, however, believe that she wouldn’t be as successful as she is if it weren’t for the privilege she was born into.
Kylie’s namesake brand launched in 2016 with its fair share of very unhappy consumers. Multiple reports of missing and stolen packages were posted on both social media and filed with the Better Business Bureau. Later the complaints revolved around the quality of the brush used in the original version of her now popular liquid lipstick. Arguably the most notable of these complaints came from popular YouTuber and cosmetics owner Jeffree Star. In a now viral video, Star shows the brush used in her liquid lipsticks, complaining that it was already frayed when he opened it. Jeffree ended the video with him throwing the whole product in the trash.
For any other indie-makeup company, this type of attention could mean death. How do you turn around a batch of consumers who are all unhappy with your product? In Kylie’s case, you do it by being transparent and tackling these issues head on. She used her large social media following to address complaints, apologize, and overall make this a learning experience.
Now two years later, her lip-kits have achieved cult status in the beauty industry with multiple copycat products on the market.
It’s not realistic for me to say that her privilege or family connections had nothing to do with her current success. Part of the reason so many consumers were quick to buy her original batch of liquid lipsticks, which sold out immediately, was because of who she is. However, even she would not be immune to unhappy consumers. If Kylie had chosen to ignore those initial comments instead of working to create better products, her company wouldn’t still be around two years later.
Privilege or Hard Work?
When focusing on the ‘self-made’ comment made by Forbes, we should consider its context. Her cosmetics company accounts for $800 million of the $900 million reported on. The rest comes from product endorsements and TV programs. While the TV programs also heavily feature her family, most of her money comes from the solo-endeavor of creating her company. She is on her way to becoming the youngest self-made billionaire, male or female and that is something we should be celebrating. To put that in perspective, Mark Zuckerberg was 23 years old when he became a billionaire. Kylie will turn 21 in August this year.
I understand why people may not consider Kylie or anyone else born into privilege as self-made. However, as a society, we need to realize that we never get the full picture. We didn’t see if Kylie pulled long nights to create products or the possible stress and pressure she was under when launching her company. No one can deny that she had a leg-up in but that should not diminish her accomplishments.
She did not choose which family to be born into, just like we didn’t get that choice.
She used what she had to create a name for herself, separate of her family’s identity. When we say that her, or anyone else regardless of gender, is successful due to their privilege or any other label we throw around, we undercut any hard work they did to get further in their industry.
Instead of reducing her success and relating it back to her family, we should be proud at what she has accomplished at such a young age. I’m not saying we should consider her a saint or savior simply because she decided to work. What I am saying though is that we should not tear down her success or anyone else’s simply due to who they are or where they come from.
The irony of this argument is not lost on me.
Usually, privilege is seen as a negative entity keeping those less fortunate down; And that is still a very huge issue we should be focused on. I believe that by working both sides of this issue, we may be able to finally come to a point in society where it does not matter who your family is or what tax bracket you’re in. What is and always will be commendable is hard work, no matter who you are.
The story of the underdog is forever an American favorite and for good reason. But it’s time we replaced that one with one of hard work without the added labels we are so fond of using.
Cover image via Forbes