The Kardashian-Jenner clan has been slapping their names on products and pumping them out since 2009.
They’ve released perfumes, socks, makeup, apps, clothes and one unfortunate pop single. They’ve aligned themselves with brands from Carl’s Jr. to Calvin Klein. Kylie Jenner, the youngest of her KarJenner generation, makes $1 million per Instagram post.
Despite being the youngest, Kylie is also the first in the family to amass $1 billion. The next wealthiest sister, Kim, reportedly has around one-third of that (not taking into account her husband Kanye West’s fortune. Even if you did, it would be significantly less than Kylie’s).
On March 5, Forbes magazine deemed Kylie “the youngest self-made billionaire ever.” But if anyone in the family is “self-made,” it’s Kim Kardashian. Not Kylie Jenner.
“Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” premiered on E! in 2007. Kim was quickly established as the famous one, Kourtney the low-key oldest sibling, Khloe the funny, likable one and Kylie and Kendall as the interchangeable, precocious kids. Rob was in business school and irrelevant until he started dating one of the Cheetah Girls.
Kylie was nine or 10 years old when E! cameras first entered her Calabasas home. Whether you feel sorry for her being thrust into the reality TV spotlight so young or don’t have sympathy for the classic poor-little-rich-girl narrative, she didn’t have a choice in filming the show. Even if she’d been camera-shy (which she definitely wasn’t, as evidenced by her bartending and pole-dancing in episode one), Kylie still would have been famous by association.
In “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” season four, Kendall announced she wanted to model. Kris immediately whisked her off to a meeting with Wilhelmina, one of the world’s top agencies, and the 13-year-old scored a contract.
In later seasons Kendall, eventually a high-fashion model, expressed resentment toward her family’s notoriety. There was a brief attempt in 2014 to distance herself from the show, when she declared she’d be calling herself simply “Kendall” from then on. It didn’t stick.
All the KarJenner sisters (and Rob) have been negatively affected by their reality show at some point. Young Kylie struggled to keep up in school and attend Hollywood events at the same time, Kim was accused of faking a marriage for a viewership boost and Khloé was endlessly criticized for the seasons-long dissolution of her relationship with Lamar Odom. But business-wise, they’ve benefited enormously from the show, which gave them millions of viewers and, consequently, hundreds of millions of social media followers.
Kylie Jenner was born into a wealthy family, and grew up in a staggeringly famous one. This wasn’t her fault, but it also wasn’t her doing, and while she deserves some creativity points for Kylie Cosmetics, the company would not exist without her family’s influence.
The only truly “self-made” KarJenner is Kim. As Scott Disick once astutely observed when Khloé thanked Kim for organizing a family vacation, the rest of the family wouldn’t have the reality show and, consequently, their careers, without her.
Dictionary.com felt compelled to tweet the definition of “self-made” at Forbes last summer and on March 5, when the magazine used the term to refer to Kylie Jenner: “Having succeeded in life unaided.” I’m with them; Forbes is wrong.
The Kardashian-Jenner family was not struggling pre-reality show. Robert Kardashian, Kris’ late first husband, was a prominent Los Angeles lawyer who defended O.J. Simpson in 1995. Her second spouse, Caitlyn Jenner, medaled gold at the 1976 Olympics and made millions from endorsements, then worked as a public speaker afterward, sometimes charging tens of thousands of dollars for events.
One could argue, then, that none of Kris’ children with Kardashian or Jenner are “self-made,” because of their wealthy predispositions. But Kim, Khloé, Kourtney and Rob all worked prior to starring on E!; the sisters owned Calabasas clothing boutique DASH, and Rob graduated from the University of Southern California. While their careers were all boosted by the show and Kim’s personal fame, they all had to work for themselves at some point. Also, Forbes never called any of them “self-made.”
Kylie owes most, if not all, of her fame and fortune to her family — specifically her second-oldest sister. It’s possible that, without Kim Kardashian West and her enterprising momager, Kylie Jenner would be a makeup mogul worth $1 billion, but it is unlikely. Again, I’m with Dictionary.com; Kylie Jenner is not a “self-made” billionaire.