As a feminist, I am always excited to read about Forbes' "America's Richest Self-Made Women," a list of the most successful American women as measured by their net worths. I really believe that all of these women can be great role models for younger girls as examples of what strong, ambitious women can accomplish.
A new addition to the list is reality star and entrepreneur Kylie Jenner. At the age of 20 (she will be 21 in August), Kylie's net worth is estimated to be $900 million making her the youngest on the list and putting her on the fast track to becoming the "youngest-ever self-made billionaire." Her Kylie Cosmetics makeup company specializing in lip kits has made her an estimated $800 million and she impressively owns 100% of the company.
While her success is impressive, I (along with many others on the internet) have an issue with Forbes calling Kylie a 'self-made billionaire'.
The cover of Forbes shows Kylie and claims "Welcome to the era of extreme fame leverage." Kylie's success seems to have been just the next step for the Kardashian clan in capitalizing on their fame. Forbes describes it as a "20-year-old from a family 'famous for being famous' can approach billionaire status by monetizing that to the extreme."
Forbes goes on to describe how "As with sister Kim's sex-tape fame, Kylie Cosmetics got started by capitalizing on a scandal." So "[t]his is where Mom comes in again" with Kris Jenner using the tabloid's obsession with Kylie's lips being larger and the 'Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge' as an opportunity for them to create and launch the lip kits.
While I am truly happy for Kylie, I think it is naive and irresponsible to call her a self-made billionaire. According to Aditi Juneja, who is on the "30 Under 30" list,
Lists like these — which fetishize achievement, particularly at a young age — erase the privilege and access that allow some of us to take career risks and be entrepreneurial in ways others can't. They diminish the hard work done by people in more challenging circumstances and add to the myth that if you just work hard enough, you can pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. They ignore that some people have neither boots nor straps.
She reminds us that "None of us are entirely 'self-made'." Kylie was born into privilege. She comes from a famous and wealthy family with her father Caitlin (Bruce) Jenner being a former Olympian, celebrity Kim Kardashian as a sister (who all of the Kardashians fame stemmed from), and her mother Kris Jenner being known as one of the most successful American 'momagers'.
Even Dictionary.com pointed out the incorrect use of 'self-made':
So while I agree that we should celebrate Kylie's accomplishments, I do not agree that we should call her 'self-made'. I like Paris Hilton's description of Kylie as a "girl boss". A 'girl boss' is a strong, ambitious woman who is redefining success and taking control in her personal and work life. I think Forbes' should change from "America's Richest Self-Made Women" to "America's Richest Girl Bosses". Not only does it sound cooler, but it does not ignore their privilege while still celebrating these women as being leaders in industry and role models for young women.
What do you think it should be called?