Not That Rich

Forbes has bumped Kylie Jenner off their America’s Women Billionaires list. Apparently, she isn’t wealthy enough


Billionaire no moreStruck off: Kylie Jenner is no longer on the list. Cover photo: Forbes

Kylie Jenner was the “youngest self-made billionaire ever”, according to Forbes in the annual listing of America’s Women Billionaire 2018. At first, critics were appalled that the magazine described her as “self-made”, which, at it turns out, is presently the least damaging of Ms Jenner’s public-image woes. The magazine is now saying she did not make herself a billionaire. In a scathing report just published, it exposes her “web of lies” and explains “why she’s no longer a billionaire”. What a fall from reputational grace in just 21 months, of which almost six have been dominated by a cosmetics-free coronavirus.

Forbes has recalculated Kylie’s net worth and concluded that she is not a billionaire,” the magazine writes, following new information they have received and analysed, as well as the continued onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic. It even says that the Kardashian-Jenner family took to “unusual lengths” to project their youngest daughter, then not yet 21, as far wealthier than she was. This, it reports, is achieved by deceitful means, such as presenting inflated tax-return documents. It’s curious that she should be believed so easily when she had previously lied for a year about getting lip-filler injections. The shine of massive success quickly dulled when filings from Coty, the publicly-traded company that owns 51% of her company and is famously known for fragrances with celebrities such as Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez, showed less earnings than what Ms Jenner and her accountants before that apparently reported.

Adding to the hoodwinking were the family’s sense of self-importance, dramatically and tackily played out on television and through the media, as well as industry individuals who are, like Ms Jenner’s die-hard fans, enamoured with her. We live in a society with a fervid fascination of celebrities’ financial success. The quiet rich is a rare breed. Ms Jenner’s shot to the top was not only propelled by familial ambition and, to be sure, a cunning mother, but also by a mass media culture of newsiness based on the incredulous and by a business obsession with celebrities and, consequently, the banking on them.

The skincare and cosmetics, as well as fragrance business has, for a long time, not been built on need, as it once was, but on fandom


Forbes quotes an executive at Shopify—it manages Kylie Cosmetics’ online businesses—during the time when Ms Jenner’s possible billionaire status was explored: “No other influencer has ever gotten to the volume or had the rabid fans and consistency that Kylie has had for the last two and a half years.” He/she is clearly a fan too. The skincare and cosmetics,as well as fragrance business has, for a long time, not been built on need, as it once was, but on fandom. The base of followers too have become a barometer of likely celebrity/influencer success when a product is associated with them, as well as the genuineness of claims of business triumph and prosperity.

Following the Forbes report, Ms Jenner defensively Tweeted—sans capital letters at the beginning of sentences—that “i’ve never asked for any title or tried to lie my way there EVER. period”. But neither did she turn them down, or refute or correct the estimation of her worth. Rather, she basked in the victorious glory. The Kardashian-Jenner family is reportedly obsessed with appearing on the cover of Forbes, just as Donald Trump is with Times (so much so that he has a fake Times cover of himself placed in his golf clubs with sufficient visibility that the magazine asked them to be removed). It became a strategic goal. Yet, Ms Jenner added, “i can name a list of 100 things more important right now than fixating on how much money i have”. Let’s start naming then.

Forbes concluded that, after looking at “likely forged” documents, Ms Jenner is now worth “under US$900 million”, even with the “massive cash-out” of her four-year-old company, reportedly valued at US$1.2 billion at the point of sale (MAC Cosmetics was in business for 14 years before Estee Lauder bought it in 1998 for US$60 million, after similarly acquiring 51% at first). Wall Street, not usually enthusiastic of sales of upstart businesses helmed by a (foremost) reality TV star, thought Coty over-paid. Although dethroned by Forbes, Kylie Jenner will likely remain a queen of cosmetics in the eyes of her raving fans, even as just a barely-there-billionaire.