WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE "SELF-MADE?" LET'S DISCUSS.

July 24, 2018

Image via @kyliejenner 

 

This week marks the end of Couturesque's #GOALS issue, a deep-dive into how we characterise success in the fashion industry and how young ingenues are turning their dreams into achievements.  Throughout our think pieces, listicles, and interviews, we've turned again and again to social media influencers and the ways in which, for many millennials and Gen-Z-ers, they continue to define the image of what success looks like in 2018. 

 

Case in point - Kylie Jenner, who according to Forbes, is set to become the world's youngest self-made billionaire at the age of 21.  Helming a cosmetics empire before most of her peers have graduated from college or bought their first apartment is a huge achievement, but there has been a lot of discussion about whether Jenner's "self-made" moniker is deserved. Given that she is the youngest sister in the multi-billion dollar Kardashian reality TV clan, Jenner was already in the 1% before starting her business in 2015, and arguably, received a head-start by having existing capital - both financially and in popular culture - that allowed her to bypass the difficult "start up" phase. 

 

Jenner might be the most bankable, but she's not the only celebrity off-spring who has had a controversial launch to fame in the fashion and beauty industry; famous progeny like Lily-Rose Depp, Hailey Baldwin, and Kaia Gerber have seen meteoric success as models and influencers over the last two years alone, thanks in no small part to their existing family connections and wealth.  In an industry intensifying its efforts to include people of different backgrounds, we still seem to have our eyes trained on those who are already in the elite.

 

In the days following the Forbes article, Kylie stans and critics have gone head to head on social media arguing not only about whether Jenner is really self-made, but more importantly, what that even means today.  We collected the tweets that made us think, prompted conversation, and brought us a little bit closer to understanding what opportunity and success look like for fashion and beauty creatives in 2018:

 

 

1. Arguing that someone "deserves" wealth supports the inverse idea that others "deserve" to be poor.

 

 

 

2. Celebrating people for just for being rich is perpetuating classism; money shouldn't be the apex of how we define success or character, especially when it overlooks the hard work of less wealthy people who are left invisible under capitalism.

 

 

3.  Is the backlash towards Kylie couched in misogyny?  Millennial women pioneered the modern beauty industry and influencer economy and we should look more closely at the ways in which we might disregard these kinds of career paths.

 

 

4.  Self-made typically refers to people who invented or innovated something new and earned capital as a result of that innovation.  In the case of Jenner, some argue that Kylie Cosmetics is just a spin-off of the Kardashian brand, and that given the millions of dollars she already had on hand, it was born a behemoth - it didn't become one.

 

 

5.  The term "self-made" is over simplistic, anyways.  No one can make it on their own and no corporation is based solely on the contribution of one individual.

 

 

6.  Makeup artist Pat McGrath also had big news this weekend - her brand surpassed Kylie Cosmetics to the $1 billion mark.  30 years after starting out for i-D in London and going on to work for some of the most innovative names in the industry, can we qualify McGrath as a certified self-made cosmetics tycoon?

 

 

7.  Maybe we should be less concerned with how people became rich and more focused on what they do with the capital that they have, as someone who is ultra-wealthy, but also has power as a business owner, influencer, and leader.

 

 

 

 

 

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