Who doesn’t remember watching everyone’s favorite guilty pleasure, Ryan Seacrest’s mega-hit reality show on E- entertainment ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians (KUWTK ), at some point or the other. It was a pioneer of provocative reality shows and first aired in 2007; 19 seasons later, the family collectively amassed a king’s ransom in earnings and became global superstars. The spicy saga of Kris Jenner and her tribe – Kim, Khloe Kourtney, Rob, Kendall and Kylie and of course her husband Bruce and their scandalous day to day life catapulted them to heights of stardom. However, the show’s ethos, to provide light entertainment and up to date fashion insights, has remained unchanged. Their steady 2- 3 million viewers have greedily lapped it up for thirteen years and continue to beg for more. They have been nominated and also won numerous Teen Choice and People’s Choice awards, been forerunners in the fashion industry and brand ambassadors for top brands.
Unarguably, the lead star Kim Kardashian’s unsavory antics and personal ‘assets’ have made the show a stupendous success, but the blended Jenner – Kardashian family members haven’t lagged far behind. Each member has their fans, their drama, and a fair share of the popularity pie. However, many critics have slammed the show and the sheer idiocy of the family at large; for instance, Jessica Chasmar of The Washington Times said that series: “illustrates our nation’s moral, spiritual and cultural decay.”
But with ratings like the Season 4 finale in February 2010, which had 4.8 million total viewers, multiple spin-offs (Kourtney and Khloe take Miami, Dash dolls, and so on), its continued relevance for over twelve years makes the show (which in fact has recently announced that its 20th season will be it’s last) shows that they are clearly doing something right.
The original Kardashian trio – Kim, Kourtney, Khloe ruled the roost for many seasons at the start but eventually, we see their stepsisters Kylie and Kendall Jenner rise to fame on and off the show. They started as ten-year-olds in 2007 and literally grew up on the sets; the avid fans have seen the transformation of their fortunes and cosmetically enhanced faces over the years. While Kendall was destined for runaway success as a superstar model and as the face of legendary brands like Burberry, Kylie’s rise to fame as a businesswoman is far more interesting.
Kylie Jenner – the controversial, ‘youngest billionaire’ Kardashian sister we all love to hate
A timeline of her achievements:
2007 -2012: Kylie’s fortuitous journey started as the gawky recurring cast member on KUWTK, but over the years, she and Kendall became global style icons (Seventeen magazine hailed them as style stars of the year 2017 ). They appeared in various music videos like the one for Jaden Smith, penned controversial ( and flop ) dystopian science fiction novels ( Rebels- city of Indra and its sequel ), and won the hearts of millions of star-struck teens worldwide
2014-2015: The Kendal sisters’ innate shrewdness and business acumen made them aware very early on that anything the Kardashian clan touched, turned to gold. They became serial entrepreneurs and didn’t leave any stoned unturned. They launched their clothing line, Kendall + Kylie with British fashion retailer Topshop and also came up with a personalized mobile app called Kendall and Kylie
2015 – now – The phenomenal rise of Kylie Cosmetics :
As the Jenner sisters embarked on their individual career paths, Kylie didn’t rest on her laurels. Handheld by ‘momager’ Kris, she cleverly encashed her social media presence (Time magazine declared Kylie as one of the most influential teens on social media in 2014/15) and her influential family to create a line of makeup called “Kylie Cosmetics ‘. The Kardashians have never missed a trick when it came to monetizing scandals. Post yearlong speculation of whether she was using lip injections to plump up her lips or not, Kylie relented and confessed it to be true, which caused media mayhem. Kylie spun the negative attention to her advantage and launched her first batch of 15,000 lip kits, consisting of a lip liner and matching lipstick, and reached 500,000 kits by 2016.
“It’s the power of social media. I had such a strong reach before I was able to start anything,” she said
She even had the foresight to trademark the phrase “Kylie Lip Kits … For the perfect pout.” at the age of seventeen. Kylie went on to have multiple collaborations with her family, with Kris ( a Mother’s Day line ) and Kim and KKW Beauty to launch a new fragrance. Kylie Cosmetics launched their collaboration with her half-sister Khloe called Kylie Cosmetics x Koko Kollection, which marked their third partnership. This spate of collaborations, marketing gimmickry, and social media prowess created such a buzz around Kylie Cosmetics that Kylie became an important person who mattered in the world of cosmetics. It was reported that her earnings grew from nothing to supposedly to $300 million in one year. With every passing year, the sales grew exponentially; in 2019, Forbes declared her one of the youngest billionaires. In 202o, her position was cemented when 51% of Kylie Cosmetics was sold to beauty giant Coty in a deal valued at $1.2 billion. Another Kardashian sister had done it once again, created an empire in a totally unrelated field out of thin air simply by being a powerful influencer.
Kylie has become a business magnate and an unstoppable force. Her latest 2020 accomplishments include a staggering number of 201 million followers on Instagram. Her hashtag #RiseandShine has reached one billion views on TikTok, making it the platform’s fastest-growing hashtag trend. Kylie also has various successful endorsements like Calvin Klein, Adidas, Puma, OPI and has generated even more media buzz by capitalizing on her daughter Stormi’s pictures.
2020 – The Forbes controversy
However earlier this year, Forbes severely defamed Kylie by stripping off her the ‘youngest self-made billionaire’ title. They accused her of forging tax documents, fabricating sales figures, misleading the investors, analysts, and the industry. This caused a huge public uproar as Forbes is a very credible publication and was allegedly taken for a ride by Kylie and Kris.
But Kylie has remained unperturbed as she and her family have rubbished this as slander. And after their deal with Cody (where Kylie personally pocketed 600 million USD) and the launch of Kylie Skin, they are laughing all the way to the bank. She lives in a lavish mansion in LA worth over 30 million USD. She has a room kept aside just for her beloved collection of over 400 bags ( many being limited editions and supposedly cost over 1 million USD), including Hermes, LV, Chanel, and every other brand imaginable. She also has a particular fondness for luxury cars and owns multiple Rolls-Royces, Ferraris, Lamborghini Aventador, and many more. Among her many other eccentric purchases, my favorite is a $200,000 gray pony named Frozen, which she bought lovingly for Stormi.
So why do people love to hate her?
As a 21-year-old who charges apparently a whopping 1 million dollars per paid post on Instagram (which made her the world’s highest-paid influencer in 2019 according to scheduling tool, Hopper), Kylie encapsulates everything today’s generation is criticized for; quick success riding on the back of social media, shock value and baring every part of their life to a voyeuristic, impressionable young audience. This is the primary reason, in my opinion, why Kylie has as many people who scornfully dismiss her as she has loyal fans. This dislike probably sparked when her billionaire status was declared ‘self-made’; no one could stomach the pomposity and terminology; after all, she had been a successful reality star since the age of 10! All she did was use cheap antics to push her agenda and business, like the rest of the Kardashians. The Forbes controversy hurt her reputation immensely too.
Whether it’s the moral degradation of society as a whole or simply a natural progression of life, we can’t say. The only thing we know for certain is there’s a certain genius to it all, and Kylie Jenner, like the rest of her family, possesses it in great abundance.
I feel like the Kardashian haters are going to hate the entire family and spare none, especially the one sister who has surpassed them all in wealth and popularity. It does sound fishy that a twenty-one-year-old has carved out a significant space in such a short span of time in a saturated cosmetic industry, with no prior experience running a business. But Cody did sign the deal with no gun to their head, right?
I have shamelessly watched this series on and off for many years (like a bad addiction, I admit) and applaud this family for doing what it takes to make it big. From the start, they have been trendsetters from reality shows stars to the biggest influencers on social media. They have correctly identified what clicks with their audience and monetized their work. And while they may have negatively influenced a whole generation, they did what they needed to make it big but isn’t that how empires are built?