‘Kylie’: An Empire
WORDS BY NICOLE BAXTER
It’s Kylie Jenner’s 21st birthday today! Maybe only a few people care, but hundreds of thousands care about the huge makeup launch of her signature makeup brand, Kylie Cosmetics, each year to commemorate the occasion. The first birthday collection launched in 2016, with new shades of her matte liquid lipsticks and unique gold packaging. The second collection, for her 20th birthday, launched in 2017 and was themed around pink and glitter packaging – living.
Finally, we’ve reached her the collection for her 21st, which we all knew would be one of the biggest launches yet – it’s an important milestone, particularly in the US. Each item in the collection was released individually, but was also sold in a set, a huge box that came with all the frills. Here’s a list of everything included in the full set:
- Lipsticks in ‘Birthday Behaviour’, ‘Glam’, ‘August’, ‘Rumor’, ‘Rager’, and ‘Flirtini’
- 6pc Mini Lip set
- Matte Lip Kits in ‘Tipsy’, ‘Twenty-One’ and ‘Baddie’
- Glitter eyeshadows in ‘Eat Cake’, ‘Born to Sparkle’, and ‘Fine Wine’
- ‘Champagne Showers’ Kylighter
- Eyeshadow Palette (21 shades)
- Lip trio (reds and cherries)
- Limited edition makeup bag
The entire collection has sold out within 3 days of the launch, with few individual items available. The collection set makeup lovers back US$415.00 – assuming that there were 50,000 units sold (there were probably at least double that), that’s a gross earnings of $20,750,000. In a few days.
That excludes all of the sales of the items sold individually.
This launch comes off the back of Kylie’s feature in Forbes, with the controversial headline that called her one of America’s richest ‘self-made women’ and on track to be the ‘youngest ever self-made billionaire’, with a current worth of $900 million. In the days following, ‘self-made’ became the most searched word on Dictionary.com as people tried to grapple with the concept of Kylie’s fame and fortune and how much of it was earnt alone, considering that it stemmed from her appearance on Keeping Up With The Kardashians as she grew up as a member of the Kardashian-Jenner family.
The argument can be made for Kylie – the birthday collection is just one example of individual projects that have garnered her wealth in only a few short years. She owns 100% of her company and isn’t reliant on outside help or benefactors to create her product ideas. She received dividends of US$60 million, after tax, from Kylie Cosmetics last year. Her wealth is not only from her makeup company – it also comes from sponsorships with brands (roughly $400 000-$500 000 per post), her cut of the Keeping Up spoils (as well as I am Cait and a number of other TV ventures), and other brands such as the Kendall and Kylie swimwear range.
Popular criticism of this claim was in the form of Kylie’s familial connections – every major Kylie Cosmetics launch was promoted on the social media channels of famous family members, including the infamous Kim Kardashian-West. The family has a collective following of 494.5 million on Instagram alone. Kylie, with 112 million followers, is second in Instagram popularity to step-sister Kim, who has 115 million. With a famous family with a half billion outreach promoting Kylie’s products and endeavours, there’s no way they wouldn’t succeed. Other arguments were made against her for the basis of her own large following, which would be nothing without the fame of Kim; and the same goes for the entire family.
What’s interesting, however, is that Kim, with all of her influence and fame, is worth only $350 million compared to Kylie’s $900 million. Kim has a makeup line of her own, a similar business model to Kylie Cosmetics, and yet sales haven’t soared in the same way they have for Kylie. What is it about Kylie that makes her so successful? Are we supposed to believe that she’s a genius businesswoman with no formal business training at the age of 21?
Turns out that the meme we all know and love – ‘The devil works hard, but Kris Jenner works harder’ – may have more truth to it than we’ve given credit. In the very same Forbes article that called Kylie ‘self-made’, it’s explained that all she does to make her fortune is ‘leverage her social media following’. She only pays seven full-time and five part-time employees. Everything else is outsourced to other companies – the actual production and distribution, the online interface and sales process. And guess who manages all of this, as well as the finance and marketing?
The ‘momager’ herself.
But it’s Kylie’s fame, and constant promotion of her products over her various social media channels, that really boosts the success of the brand. After all, Kim’s makeup line is run the same way, and she’s only worth less than half of what Kylie is. She may have slightly more followers, but she got into the game later, and doesn’t seem to be able to leverage her fame in the same way that Jenner does.
On top of that, Kylie followed in the footsteps of sister Kim by launching a career off the basis of a scandal. Just as the Kim Kardashian/Ray-J sex tape rocketed Kim to stardom (and the whole Kardashian clan with her), the Kylie Cosmetics brand quickly came into the centre of focus when the ‘Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge’ went viral in 2015. The challenge involved teenagers putting their mouths into shot glasses and sucking out the air, with the intent of puffing up their lips to imitate Kylie’s overdrawn and filled pout (at the time). After hospitalisations and consequences of the challenge, six months later, Kylie put up $150 000 of her own money to launch Kylie Cosmetics, a mere 18 years old at the time. Kim had no major scandals around the launch time of KKW Cosmetics – does this mean that it’s not just Kylie’s social media presence, but the presence of scandal that has made her more than twice as successful as her most famous sister?
Whilst it may seem a little incomprehensible to think that young Kylie is worth more than powerhouses such as Beyoncé, it’s the alarming truth. No longer is the name ‘Kylie’ associated with the eternal Ms. Minogue, but with the girl once known for using too many fillers and now known for her personal empire of makeup and influence. Regardless of whether or not you consider her ‘self-made’, her achievements can’t be disregarded (are we all forgetting she had a baby this year, too?) and the world can’t help but watch on with anticipation for Kylie’s next move.