In 2010, Bruno Mars famously sang that he wanted to be a billionaire “so fucking bad,” working to wind up on the cover of Forbes magazine. Kylie Jenner, the youngest of the Kardashian-Jenner clan, clearly had similar ambitions.
A new investigation by Forbes has discovered that Kylie Jenner, who Forbes named a self-made billionaire in March 2019, isn’t actually a billionaire. Based on Forbes’ reporting, Jenner likely never was. Now, she’s closer to a $900 millionaire — still an impressive number, but not quite the $1,000,000,000 she and her team led the world to believe.
How did Forbes, the same magazine that initially declared Jenner a self-made billionaire, discover that she wasn’t? A tale as old as time — public documents. When makeup empire Coty bought 51 percent of Jenner’s company, Kylie Cosmetics, publicly available documents suggested that Jenner’s business wasn’t as profitable as reporters were led to believe. Reporters Chase Peterson-Withorn and Madeline Berg discovered that Kylie Cosmetics generated $177 million over a 12-month period before the deal closed in January 2020 — a number that was “far lower than the published estimates at the time.” Peterson-Withorn and Berg continued:
More problematic, Coty said that sales were up 40% from 2018, meaning the business only generated about $125 million that year, nowhere near the $360 million the Jenners had led Forbes to believe. Kylie’s skincare line, which launched in May 2019, did $100 million in revenues in its first month and a half, Kylie’s reps told us. The filings show the line was actually “on track” to finish the year with just $25 million in sales.
Jenner’s company still pulled in revenue, and Kylie Cosmetics was still a staple product within the beauty world, but it just was perhaps not as popular as the Kardashian-Jenner team projected. As Peterson-Withorn and Berg noted, “the unusual lengths to which the Jenners have been willing to go—including inviting Forbes into their mansions and CPA’s offices, and even creating tax returns that were likely forged—reveals just how desperate some of the ultra-rich are to look even richer.” The article led to a response from Jenner, who tweeted “all I see are a number of inaccurate statements and unproven assumptions lol.
“I’ve never asked for any title or tried to lie my way there ever,” Jenner tweeted. “Period.”
Jenner’s response tackles Peterson-Withorn and Berg’s reporting, but barely scratches the deeper analysis from the piece: the reason it seemed so vital for Jenner, and her team, to be seen as a billionaire.
She’s already a key member of arguably the most famous family in the world, runs a successful company, and is one of the most recognizable influencers working today. The same question could be asked of Jenner’s brother-in-law, Kanye West, who campaigned for Forbes to recognize him as a billionaire. West, who has countless Grammys and sold tens of millions of records, seemingly doesn’t need to add billionaire to that list, but it seemed crucial for him to be recognized for his net worth.
Peterson-Withorn and Berg’s investigation gets into why Jenner and her family felt like they needed to go the whole nine yards to have a 22-year-old land the cover of Forbes magazine as a self-made billionaire — a term that launched a million eye rolls around the world. The story is less about Kylie lying, which is in and of itself a wild ride, but more about the obsessive wealth fixations and psyche of the already incredibly elite.