How Kylie Jenner Became the Most Powerful Kardashian
It all started with a $29 lip kit. Well, that and a reality television show. And some very famous family members.
But if there’s one thing you don’t want to try and keep up with, it’s Kylie Jenner’s bank account. The 22-year-old member of the Kardashian-Jenner tribe of wealthy socialites and television personalities has been lauded as being the world's youngest self-made billionaire. But her much-talked-about net worth, once estimated at $1 billion, is now considered bunk. She's only worth $900 million. Yeah, she's poor now.
This is how Kylie Jenner became filthy rich, from her first dabble into sponsorships, to producing a failed fiction book and then to becoming a cosmetics mogul with a $36.5 million mansion. It's also about how Kylie lied about her finances to numerous publications and had her army of PR people inflate her net worth by allegedly forging her tax returns.
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Kylie Cosmetics Started Small
Let's start with the drama. Kylie Jenner founded Kylie Cosmetics in 2015 after she finally admitted to using lip injections. Kris Jenner, resident momager with an exceptional ability to make money off her clan, spun the little scandal into a way to make more money.
That same year, when Kylie was 17, she founded Kylie Cosmetics. Back then, it was a pretty simple online operation that sold the "Kylie Lip Kit" for $29. There were only 15,000 units available at the time, according to Fortune. Kylie and her PR team hyped them up, and, thanks to their manufactured scarcity, they sold out immediately.
And the Company Exploded in Popularity
Over the next 18 months, Kylie Cosmetics' sales absolutely skyrocketed to the tune of $420 million. That’s about $23.3 million a month in sales, with Kylie pocketing $250 million.
At least, that's what Kylie, Kris and their PR army wanted everyone to believe.
She Made $19 Million in Sales in One Day
One of the ways Kylie Cosmetics drums up so many sales is through manufactured scarcity by releasing limited product lines of makeup and accessories.
One such success was its 2016 holiday collection, which sold nearly $19 million in a single day, reports CNBC.
Except, these numbers are probably totally bunk.
The Business Kept Growing — but Not as Much as She Wanted You to Think
Here's what everyone used to believe: Kylie Cosmetics kept growing and, in 2018, was on track to be a billion-dollar company by 2022, just seven years after its founding. To put that kind of growth in perspective:
"WWD reported that it took Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.-owned Tom Ford Beauty 10 years to earn $500 million, it took 25 years for Bobbi Brown to hit $1 billion in earnings in 2016 and it took L'Oréal's Lancôme 80 years to reach the $1 billion mark in 2015," writes CNBC.
It's quite a story, and makes Kylie look incredibly successful. Except the numbers that WWD reported were supplied by the Kardashians, and were the same numbers that Kris and her PR crew tried to pass off to Forbes.
According to the publication, which published an explosive expose about Kylie's "web of lies," editors were invited over to a Kardashian mansion and shown tax returns that claimed Kylie Cosmetics made $420 million in 18 months, with Kylie taking home $250 million.
But Forbes thought that $420 million in 18 months — $300 million in a single year — didn't sound right. They rejected those numbers and instead estimated her 2017 net worth at a much lower number.
Her 2017 Earnings Reported by Forbes Upset Her
At age 19, Kylie ranked No. 2 on Forbes’ 2016 Top-Earnings Reality Stars List, raking in $18 million (20 percent of which is estimated to be from sponsorships). Kim Kardashian came in first place that year. Together, they pulled in a whopping $122.5 million. There's been no word on whether or not these numbers have been inflated, so it seems like these are legit.
However, Kylie and her PR people wanted Forbes to report that Kylie's 2017 earnings skyrocketed to over $250 million, which would have put her in second place on Forbes' Celebrity 100 list. Instead, Forbes said the then-20-year-old made $41 million in 2017.
Jenner's PR team said that Kris was "so frustrated" and that "We've done so much."
The Spin Machine Goes to Work
By late 2017, after WWD published their report on Kylie and her company making $420 million in 18 months, the story took on a life of its own. Forbes says that originally, industry analysts agreed that Kylie Cosmetics could not have made $420 million in such a short period of time.
But as more and more news sites used the numbers, industry experts began to think differently.
Eventually, everyone believed that Kylie Cosmetics was well on its way to being a billion-dollar company — including Forbes.
The Billion-Dollar Story
By 2019, it was widely reported that Kylie became the youngest self-made billionaire in the world. The story then: By 2018, Kylie Cosmetics had sold over $630 million since its initial launch and was worth $900 million. She owned 100 percent of it.
That, coupled with endorsement deals, TV shows and everything else, meant Kylie's net worth broke the $1 billion barrier by 2019.
"I didn’t expect anything. I did not foresee the future," Kylie told Forbes in 2019. "But [the recognition] feels really good. That’s a nice pat on the back.”
She 'Likely' Forged the Numbers for Journalists
Kris presented media entities with tax returns that "proved" Kylie Cosmetics' sales.
If these numbers were true, then it would also have been true that Kylie Cosmetics had a 62 percent drop in online sales between 2016 and 2018, which would have been an astounding collapse in revenue.
Instead, Forbes says it's "likely" that the tax returns were totally faked.
Her Image is Everything
But why? Why bother faking these numbers? Just to get on the cover of Forbes and become known as the world's youngest billionaire? Is having $900 million not enough?
Well, yeah, that seems to be the case. The Kardashians sell a lifestyle, and if they could believably make one of their members a record-setting billionaire, then their clan's "stock" increases, so to say.
It's worth noting that the Kardashians really didn't do anything illegal (at least, not yet). They didn't falsify the company's actual documents. They showed journalists some inflated numbers in order to get more attention. Instead, Kylie Cosmetics' new owners will deal with the fallout.
She Still Made Loads of Cash from Kylie Cosmetics
By 2019, Kylie Cosmetics was valued at around $900 million by Forbes. Was it worth that much? Probably not. But when it actually sold, it was valued even higher, at $1.2 billion.
Coty Inc, which owns brands like CoverGirl and Bourjois, purchased a 51 percent controlling share in Kylie Cosmetics in November 2019. The company paid $600 million, with Kylie Jenner pocketing an estimated $340 million of that in post-cash dollars.
Coty Inc., must have been aware of how much Kylie Cosmetics was actually making, which makes the sale that much more confusing.
Kylie Cosmetics Likely Isn't Worth What Coty Paid for It
After the sale, Coty revealed that Kylie Cosmetics only made $177 million over the 12 months before Coty snatched it up, and that sales in 2018 were only $125 million. These numbers don't come anywhere near the $1.2 billion that Coty valued the company at.
Coty's stock prices have dropped over 60 percent since the sale. Of course, a majority of that decline has to do with global issues, which have damaged stocks across the board.
Coty Is Being Investigated
After the Forbes piece, the law firm Federman & Sherwood launched an investigation into Coty Inc. for possible violations of federal security laws.
The law firm is investigating whether Coty misled its shareholders in the purchase of Kylie Cosmetics.
The investigation was announced on June 1, 2020, and is still in its early stages.
Her Mom Has a Stake in Kylie Cosmetics
It was previously reported that Kris Jenner took care of the PR and finance stuff for Kylie for a 10 percent management fee, the same amount she takes from all of her kids. That may have been true then (or it might have been a lie, too), but it's not true now. Upon the sale of Coty, a portion of Kylie Cosmetics went to KMJ 2018 Irrevocable Trust, which is owned by Kris.
Forbes says the family initially told them that the trust was established for Kylie for money earned before she was 18. However, the publication has found that the trust was established well after Kylie had turned 18. As such, they report that Kylie "owns an estimated 44.1 percent of Kylie Cosmetics, rather than 49 percent."
Kylie Jenner Made $100,000 When She Was 13
When Kylie was 13 years old, "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" was gaining momentum, and in turn, getting the attention of sponsors. One nail polish company, OPI, threw a total of $600,000 at the Kardashian-Jenner tribe to promote their line of nail polish in 2012.
Kylie racked up $100,000 for the deal at an age when most of us were getting $10 for mowing the neighbor’s lawn. And even that’s more work than what the Kardashian-Jenners needed to do to get paid. According to Radar Online:
"To earn their paychecks, the girls simply had to show up for one press day, do one photoshoot and complete other promotional duties over Twitter and other social media networks at just two separate times during the year."
'Keeping Up With the Kardashians' Rakes in the Dough
The Kardashians' network show is a ratings powerhouse and has been going strong for 14 seasons. It’s not clear how much Kylie makes from the show, but E! reportedly paid $80 million for three seasons of KUWTK in a 2015 deal.
E! then renewed that contract to keep the Kardashians for another "below $100 million" deal for another three years, through 2020, according to Variety.
TMZ says it’s even higher, at $150 million for three years.
How Much Does Kylie Make on KUWTK?
We’ll do some quick number crunching to figure that out using the $80 million figure.
Eighty million dollars for three years equals roughly $27 million per year/season.
The Kardashians have said they structured their contract deal so each member makes the same amount.
Let’s say that Khloe, Kourtney, Kim, Kris, Kendall and Kylie make the most, since they appear on the most episodes. Ignoring the other Kardashian-Jenners, $27 million divided by six comes to $4.5 million per season per Kardashian-Jenner.
If you include Caitlyn and Scott, then the total is $3 million per cast member.
As a very, very rough estimate, Kylie, along with Khloe, Kourtney, Kim, Kris and Kendall, make somewhere around $3 million to $4.5 million per season on KUWTK.
Older seasons made them less, but Kylie was on KUWTK since she was 10 years old.
She Had Her Own Show
Kylie’s own show, "Life of Kylie," debuted in 2019. Unfortunately, it didn’t enjoy much success and drew a disappointing viewership and terrible reviews. TV Guide said the show "is like its star: searching for purpose, but mostly very, very sad." Ouch.
The show ran for eight episodes, and while it wasn't officially canceled, it's not coming back.
Although you can see snippets of Kylie's life from her YouTube channel.
Before Her Cosmetics Business, She Had a Clothing Line
In 2013, at 15 years of age, Kylie and her older sister, Kendall, launched "The Kendall & Kylie Collection" for PacSun, otherwise known as "that surfer place at the mall" by moms everywhere. The brand is now known as Kendall + Kylie.
The sisters are still working with the clothing retailer, and the clothes are modestly priced.
And Accessory Lines
The sisters continued to partner up and make more fashionable things.
The duo has created a jewelry line called "Metal Haven by Kendall & Kylie" for Pascal Mouwad’s Glamouse as well as shoes and handbags for Steve Madden.
The 'Rock Vs. Rap' Flub
In 2017, Kylie and Kendall launched a line of T-shirts called Rock Vs. Rap. These shirts were modified "vintage" band tees of bands and musicians like Metallica, Tupac, Biggie Smalls, Pink Floyd and Ozzy Osbourne with something from Kendall+Kylie emblazoned over them, like "KK" lettering or their faces.
They received swift backlash on the internet from people who thought their shirts were disrespectful, including Sharon Osbourne, who tweeted: "Girls, you haven’t earned the right to put your face with musical icons. Stick to what you know ... lip gloss."
They quickly apologized and pulled the shirts from shelves.
Apps Added to Her Wealth
When Kim Kardashian’s mobile app launched in 2014, it was an astounding success. The company behind the game, Glu Mobile, claimed the game had netted $100 million as of early 2016.
Kendall and Kylie were quick to follow suit and had their own app game, "Kendall & Kylie," produced on Google Play and iTunes. The game follows the same formula and has microtransactions galore.
But that’s not all. Kylie, Kim, Kendall and Khloe Kardashian each launched their own pay apps and websites in 2015 which cost $2.99 a month.
Each sister released their app at the same time — and Kylie beat her brethren to a pulp in signups. Between the four of them, 891,340 people signed up within a day of release, and Kylie netted 74 percent of those people.
Within the first week, it earned the top spot as iTunes’ most free downloaded app (there’s a seven-day free trial, so technically it's free to download). They raked in millions, but then all the sisters shut down their apps in 2019. They didn't say why.
She’s a Brand Ambassador
When she was 18, Kylie inked an ambassadorship deal with Puma, which was rumored to be worth around $1 million (and also has a sneaker – the Puma Fierce).
She also has been a brand ambassador for Adidas and skincare company Nip + Fab.
She Has a Staggering Number of Followers
Kylie’s Instagram account is a powerhouse for self-promotion. She's the sixth-most-followed person on photo and video-sharing platform.
Each post can potentially get 172 million of her followers to check out one of her new products, promote her show, or endorse a product.
She can be seen with supercars in Versace dresses — upscale brands that are very likely sponsored.
On Twitter and Snapchat, Too
Likewise, she has 25.1 million followers on Twitter, and her Snapchat is the most viewed of all time.
Although for a while there, it didn't look like she would be snapping any more.
She May Have Cost Snapchat a Lot of Money
Kylie’s tweeting power goes beyond just her horde of young followers — apparently, she can reach the stock market.
Back in February, not long after Snapchat deployed its poorly received redesign, Kylie tweeted:
"sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me... ugh this is so sad."
And oh, how did Snapchat’s stock fall. That tweet drove Snapchat investors into a panic, causing a short-but-painful freefall decline of 6.1 percent, or $1.3 billion, in the company’s stock.
She Makes Over $1 Million Per Sponsored Post
Businesses are willing to spend big money to get their products on Kylie’s Instagram. According to the U.K.-based Instagram planning tool, Hopper HQ, Kylie makes a staggering $1.26 million per sponsored post.
That makes her the most expensive person to endorse on Instagram. Ariana Grande comes in second at $996,000, Kim Kardashian follows up fourth with $910,000, and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson makes $882,000 per post.
She Lives — and Buys, Buys, Buys — in an Exclusive L.A. Neighborhood
Kylie lives in the gated neighborhood of Hidden Hills in Los Angeles, which at one time was a sleepy place.
But now, not so much. Kim Kardashian and Kanye live here, as do Lisa Marie Presley, Drake, Miley Cyrus and Jaden Smith, according to Vanity Fair.
But Kylie hasn’t just owned one home there — she’s owned four and then some. And now, she might be moving on to another neighborhood.
Her 'Starter Home' Could Be Most People’s Finisher Home
According to Variety, Kylie’s "starter home" was a $2.6 million Tuscan-inspired 5,100-square-foot home with six bedrooms and six-and-a-half bathrooms, which she bought in 2015 when she was 17 years old.
So it’s sort of like a starter car, only instead of getting an old beater when you hit 16, you get a mansion on the outskirts of L.A. when you turn 17. That’s just something we can all relate to.
In 2017, she sold the house and made a healthy half-a-million-dollars profit. Reportedly, the home sold for $3.15 million.
And She Upgraded Shortly Thereafter
After selling that house, she moved on down the street to a brand new Cape Cod-style house that was certainly bigger than the humble little 5,100-square-foot starter home. This mansion is a sizable 7,040-square foot house with six bedrooms and seven bathrooms.
According to Variety, Kylie bought it for $6,025,000 in what was likely an off-market deal in 2016, and this was Kylie’s main home for a while. One of its more notable features is a wine room that’s located in the main foyer, under the staircase, set behind a glass wall.
It’s the perfect reminder to start drinking as soon as you get home. Or before you leave. Or when you’re going upstairs.
Then She Bought the Mansion Next Door for an Office Space
Sometime after her 19th birthday — and not long after she bought the Cape Cod home — Kylie bought the house next door.
According to E! Online, Jenner snatched up the house for $4.5 million. Apparently, Kylie is going to use 3.9 acres of the 5,000-square-foot four-bedroom, four-bathroom home as "more of a home office."
Because really, who can work in something smaller than a $4.5 million mansion?
And Then She Bought One More
Kylie really went on a spending spree in 2016.
She purchased yet another neighboring home for $4.5 million that summer, according to property records, only to sell it one year later for $5.275 million.
Do you think it’s for the money, or do you think she’s trying to screen her would-be neighbors in the strictest way possible?
A $5 Million Plot of Dirt
In 2017, Kylie was an expecting mom. So maybe she felt like she needed more space than two mansions with over 10,000 square feet combined?
Whatever the reason, the youngest Jenner dropped $5 million for a 1.5 acre lot of land next to her main pad, according to TMZ.
Eventually, she’s just going to own the entire neighborhood.
She Bought a $36.5 Million Mansion
By far the most expensive piece of property Kylie has purchased is an ultra-modern, $36.5 million mansion in Holmby HIlls, another wealthy neighborhood about 30 minutes away from Hidden Hills.
The entire 15,350-square-foot, seven-bedroom mansion is open to the interior courtyard, which houses a pool.
There's a projection screen television, which is big enough to be seen from anywhere in the courtyard (which also has a tennis court), a theater, full bar, 12 fireplaces and enough parking for 20 cars.
We have all the photos in our article about all of the Kardashian-Jenner’s real estate along with more details on the house if you want a closer look.
She’s Insanely Influential in the Fashion World
Lyst’s 2018 Year in Fashion reported that Kylie was even more influential than both Kim and Meghan Markle when it comes to what people wear.
Kylie dropped to the seventh spot on the 2019 list (Markle sparkled and took first place), and Kim was bumped off the list.
According to Lyst, Kylie’s floral milkmaid dress which she wore in August "was responsible for a 66 percent spike in searches for the style."
When Hailey Baldwin and Justin Bieber married that year, more people searched about Kylie and her gold dress than they did for Baldwin’s outfit.
She Rented a $200 Million Superyacht for Her 22nd Birthday
For her 22nd birthday in 2019, Kylie rented out a superyacht worth $200 million for a week on the Tranquility, a 300-foot long playground with enough room to sleep 18 guests in 11 rooms. It costs $1.2 million to rent for a week.
Before being rented by Kylie, the charter, previously known as the Equanimity, was involved in a Malaysian drug laundering scheme.
She Spends Millions on Luxury Cars
Kylie has an exotic car collection piled into the driveways of her mansions.
Kylie's car collection includes:
- A $3 million Bugatti Chiron
- A Lamborghini Aventador (base MSRP of $418,000)
- A $2.2 million LaFerrari Aperta
- A Mercedes AMG63 (base MSRP $156,450)
- A Mercedes G-Wagon (base MSRP of $130,900)
- A $200,000 Maybach
- A Rolls-Royce Wraith (base MSRP of $320,500
- A vintage Rolls Royce
She Has a Private Jet
It’s unknown if Kylie purchased this jet outright, or if it’s on loan, or if it belongs to Coty Inc., but Kylie has a fully branded Kylie Skin private jet.
According to The Street, a "plus, customized, mid-sized private jet" — which certainly describes Kylie’s jet — costs $30,000 for a 90-minute flight.
Jet costs vary widely, from $3 million to $90 million, and that’s just the cost of the jet. It doesn’t include the fuel or the pilot, which are significant additional costs.
She Once Rented Out a Six Flags
In 2018, back when she and Travis Scott were together, Kylie rented out a Six Flags in Valencia, California, for his birthday.
How much that cost exactly is only known by Kylie and the other Kardashians (they rented out a Six Flags for Kendall’s birthday in 2013), but the check is probably around $1 million, depending on how much the theme park expected to make during that day.
She’s a Fiction Author … Sort of
Kardashians aren’t the type to miss out on fads. When teenage dystopian science fiction teen young adult books became the next big thing, Kylie and Kendall decided to write one. Kind of.
Mostly they just came up with a "broad two-page outline," did some Skype calls, and had ghostwriter Maya Sloan do that whole writing-the-actual-book thing, according to the Los Angeles Times.
But apparently their fan base wasn’t made of big readers. The book flopped and only sold 13,000 copies when it was released in 2014.
Those sales probably didn’t even cover the ghostwriting cost — although we’re pretty confident Kylie can take the hit.
At this point, it’s like losing change in a parking lot.
She Donates to Charity
With hundreds of millions of dollars at hand and in company stock, surely Kylie has some philanthropic efforts to spend on as well?
She does. Kylie donated $750,000 to a Florida-based women’s empowerment group called Nest of Love on the "Ellen Degeneres Show" in October 2019.
In 2017, she donated $500,000 to Teen Cancer America, a sum raised from a portion of proceeds from Kylie Cosmetics.
Kylie also has been a partner with Smile Train, a nonprofit charity that provides corrective surgery for children with cleft lips and palates, since 2016. She has raised nearly $500,000 for Smile Train over the years.
She's a Mom
Jenner gave birth to a girl, Stormi, on Feb. 1, 2018. Her now ex-boyfriend Travis Scott is the father. They broke up in September 2019.
"My pregnancy has been the most beautiful, empowering, and life changing experience I've had in my entire life and I'm actually going to miss it," she wrote on her website.
"I appreciate my friends and especially my family for helping me make this special moment as private as we could. My beautiful and healthy baby girl arrived February 1st and I just couldn't wait to share this blessing. I've never felt love and happiness like this I could burst!"
We'll close with a quote from Kylie.
"I've realized through the years that I just find happiness in other things, whether it's my dogs or my friends or, like, looking at the sunset," she said. "So if I were to wish for something else, it would just to be happy all the time, to have a superpower of not letting things affect me, and to be true to who I am, always."
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