How Kylie Jenner became the most successful Kardashian – and what her COTY sale means for Irish women

It’s easy to be sniffy about the Kardashians and Jenners, who are often reviled as representing everything that’s wrong with contemporary society.

What’s not so easy to dismiss is their capacity for generating significant amounts of money, with news this week that youngest member of the reality TV clan, Kylie Jenner, has sold a 51pc stake of her beauty business to fragrance and cosmetics conglomerate Coty for $600m.

At the tender age of 22, she is officially the richest member of the family — including mother Kris, sisters Kourtney, Kim, Khloe and Kendall, and parent Caitlyn Jenner — whose bank accounts were all healthy to begin with.

When Forbes declared Kylie to be the world’s youngest self-made millionaire back in March, it triggered a debate on social media as to the meaning of the word “self-made”, with objections being made to fact that she already hails from rich family.

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While acknowledging that her relatives and Keeping Up With the Kardashians (KUWTK), the TV show that brought them fame, had given her a platform and support, Jenner insisted that she started her company in 2015 with $250,000 of her own money — over the years, her bank balance has built up thanks to TV show fees; brand endorsements, clothing ranges and an official Kylie Jenner app, now closed, that reportedly brought in $105,170 on its first day.

But these successes pale in comparison to the success of Kylie Cosmetics. An enduring part of the Kardashian/Jenner narrative has been a widespread fascination with their changing faces and bodies. Augmented bosoms and bottoms, nips, tweaks and hair extensions have been standard for most of the family — not so much, perhaps,  for model Kendall, whose aspirations for a catwalk career means she favours a more natural look.

Their particular aesthetic, by their own admission, is one that requires a lot of work, whether that’s contouring their nose to make it slimmer or wearing waist-cinching corsets that don’t allow for sitting down. The implication for women is that if you too put in the work — and buy their products — this look is achievable for you, while the obvious surgical interventions are glossed over.

Kylie started Kylie Cosmetics because she was insecure about her lip size. After much speculation about her suddenly enhanced mouth, the then 17-year-old admitted to using fillers in her lips on an episode of KUWTK in 2015. Releasing her first lipstick line later that year and describing it as “the most authentic thing I’ve ever done”, it sold out online in a matter of seconds. That her own pumped pout was the result of injectables, as opposed to the $29 lip kits she peddles, did not affect sales in any way.

The dramatic change in Kylie’s appearance now, in comparison to her early teens, has also led to claims she’s had variety of other procedures, from breast implants to rhinoplasty, which she denies — and always on brand, she told Paper magazine earlier this year that people “don’t understand what good hair and makeup and, like, fillers, can really do”.

One wonders how her sisters feel about her staggering business success. Estimates put Kim’s wealth at $350m, followed by Khloe ($50m), Kourtney ($45m) and Kendall ($40m), so they are not struggling financially.

However, it is telling that on the day of the Coty announcement, none of her other sisters congratulated her, and used their social media accounts to plug personal projects instead. This was surprising as, generally, they have always been publicly supportive of each other’s commercial ventures — when Kourtney launched her lifestyle website ‘Poosh’ this year, Khloe posed naked, except for a carefully positioned sheet to promote the site.

But although KUWTK catapulted them to stardom and allowed them to build Brand Kardashian over the last 12 years, the ratings for Season 17 this year have dwindled, and it has been suggested that the show’s future is uncertain, meaning that the family will certainly need to find other revenue streams. This may be why Kim Kardashian-West started an apprenticeship with a California law firm last year, but it’s still not going to make her a billionaire like her sister.

At the time of press, mother Kris was the only family member to acknowledge Jenner’s achievement. Maternal pride aside, she has good reason to be pleased with the deal as Kris receives 10pc of her children’s earnings. Her business acumen has been key to the family’s success, giving rise to the phrase, “The devil works hard, but Kris Jenner works harder.”

Speaking about the partnership, Coty chairman Peter Harf said: “Kylie is a modern-day icon, with an incredible sense of the beauty consumer, and we believe in the high potential of building a global beauty brand together.”

With Jenner on board, Coty hopes to target Gen Z shoppers and her social media reach of 270 million followers will provide the company with access to this consumer base, something that Coty’s chief financial officer Pierre-Andre Terisse admits is lacking from Coty’s portfolio.

Jenner will continue to develop both Kylie Cosmetics and Kylie Skincare creatively and the good news for fans is that the Coty deal means that the products will become more accessible.

Currently available to Irish consumers via her website (and with an international delivery charge of  approximately €13.50, as well as import duties and charges), the new partnership is likely to see Kylie products in places where Coty’s other brands, such as Max Factor, Rimmel and Sally Hansen, are stocked.

The range is not exactly inexpensive — a lip kit with a lipstick and lip pencil is about €26, while a face primer is €25 — so removing the delivery charges aspect by selling them in a bricks and mortar location may attract new shoppers and not just superfans.

And the deal may have come at just the right time for Jenner, with declining sales reported due to a lack of customer loyalty.

Data from Rakuten Intelligence indicated that sales had dropped 14pc this year, and more than half of Kylie Cosmetics’ customers shopped just once with the brand from June 2016 to May 2019. Now, with $600m under her belt, she can afford to either sit back and enjoy her spoils, or to continue to expand her empire and possibly take it in new directions. 

She may even take a leaf out of mother Kris’s route. Jenner’s one-year-old daughter Stormi Webster is at present winning the internet with all of her finest toddler moments captured by her mother on Instagram.

Should Kylie choose to go down the ‘momager’ route and shape her daughter’s future career as Kris did hers, we may be keeping up with the Kardashians (or Jenners or Websters) and their glossy, somewhat empty, world for decades to come, while they continue to keep their eyes on the money.

Kylie Cosmetics’ Best-Sellers:

  • Autumn Matte Lip Kit: Considering she based her brand around them, any foray into Kylie Cosmetics should start with one of her lip kits. Autumn, one of Jenner’s favourites, is a terracotta rose shade that will flatter all ages, and the kit contains a matte lipstick and matching lip liner. $29 (€26.21)
  • Koko K Gloss: Described as the secret ingredient you need to create the perfect ‘Kylie lip’, this is a highly pigmented gloss that contains vitamin E. The nude pink colour (pictured right) mightn’t be for everyone, but it comes in a variety of other shades. Jenner suggests wearing it alone, with lip liner or with on top of a matte lipstick. $15 (€13.56)
  • Setting spray: Being Insta-ready means no makeup slippage and this weightless spray is said to keep your face looking fresh. Fans laud its smell, how quickly it dries and how hydrating it feels, as well as how it helps your makeup stay intact all day. $24 (€21.69)
  • Vitamin C Serum: Earlier this year, Jenner launched her own skincare brand, Kylie Skin, which includes scrubs, moisturisers and makeup removing wipes. Its minimal packaging give it a more sophisticated appears than her makeup and daily application of this serum claims to brighten and plump skin. $28 (€26.21)
  • Kyshadow: The Bronze Palette: Another one of Jenner’s professed favourite products, the Kyshadow pressed powder palette comes with nine eyeshadows to be used together create a ‘Kylie eye’. With colours including creamy beige and bright chestnut, shadows are talc and paraben-free and have a smooth texture. $42 (€37.95)

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