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National

Kylie Jenner: Future Billionaire

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Kylie Jenner is no stranger to being on the cover of magazines. But here is one cover that definitely caught a lot of attention. Forbes put Jenner on the front of its America's Women Billionaires issue, saying that, at 21, she is set to be the youngest ever self-made billionaire, beating even Mark Zuckerberg. Natalie Robehmed, associate editor at Forbes, wrote the cover story on Jenner for the magazine, and she joins us now.

Welcome to the program.

NATALIE ROBEHMED: Thanks very much for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I just want to start with what I'm sure you know is the controversy over whether or not Kylie Jenner is actually self-made. A lot of people are pointing out that she was born into a prominent family with a lot of media exposure, so it's not exactly like she clawed her way up from nothing.

ROBEHMED: Absolutely. And of course, there is a scale of self-made. But we look at self-made versus inherited wealth when we're talking about being self-made. And one is that you've inherited everything. And a scale of 10 is that you clawed your way up from absolutely nothing in difficult circumstances. I mean, Kylie Jenner scores a 7 on our scale because she was - yes, as you said, born into a wealthy family - but she did found her company herself, and she is the one who runs it and owns a hundred percent.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, let's talk about her business, Kylie Cosmetics. There are a lot of people who may not understand how exactly she made her money. She hasn't amassed her fortune by being on TV. Her makeup venture, Kylie Cosmetics, is the real moneymaker.

ROBEHMED: It's a company that you might not be that aware of if you're not a 13-to-23-year-old woman or you don't have kids who are in that age range. But in November 2015, Kylie Jenner launched her very first line of lip kits, which is a $29 combo of lip liner and matte lipstick. And she sold them together in a twist of marketing genius and sold out 15,000 in just a couple seconds.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Wow.

ROBEHMED: Yeah. That, for her, really showed that there was a giant appetite. So in February 2016, with the help of her mom, Kris Jenner, they found a new manufacturer and a new way to distribute online. And they proceeded to sell 500,000 lip kits right when they launched.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, it's extraordinary. What's her actual role in the company? How hands-on is she?

ROBEHMED: She's the founder. And she is really, I would say, the marketing brains. I got to sit in on a meeting where she was planning an upcoming pop-up shop with a couple of her employees. And she really is the one who has a lot of ideas as to how she wants things to look. You know, for her age, I was stunned at how aware of her brand she is and how aware of what's going to work for her audience.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The Kardashian family gets a lot of heat for being famous for being famous. But the Kardashians have managed to make that into a real business. Are people in your world starting to see them differently or starting to see Kylie Jenner differently?

ROBEHMED: You know, I think that Forbes is definitely taking them seriously. We put her on the cover. And they have really parlayed what could have been a flash in the pan into a decade-plus-long career arc. You know, Kim Kardashian took this accusation that she's famous for nothing and turned it into a really successful mobile game, which is what we wrote the cover story about in 2016.

And Kylie Jenner did a similar thing. She took something that the public was interested in about her, which was the size of her lips. There'd been a lot of public hubbub and kind of tabloid gossip about whether she was getting lip injections. And when she was a teenager, she did say that, yes, in fact, she had had temporary lip fillers. But rather than shy away from that and shy away from that controversy, she turned it into a business and started making lipsticks, which I just think it's kind of genius.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Natalie Robehmed - her story on Kylie Jenner is on the cover of Forbes. Thank you so much.

ROBEHMED: Thank you very much.

(SOUNDBITE OF FRANCIS AND THE LIGHTS' "MORNING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.