Kylie Jenner has made a gigantic fortune by doing something millions of women secretly fantasize about. She hangs out at home all day, posting selfies in her underwear and asking for money.
Hey, I would do it.
Of course, there’s nothing casual (or harmless) about what Kylie Jenner does. Her Instagram feed flaunts a highly curated lifestyle and promotes unsustainable living. She’s spent the last five or six years crafting a level of flawless beauty that even she couldn’t attain without plastic surgery, a team of makeup artists, and a phone full of beauty filters.
If that weren’t enough, she also forged documents in order to convince magazines like Forbes she was a self-made billionaire. In reality, her cosmetic kits have brought in far less money than she claims. And according to my students, “Her makeup is total crap.”
You can understand why people might feel peeved that Kylie Jenner recently asked for donations to fund brain surgery for one of her makeup artists. As you can expect, the internet didn’t respond kindly. In fact, one tweet pretty much sums up what people think:
It’s not that Samuel Rauda doesn’t deserve it. He’s incredibly talented. The problem is what this moment represents.
On the one hand, we have Kylie Jenner. Even if she’s not a billionaire, her net worth hovers in the hundreds of millions of dollars. We’re talking about a woman who drops $15,000 on handbags without a second thought. She routinely comes under fire for underpaying workers (or not paying them at all). When she hears a makeup artist is dying after a car accident, she suddenly can’t summon more than $5,000.
It comes off as kinda cruel.
On the other hand, we have Samuel Rauda. He’s one of the people who literally makes the Kylie Jenners of the world possible.
Kylie Jenner couldn’t happen without makeup artists like Rauda. At the very least, you think she might acknowledge this point. If she doesn’t admit it publicly, she could be honest with herself. Thusly armed with knowledge that she owes the vast majority of her livelihood to such makeup artists, you’d think she could cough up, I don’t know, $25,000?
It would look a little less hypocritical.
Of course, this isn’t how Kylie Jenner’s brain works. To Kylie Jenner, it makes sense to place the burden of funding someone’s healthcare on her fans. Make them pay for it.
Every single time an ultra wealthy person says or does something inappropriate, they cook up an “apology” or “clarification” that skirts the issue and frames them as the victim of a misunderstanding.
Kylie Jenner is no different.
After the social media backlash, Kylie Jenner offered a defense. It’s a pretty pitiful one — and highly tone deaf.
It’s not even about the fact that she won’t pay for the surgery herself. Every single last one of Kylie Jenner’s sisters is a millionaire. Her parents are millionaires. Her friends are millionaires. But she asked the MIDDLE CLASS for money.This is the core issue, and something Kylie Jenner still doesn’t seem to understand. Kylie Jenner sees the world through her own privileged filter, and can’t possibly fathom how inappropriate it sounds to ask a world barely getting by to “chip in” for a surgery that she and a handful of her friends could pay for just as easily as their designer handbags.
Instead of giving a genuine apology, or acknowledging how she might’ve come off to her fans, Kylie Jenner chooses to craft a victimhood narrative for herself. She blames her own fans for misjudging her character. It sends a pretty clear message. Not only does she need her fans to keep buying her cheap makeup and showering her with compliments, she also needs them concede her moral superiority.
The ultra wealthy never believe they have anything to learn from anyone who makes less money than they do — and certainly nothing to feel sorry for. If they ever misstep, they’re quick to remind everyone they’re “just human,” and that it’s unfair to hold them accountable.
It’s sadly typical.
Kylie Jenner isn’t a billionaire, but she wants to be one so badly that she lies and pretends. So she counts as part of the club, especially when you consider the combined wealth of her family. She and her group make routine displays of their wealth for no other reason than to convince the world they’re super-rich. They care about this more than anything else.
Time and again, we witness those with extreme wealth opting out of the pains and struggles the rest of us deal with.
While we’re crawling through an economy in ruins and dodging anti-maskers at the grocery store, they’re flying private jets around the world and renting entire islands for their birthday parties. While we’re losing sleep over climate change and planning for the crises it promises to introduce into our daily lives, they’re hiring private firefighters.
All this sends another clear message. It doesn’t matter how awful life gets. The ultra-wealthy are going to be just fine. They’ll always be able to afford the healthcare and education we can’t.
Nothing ever affects them directly, so they experience none of the urgency to alter the unsustainable lifestyles they lead.
In fact, they’ll do the opposite.
As the world heats up and descends into warfare and chaos over dwindling resources, their lifestyles will grow less and less sustainable. Their slice of the pie will get bigger and bigger. Their relative wealth and comfort will only increase, and they’ll continue asking people like us to foot the bill for other people’s tragedies while they go on living their extravagant lifestyles and building empires through unethical labor.
You might’ve heard that Kim Kardashian hired private firefighters to save her mansion from climate fires a few years ago. She went on talk shows to defend her decision, arguing that if she hadn’t, “the entire neighborhood would’ve gone up in smoke.” By neighborhood, she means other mansions. Her defenders act like she saved all of California.
Of course, Kim Kardashian’s heroic altruism mainly protected other millionaires like herself.
This is what the extremely wealthy do. They distract us from their privilege by trying to convince everyone how much good they do in the world. They engage in what you might call philanthropy theater.
It’s a pretty simple idea…
You donate a fraction of your wealth to a cause like climate change or poverty. You hold a big press conference where you announce your decision. You talk about the volume of money you’re donating because, let’s be honest, a few million or a few hundred thousand sounds like a lot to those of us getting by on minimum wages. You don’t talk about percentages, though. And you never, ever take responsibility for the problems you’re helping to create. You don’t talk about the carbon emissions your company emits or the sweatshops you use to produce your goods.
The truth is, billionaires and wannabes like Kylie Jenner and her crew put a huge amount of effort into convincing the world they’re good people, precisely to hide their crimes.
They obtain their wealth by lying and cheating, and taking advantage of people. In their final act, they wash it all away and launder their image through acts of highly publicized charity.
We’re tired of the “flawed people” argument.
There’s always a small army ready to leap to the defense of their favorite billionaire. They’ll bombard you with stories about this one time or that one time they did something nice.
When their arguments run out, they’ll resort to the last line of defense. It goes something like this: Kylie Jenner is a flawed person, but that shouldn’t diminish all the good she’s done.
Here’s the thing:
What good has Kyle Jenner actually done? Sure, I guess you could say some people are modestly better off financially because she’s given them a small portion of her immense wealth, which she accrued by leveraging extreme amounts of privilege. But she got that wealth by under-paying workers to produce cheap makeup. Then she tricked people into buying it, by leading them to believe it would give them a look she’s only been able to attain through illusion. If you ask me, she’s got some dirt on her halo. In fact, she actually undermines the good others are doing.
In my humble opinion, you don’t get to make hundreds of millions by sabotaging feminism and body positivity while claiming to promote it, then get to excuse all that by calling yourself a “flawed person.”
Buying tomatoes out of season makes you a flawed person. There’s a big list of other normal, semi-shitty things we all do that make us imperfect. Creating immeasurable wealth for yourself through unethical means, then opting out of society while calling yourself a savior doesn’t go on that list. I’m not saying Kylie Jenner belongs in jail, but it would be super nice if we could all stop paying for her private getaways.
This isn’t about being jealous of billionaires. It’s about holding them accountable. It’s about expecting them to do the absolute bare minimum and carry their weight like the rest of us do every day. It would be nice if someone like Kylie Jenner could spend more money on her makeup artist’s brain surgery than she does on a designer handbag. It would be nice if they could admit, just once, that they did something wrong.
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