A POP CULTURE PERSPECTIVE

Kylie Jenner: World’s Youngest Self-Made Billionaire? Only In America.

“I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater. And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too.”
— Steve Martin

When I was doing the karaoke scene in the 90s* one of my openers would frequently be the 1964 hit Come A Little Bit Closer, by Jay & the Americans. It fit my range and I’d enjoyed the song in my youth.

For 50 years I’d always assumed that Jay & the Americans were a Latino group from South o’ the Border, based on that song and another in the playlist, Only In America, which opens like this:

Only in America
Can a guy from anywhere
Go to sleep a pauper and wake up a millionaire

Only in America
Can a kid without a cent
Get a break and maybe grow up to be President

I had no idea that Jay Black (real name, David Blatt) and his buddies were from Long Island. The sentiments in this song were similar to what many have believed who migrate here from abroad.

Only in America
Can a kid who’s washin’ cars
Take a giant step and reach right up and touch the stars

The song, of course, is about a poor boy ending up with his dream girl who also happens to be from a higher class. But it’s also cherishing this “land of opportunity.”

I remember reading a book by a young man from Indonesia who seemed shocked to discover upon his arrival that the streets were not actually paved with gold. (Currently a lot of our local streets here are pockmarked with potholes, but that’s another story.)

This song came to mind for me when I read this week that Kylie Jenner, age 21, had become the world’s youngest “self-made billionaire”? It seemed like an “only in America” kind of story.

The story I read appeared in Inc. Magazine, referencing the annual Forbes listing of the world’s richest which they publish each spring. The article begins, “If you hope to become a billionaire, the United States may be the best place to live. That’s one obvious conclusion from Forbes’ list of billionaires for 2018.”

The article by Minda Zetlin is titled Here’s Why the U.S. Created More Billionaires Than Any Other Nation in 2018 . Zetlin points out that the rich did not all get richer in 2018, that 46% actually declined in net worth for various reasons. (I remember Ted Turner noting that when he went from 10 billion to two billion, he still ate pretty well.)

The U.S. leads the league in billionaires, adding 21 new ones to their roster for a total of 607. That is 50% more than were on the Forbes list in 2010.

How they obtained their riches is what the meat of the article is about. Though some billionaires inherited their fortunes, entrepreneurs make up the bulk of the new billionaires. And though Kylie Jenner is the youngest ever, other notables have climbed that ladder in their 20s, including Mark Zuckerberg at 23.

There’s a sense in which she gained a lot of help by flowing in the tailwinds of the Kardasians, but building a following of 104 million on Snapchat didn’t hurt anything either. Oh, and did we forget to mention she created a cosmetic business? She didn’t inherit her wealth. She essentially leveraged her fame, with her name an established brand.

I know that a lot of people have issues with capitalism right now, but you can be sure Kylie is not one of them.

As for the Forbes list, at the pinnacle is Jeff Bezos, followed by the familiar names of Gates (the college dropout) and Buffet (Warren, not that guy from Margaritaville.)

Only in America.

Related Links

To see the Forbes article visit www.forbes.com/billionaires/#24597813251c
Wikipedia entry on Kylie detailing her entrepreneurial acumen. She skipped college and has no college debt.
Here’s a REAL rags to riches story about a freed slave and black woman who also made a fortune in the cosmetics game, Sarah Breedlove Walker .

* I actually sang karaoke in 14 states.

Originally published earlier today at https://pioneerproductions.blogspot.com.

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon https://tinyurl.com/y3l9sfpj

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