Pop Culture The Word 5 minute read

Self-made Malarkey, Fake Lips & Misappropriation

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On July 12th, 2018, the United States Navy lifted its ban on dreadlocks for women who serve our country.  I want to ensure that you weren’t skimming this article and didn’t miss that the date listed is July, 2018.

On the same day, Fortune Magazine dubbed  Kylie Jenner as the youngest self-made billionaire.

Some of you can stop reading cause you have already picked up what I’m putting down. For the rest of you, let me explain.

Kylie Jenner ain’t in no way self-made. 

Typically, it takes money to make money; and Kylie Jenner has had plenty of it.  Self-made are the Sistas who are sitting in studio apartments using $2.00 lipstick and a jar of 99-cent Vaseline to do makeup tutorials, shot on old camera phones, every week for 3 years until MAC or Lancôme sponsors them.  Self-made is the guy who made beats  on his desk at school, got with his boy who had a studio in the hood, sold mixtapes underground until he was discovered.  Self-made is the woman who comes from a household where she had to essentially raise herself; learned about taking the SAT and college from an involved teacher, took out half-a-million in school loans and is now one of the top law partners in the country. They may not be billionaires, but they are indeed SELF-MADE.

Kylie Jenner was born into a wealthy family.  She then became a millionaire by being on a show that her sister, Kim Kardashian, put her on ( please note that I said “being” not “acting”on the show; as she was not paid for being talented but for being connected). Consequently, Kylie had money to invest in whatever business she dreamed of having, without doing one damn thing.

To her credit, she then took the money she had and started her businesses. She could have sat on her millionaire, surgically-enhanced butt and chilled but she didn’t.

Instead, she took our look, rocked it, made a brand of it, bottled it up and sold it. She took our natural features; got hers enhanced, and then created products so that every White girl in America could have full lips too because she had the access, name, notoriety, and money that Black women don’t. She had no original ideas. She didn’t create something. While we are still having to  fight for our natural looks to be accepted by mainstream America, some Black men, many jobs, and even the U.S. Navy (and other branches until 2014), Kylie Jenner has made herself an almost billionaire from those very same Black folks. Black style is cool in America (as long as a Black person isn’t sporting it).

 

Kylie Jenner, my friends, is a classic case of cultural misappropriation and the lauding of her is the exact reason why many of us, Black folks, get so upset about it.  Kylie Jenner was deemed a style innovator when she took the look of Black girls, who corn-rolled, dreaded, twisted, and locked their hair (as it is the way their hair grows naturally) and made it not only acceptable but cool (for everyone but us). Kylie Jenner created an empire by creating lipsticks to help non-Black girls have the same full lips we’ve been teased about and that have been rejected for our entire lives. I may have missed it, but she’s done this all without crediting those whom should be credited.

Kylie – Pre-lips

 

The Kardashians have taken Black culture (lips, butts, style) and made it desirable to the world, while making themselves billionaires. In the meantime, Black women just got the right to wear their hair naturally while serving in the U.S. Navy; and those same women who sat in dimly-lit basements and showed us how sexy full-lips are—-very well may still be in those same dimly-lit basements.

The difference between them and Kylie is that they didn’t have a millions of dollars to invest in a business. They did not have the luxury of hiring chemists, marketing and branding experts. The other difference is that they are Black. If they find a way to make it out of those basements; they will be self-made.  Kylie is not.

Misappropriation allows for Black contributions to be erased. Kylie is on the cover of Forbes; while the Black women with full lips, who showed the world how to enhance and ultimately love them aren’t mentioned.  Forbes elevates Kylie as someone who fought and scraped to get an innovative idea noticed to ultimately achieve success and money. Like in every history book–we and our contributions – aren’t told as part of any success story.

The story is much more pleasing and sells more magazines if the demographic for the people who buy Forbes can celebrate a persistent, brilliant, hard-working, self-made young lady (who happens to look like them and their daughters). That is a pleasing story. One that the majority wants to believe.

It’s this bullshit-way of thinking that allows people to vote against social programs, cut aid to people in need, and to justify the cruelest of behavior.  Trump called himself self-made because he built his businesses after getting only one loan from his dad (a million dollar loan, by the way). These people have convinced themselves that they and people like Kylie started on a level playing field. They have convinced themselves that everyone has an equal chance at the American Dream.

That way of thinking is some self-made and self serving, American bullshit.

Madame C.J. Walker, a real self-made woman in the beauty industry

 

My intention is for Black people to love themselves and each other. It sounds somewhat silly, I guess; but oftentimes my people are overwhelmed with negative images, bad news, and stereotyped characters about us. I’d like to flip that script. I’d like to remind us, as often as I can, how incredible we are. Read more

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