Just a few days ago Kylie Jenner was labeled by Forbes as the youngest self-made billionaire which rightfully invited tons of criticism, and questioning the self-made label being she was already wealthy to begin with. To add fuel to the fire, it was reported soon after that Pat McGrath’s makeup line, Pat McGrath Labs, is now valued at $1 billion, which out values Kylie Cosmetics.
This situation has brought an onslaught of questions, some of which are: What are the parameters of being self-made? What will it take for Black women to get the recognition we deserve? For the former, I think it’s important that we remember in this capitalistic society and economy, that “self-made” is a myth that we continue to carry on to make ourselves feel better about our come up. We use the term to avoid giving people who helped us the credit they deserve because it makes us feel we didn’t work hard enough for our success.
The success of the wealthy is achieved off of the backs of poorer people. It always comes at the expense of someone else whether we realize it or not. Many of the products we own have been created or sourced by people living in developing countries that earn 50 cents an hour so the only way to get wealthy is to exploit someone along the way. In the game of capitalism, someone is always on the bottom, it doesn't work any other way.
Now if we go back to using the definition of "self-made" (that completely ignores the smaller details and exploitation that occurs during the process of accumulating wealth) and instead focus on getting almost everything done yourself, it’s fair to say that between Pat McGrath and Kylie Jenner, Pat is the real self-made person in this scenario. Pat McGrath went from working as a receptionist to entering the beauty/fashion world then slowly building herself up over the years from her unique talent in makeup artistry.
No money or connections were already in place before she was born, her sheer talent and dedication carried her. After collecting big name clients like Vogue, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, and more in her portfolio, she launched her makeup business in 2015. The kicker? It was entirely self-funded up until last year when she decided to bring in outside investors, which led to Eurazeo Brands, an investment firm, investing $60 million into her business thus bringing her value up to a staggering $1 billion.
It’s disappointingly familiar to see how Black women can do what they do, twice as good, and still not receive the recognition we deserve compared to our white counterparts. Where was the detailed profile for Pat McGrath who did what Kylie did, only better? It makes you wonder if you’ll ever be good enough and it pegs the question in your mind, “What do I have to do to be seen and recognized for my work and talent?” Mind you, this isn’t entirely about seeking validation for an ego boost, but rather wanting to be recognized for the importance that you contribute to society. We all want to be seen and heard, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Having your work, voice, and presence amplified is something that can do wonders for a person. It can give you the strength you need to keep going and it exposes other people to you and your creations, thus bringing in customers and a new audience. It gives you the opportunity to reach people that you otherwise would have never been in contact with. It can reach new people, change their minds, and help change the world. Recognition can go in many positive directions for the right people.
Seeing as though Kylie Jenner revamped her image and brand based on literally everything that’s associated with, and attributed to Black women, her whole “self-made” label can feel like a slap in the face to us. If it weren’t for her bizarre obsession with Black women’s bodies, there would be no Kylie Cosmetics. Black women continue to be the center of the universe and the inspiration for more things we can account for, but never see a dime from it. We rarely get recognition for being the most influential muses on the planet.
I’ve come to realize when we get hung up on attention and waiting for other people to recognize our greatness, it becomes a desperate and unhealthy game of wanting to be noticed and a very heavy distraction. We can’t wait for other people’s cosign forever and we can’t continue to beg others to notice us. If you focus on the work you do, everything you want and more are sure to follow. Getting caught up in getting attention is how you get distracted from your purpose.
It’s clear to me that Pat McGrath is 100% about her craft . She doesn’t need gimmicks or a monopoly in the press to get the customers and attention for her brand, it all comes to her effortlessly because everything she creates is authentic with great quality. All of her focus and energy goes into her creativity with her makeup line and artistry, and in shines through her work as clear as day.
Seeing someone like Pat McGrath surpass Kylie Jenner business wise only 2 years into starting her brand is impressive, but also important for me to see. Sure she didn’t get her own Forbes story and whatever else, but it shows that you can still prosper just as much (if not more) than those on your level and higher. Whether people recognize it or not shouldn’t be a huge concern because you’re going to succeed with or without the world knowing and watching. Remember that deep down, know the truth and it always comes to light. You will eventually be seen by the right people and achieve success when you’re doing what you’re supposed to. Still be encouraged by all of black women's thankless contributions on this planet and reach for the sky.
“Erin Dyana is a freelance writer with a focus on pop culture, criticisms, and beauty. Her work has been featured in Teen Vogue, Urban Social TV, Wear Your Voice Magazine, Clementine Zine, and Philadelphia Print Zine. In her free time she likes to create art, watch films, read books, and eat everything in sight."