The real reasons why Kim Kardashian became a billionaire

Annabel Jones
·5-min read
d -  Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty 
d - Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

Love her or hate her, you've got to give Kim Kardashian West some credit. According to Forbes, the reality TV star, 40, saw her net worth soar to $1bn this month, due mainly to the success of her shapewear brand Skims, and the cosmetics company KKW Beauty.

In addition to numerous endorsement deals made off the back of her reality show, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, which is now in its 20th and final season, Kardashian ventured out on her own in 2017 with KKW Beauty, after watching her sister Kylie Jenner's overnight success with Kylie Cosmetics.

A billionaire in her own right, Jenner sold a majority stake to beauty giant Coty for $600 million in 2019, while Kardasian is reported to have sold 20% of KKW to Coty last year, who valued the company at $1 billion.

You may be wondering what Kim Kardashian has got to do with you. But, I would argue that, indirectly, she's had a quiet influence on how you look, without you even knowing it.

I've been writing about health and beauty for 25 years. I've seen most trends come around at least a dozen times. But I've never seen such a lasting impact as the one made by the Kardashians.

Before Kim came onto the small screen in 2007, the ideal body image was thin and shapeless. We were in the thick of a shocking size zero era, spearheaded by the Zoe-bots, Nicole Ritchie, Lindsay Lohan, Mischa Barton, then style disciples of super stylist, Rachel Zoe.

Zoe took young Hollywood under her wing and transformed their fluffy Californian style into a high fashion affair. She teamed their super svelte frames with oversized handbags and giant sunglasses, which only emphasized how slim these girls actually were. Whether they were naturally thin or not, there wasn't much else to aspire to.

d
d

We weren't doing much for body positivity in the UK, either. Our homegrown supermodels were waif-like and fashion's attempt at curves was exemplified by Victoria Secrets' models, none of whom were anymore more buxom than their predecessors, despite the illusion of curves drawn on with spray tan and enhanced by push-up bras. It wasn't their fault, that's just how it was.

d
d

Kardashian, however, is 5 ft 2 with a booty that makes J-Lo's look petite, complete with cellulite, something Kim has never been shy about owning. Despite initially being rejected by the fashion industry, she stood tall in her small curvacious frame and forged a reputation amongst the fashion set, eventually landing her first US Vogue cover in 2014, with husband Kanye West, becoming the first mixed race couple to grace the cover.

In fact, if it weren't for Kardashian, I'm convinced that plus-sized supermodels like Ashley Graham wouldn't have enjoyed the same level of success.

Nowadays Kardashian is into her fitness inspired by her trainer Melissa Alcantara, after discovering her on Instagram. An ordinary citizen, Kardashian was so impressed with how Alcantara transformed her own frame from mum bod to body builder, that she employed her (rather than the usual rota of celebrity trainers) to help her shed her baby weight after having North.

While her uber glam style is not for everyone, Kardashian brought a sense of fun and escapism back into the art of make-up. Before Kim, lining lips and contouring cheekbones was considered gauche and old fashioned. But then, we were barely wearing make-up back then, and how dull is that?

d
d

Kardashian stuck to her style guns and formed an endearing friendship with make-up artist, Mario Dedivanovic, who up and coming at the time, lost jobs for working with Kardashian. The rest, they say, is history as Dedivanovic now has his own successful make-up brand, Make-up by Mario, and the two continue to support one another on various collaborations.

Indeed Kim is now 40, in the midst of her third divorce from rapper and fashion entrepreneur, Kanye West, who is now impressively the richest black man in US history, and studying to be a lawyer, all in the same year that sales of her shapewear line Skims surged, after she cleverly pivoted towards loungewear during the pandemic.

Skims, a rival to industry leaders like Spanx, was created because she couldn't find the right shade of shapewear for her warm Armenian skin tone. Skims comes in nine shades and ranges in size from XXS to XXXXXL, while the comfort factor and quality of the fabrics has earned her a vast following of all ages. Why? She's got our backs, literally.

She told Vogue Business, “In the past, people might assume that shapewear is more like girdles — something that’s extremely uncomfortable,” she says. “I’ve worn corsets for events, I know how uncomfortable it is. That’s not the vibe of what I wanted.”

Meanwhile, she isn't afraid to show her 213 million Instagram followers that despite her fame and money, she suffers with the same body insecurities as the rest of us. In 2019 she took to the social media platform to demonstrate how her body make-up covered her well documented psoriasis.

She said: " I use this when I want to enhance my skin tone or cover my psoriasis. I bruise easily and have veins and this has been my secret for over a decade. I’ve learned to live with and not be insecure of my psoriasis, but for days when I want to just cover it up I use this Body Makeup.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

The point here is that Kardashian, for all of her grandiosities, has shown resilience, inclusivity, honesty, and an old-school work ethic that is beautiful in and of itself, while her wares, whether its make-up or bras, flatter every woman's shape, age, skin type and colour. Whether you buy her products or not, Kardashian has undoubtedly opened more than one door in her 14 year reign as Queen of reality TV.

Without her, I suspect beauty would still be stuck in the dark ages - and that's the real reason why she's got billions in the bank.