By Eva Wiseman
Move over Zuckerberg. The success of the new youngest self-made billionaire is all about lifestyle aspiration in the Instagram age
In the spring of 2015, girls started sucking shot glasses. They would put their lips into the glass, and then they’d suck, creating a vacuum which drew blood to the surface of their lips to create a swollen, puckered pout, and then they’d post a selfie on Instagram, hashtagged #KylieJennerChallenge. Kylie Jenner had been 10 when she first appeared on Keeping Up with the Kardashians eight years earlier, alongside her siblings and parents, Kris and Bruce (now Caitlyn), and she grew up on screen. On “screens”, really: she built a following of millions on social media, where her selfies became a brand of their own.
The popularity of the hashtag caused ripples, and those ripples made waves. There was controversy surrounding the injuries sustained by the teenage participants, and discourse on the sexist and racist politics of lips – all the Kardashian-Jenner sisters have been accused of altering their bodies to look more like black women, in countries that objectify their features but ignore their achievements. There was debate, too, about whether the pout everyone was copying had actually been achieved with lip fillers rather than mere gloss. When she was 17, Jenner denied having had surgery. And, as pressure mounted, she spoke out against the challenge: “I’m not here to try and encourage people to look like me.” Finally, she admitted that, actually, yes, she had had her lips augmented.