Here’s What Forbes Means By Self-Made: From Bootstrappers To Silver Spooners
March 5, 2019 update: Kylie Jenner just climbed into the ranks of the World’s Billionaires. So the topic of “Is she really self-made?” has come up again. Our definition still stands.
Soon after Forbes published our 2018 list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women —featuring cosmetics mogul Kylie Jenner of the Jenner-Kardashian clan on the cover—questions started popping up online. How could Kylie Jenner be self-made? She comes from a wealthy, famous family. Her half-sister Kim Kardashian West helped make her famous. Her mother helped build her business.
To be clear, Forbes defines “self-made” as someone who built a company or established a fortune on her own, rather than inheriting some or all of it. As long as the list member didn’t inherit a business or money, she is labeled self-made. But the term is very broad, and does not adequately reflect how far some people have come and, relatively speaking, how much easier others have had it.
To address this issue and provide more clarity, Forbes came up with a scoring system in 2014 that ranked members of the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of how self-made they were. Based on that scale, someone who inherited everything scores a 1, while someone who not only grew up poor but also experienced substantial hardships—like Oprah Winfrey—scores a 10. Kylie Jenner, who comes from a wealthy family and who has leveraged her fame to her advantage, ranks a 7.
Forbes has given each of the 80 members of the 2019 Richest Self-Made Women list a self-made score. You can find it on each list member’s profile page. (To get there, click on a photo of a list member, then click “See full profile.”)
Below is an explanation of the self-made scores from 6 to 10, with an example of someone from the list who received that score:
6: A hired executive or a hands-off investor who didn’t create the business: Meg Whitman
7: Self-made who got a head start from wealthy parents and moneyed background: Kylie Jenner
8: Self-made who came from a middle- or upper-middle-class background: Katie Rodan
9: Self-made who came from a largely working-class background; rose from very little: Eren Ozmen
10: Self-made who not only grew up poor, but also overcame significant obstacles: Oprah Winfrey
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