×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Rihanna Is Just One of Many Black Entertainers Building Their Own Lucrative Empires

Oprah Jay-Z Beyonce Rihanna Tyler Perry
AP

All products and services featured by Variety are independently selected by Variety editors. However, Variety may receive a commission on orders placed through its retail links, and the retailer may receive certain auditable data for accounting purposes.

Rihanna officially became a billionaire this month, making her the wealthiest musician in the world, as reported by Forbes. But, surprisingly, the bulk of her wealth doesn’t come from her chart-topping music but her ultra-successful Fenty Beauty line, valued at a whopping $1.4 billion.

The Grammy-winning musician is just the latest in a long line of Black entertainers making a name for themselves in the business world. This week, Beyoncé will drop her fifth collection for Adidas with Ivy Park, the activewear line that now makes up a significant portion of the singer’s $440 million fortune. Of course, Beyoncé is married to another artist-turned-entrepreneur, Jay-Z, whose foray into the spirits industry with Armand de Brignac champagne and D’ussé Cognac have helped him garner a net worth of $1.4 billion.

Over the last few years, the entrepreneurial ventures of Black entertainers have proven not only to be ultra-successful but have helped more than a few of them make their way into the Billionaire’s Club. From Oprah Winfrey, who has long held the title as the wealthiest female entertainer in the world with “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and her own self-titled cable network OWN, to Tyler Perry whose mega-successful movie, TV and theater empire made him a billionaire in 2020, Black creatives have proven themselves to be masters at wearing many (very lucrative) hats.

Below are a few of the most successful Black entrepreneurs within the entertainment industry, and the products that helped build their empires.

Rihanna

Rihanna 51st Annual NAACP Image Awards, Show, Pasadena Civic Auditorium, Los Angeles, USA - 22 Feb 2020

Rihanna is officially the wealthiest musician in the world, according to Forbes, which estimates the artist’s wealth at a whopping $1.7 billion. Considering Queen RiRi’s regal aura, it’s no surprise that she has the fortune to boot.

But what might be most surprising is that most of the singer’s monumental wealth doesn’t come from her chart-topping music, but rather her successful venture into the beauty and fashion industries — a journey she quietly began in 2017 with the launch of Fenty Beauty and Savage X Fenty, two brands that have since grown to become integral slices of Rihanna’s growing business empire.

Forbes reports that the bulk of Rihanna’s wealth comes from Fenty Beauty, of which she owns 50% (Fenty Beauty is valued at $1.4 billion), with another large portion of her net worth coming from the ultra-successful lingerie line (Savage x Fenty is worth an estimated $270 million).

While celebrity-founded makeup lines are nothing new (think Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics, Kim Kardashian’s KKW Beauty and Jessica Alba’s Honest Beauty), Rihanna has them all beat, wrangling in more than $550 million after Fenty’s first calendar year in 2018. While it’s been a few years since the prolific singer-songwriter released new music (her last album was 2016’s “Anti”) it’s safe to say she’s keeping herself busy as she reigns over her blooming kingdom, one that is sure to only bring us more gifts in the years to come.

Fenty Beauty Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer:

Courtesy of Amazon

Fenty Beauty Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer $24.94 Buy It

Fenty Beauty Full Frontal Volume, Lift and Curl Mascara

Courtesy of Fenty Beauty

Fenty Beauty Ful Frontal Volume, Lift and Curl Mascara $27.68 Buy It

Savage x Fenty A Peek Behind the Lace Maxi Slip

Courtesy of Savage X Fenty Courtesy of Savage X Fenty

BUY NOW: $74.95  $29.98 Buy It

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey Power of Women

Oprah has held the title as the wealthiest female entertainer in the world for years. “The Oprah Winfrey Show” evolved into a global empire throughout its 25-year run, helping the multi-hyphenate businesswoman accumulate an estimated $2.7 billion throughout her career, according to Forbes.

Forbes reports that the 67-year-old’s net worth increased with her daytime talk show, with the earnings becoming an empire after Winfrey launched her own cable channel, OWN. Her 25.5 percent of the network is worth more than $65 million.

Aside from her self-titled network, Oprah has been the face, and major stakeholder, of Weight Watchers (WW), where she bought a 10 percent stake in 2015 (since lowered to seven percent) and acts as a brand ambassador.

Winfrey has also returned to television with a multi-year pact with Apple TV Plus, where she hosted an interview show about COVID-19, and now hosts “The Me You Can’t See” alongside Prince Harry, where they chronicle mental health through in-depth interviews with celebrities and everyday people.

Tyler Perry

Lazy loaded image
Photograph by AB+DM

Tyler Perry was officially deemed a billionaire in 2020, thanks to his mega-successful movie, TV and theater empire. Perry has grossed more than $1 billion at the box office, thanks in large part to his 11 Madea movies.

Named Variety’s Showman of the Year for 2020, the multi-hyphenate also earned the Governor’s Award from the Television Academy, as well as the People’s Champion honor at the People’s Choice Awards. In 2021, he accepted an honorary Oscar, the Academy’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

Perry recently wrapped production on his passion project, “A Jazzman’s Blues” and up next, he’ll write, direct, produce and star in a brand new Madea movie for Netflix, titled “A Madea Homecoming.” Perry is also set to produce “Sister Act 3” alongside Whoopi Goldberg for Disney. In 2017, the multi-hyphenate inked a multiyear deal with Viacom, agreeing to produce content for BET, Nickelodeon and more, plus launching BET plus.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Perry crafted a plan to get Hollywood back to work with the creation of Camp Quarantine, which housed 300 cast and crew members within a “bubble” for the two-week duration of filming of his BET shows Sistas,” “The Oval,” “Bruh” and “Ruthless.” He also worked to promote vaccine awareness, as well as voting rights initiatives during the 2020 presidential election.

The writer, director, producer and playwright also owns the 330- acre Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, which the mogul recently announced plans to expand. In June, Perry and Bishop T.D. Jakes got approval to purchase 130 acres to expand their footprint in Southwest Atlanta by developing business opportunities including a theater district, restaurants and retail space.

‘Madea’s Witness Protection’ on Blu-Ray

Courtesy of Amazon Courtesy of Amazon

'Madea's Witness Protection' on Blu-Ray $14.99 Buy It

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith

Lazy loaded image
Michael Buckner/Variety

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith kept busy while in lockdown. The power couple boosted financial gains from their Westbrook Media firm by more than 300 percent over the last year, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

What originally started as a fun Snapchat series starring Will Smith from his garage, “Snapchat Will From Home,” a 12-episode vlog series of Smith’s pandemic pursuits, soon skyrocketed to become one of the platform’s most popular services.

The Academy Award-nominated isn’t taking a break from acting anytime soon, though. For his starring role in “King Richard,” which chronicles the life of Serena and Venus Williams, Smith earned a cool $40 million. Smith will also star in Netflix’s “Bright 2,”  and is currently filming the drama “Emancipation,” directed by Antoine Fuqua.

Jada Pinkett Smith has amassed a her own sizable social media following, with revenue to follow. Pinkett Smith is a daytime Emmy award winner for producing “Red Table Talk” show, which she hosts alongside her daughter Willow Smith and her mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris. The show, which has also won the NAACP Image Award for outstanding talk series, recently announced a three-year contract extension on Facebook Watch. Bringing in fans by bringing on newsworthy guests (including Gabrielle Union, Alicia Keys, Demi Moore and Rumer Willis, Olivia Jade Giannulli), having candid conversations about race and culture and showcasing intimate moments (the episode where “Jada Brings Herself To The Table” has garnered more than 38 million views since last July).

With the pair both bringing their own assets to the table, their combined net worth is $400 million, with Will being worth $350 million and Jada Pinkett Smith worth $50 million, according to ibtimes.

Jay-Z

Jay-Z

World-renowned rapper Jay-Z has hit billionaire status as of 2019. The musician garnered most of his wealth with a diversified empire, ranging from his entertainment company Roc Nation to his fine art collection.

According to Forbes, after not touring or releasing an album, Jay-Z still holds millions from his Armand de Brignac champagne and D’Ussé, the cognac brand that Jay-Z owns with Bacardi. The rapper’s investments have paid off as well, with his housing project, Marcy Venture Partners, raising $85 million in 2019.

Business ventures include partnering with LVMH, with the two entities being one of the biggest brands on the market. LVMH is the owner of Dom Pérignon, which acquired half of Armand de Brignac (the rapper’s bubbly line). LVMH paired up with Ace of Spades, which is Jay-Z’s champagne line.

During his feature on Meek Mill’s “What’s Free,” Jay-Z rapped the lyrics, “I’m 50 percent of D’Ussé and it’s debt-free, 100 percent of Ace of Spades, worth half a B.” Sounds about right.

Armand de Brignac Ace of Spades Brut Rose

Courtesy of Wine.com

BUY NOW: $500  $449.99 Buy It

D’Usse Cognac

Courtesy of Drizly Courtesy of Drizly

BUY NOW: $59.99 Buy It

Beyoncé

Beyonce Grammy Win

Beyoncé has not only amassed global superstardom with her music, but also non-musical business ventures that have brought in even further financial success. Since her start as the lead singer for world-renowned girl-group “Destiny’s Child,” the self-made mogul has gone on to make $440 million from her independent music career and other business ventures.

Alongside her billionaire husband Jay-Z, Knowles-Carter garnered $250 million with her “On The Run II” stadium tour, grossing roughly $5 million per night, according to Forbes, before going on to release her chart-topping live album “Homecoming” and a Netflix special about her iconic 2018 performance at Coachella.

Knowles-Carter has amassed an even larger fortune with her activewear clothing line “Ivy Park,” a play on her daughter’s name Blue Ivy, which she launched in partnership with Adidas in 2016. Knowles-Carter’s fourth collection, Ivy Park Rodeo, drops later this month.

The artist has also found success in film, starring in the Best Picture nominee “Dreamgirls,” “Austin Powers in Goldmember,” “The Fighting Temptations,” “Obsessed,” and “Cadillac Records.” Knowles-Carter most recently voiced the role of Nala in the “The Lion King” remake, and directing and starring in the accompanying visual album “Black Is King.”

Adidas x Ivy Park SuperSleek 72 Sneakers

Courtesy of Farfetch

BUY NOW: $205 Buy It

Kanye West

Kanye West

Kanye West once rapped, “I had a dream I could buy my way to heaven,” but if the afterlife had an admission price, he could probably afford it.

While West is best known for his rich music catalogue, his fortune mostly comes from fashion. The rapper turned designer turned entrepreneur has a lucrative multi-year deal designing sneakers for Adidas under his brand Yeezy, which pulled in an estimated $1.7 billion in sales last year. According to estimates, Yeezy is worth between $3.2 billion and $4.7 billion, with West serving as the company’s sole owner.

In 2020, West announced that he had signed a deal to create Yeezy clothing designed for retail giant Gap. The collection, which is expected to be released in the back-half of 2021, is estimated to be worth over $970 million.

West’s music catalogue is valued at $110 million, while he also has approximately $122 million in cash and stock. On top of all that, West also still owns a small stake in ex-wife Kim Kardashian’s shapewear brand Skims, which is worth $1.7 billion.

Yeezy Gap Jacket

Courtesy of Ebay Courtesy of Ebay

BUY NOW: $567 Buy It

Yeezy Workwear Jumpsuit

Courtesy of Farfetch Courtesy of Farfetch

BUY NOW: $763 Buy It

Dwayne Johnson

Dwayne Johnson

Dwayne Johnson, aka “The Rock,” is one of the world’s highest-paid actors, with large revenue coming from upcoming films such as “Black Adam” and “Red Notice.” Variety reports that Johnson earned $30 million to star in Amazon Studios’ acquisition of his holiday adventure “Red One,” but, given the new metrics for success due to the pandemic-altered box office, that number could balloon to $50 million when his backend is finalized.

Despite amassing a bulk of his wealth from film — Forbes reports the star’s total net worth is $87.5 million — Johnson famously began his career as one of the world’s most famous WWE wrestlers, which opened up more on-camera opportunities along the way. Alongside his big screen blockbusters, Johnson also has many television gigs, including the NBC competition show “The Titan Games” and the upcoming series “Young Rock.”

Known for his athleticism and time in the gym, Johnson created a successful Under Armour line, “Project Rock,” which sells clothing, shoes and headphones. As of Aug. 5, “Project Rock” dropped a brand new football gear line. The connection points back to Johnson’s time as a football player at the University of Miami.

Project Rock Brahma Backpack

Courtesy of Under Armour

BUY NOW: $65 Buy It

Project Rock Wireless Headphones

Courtesy of Under Armour

BUY NOW: $199.95 Buy It

 

Daymond John

Photo by: John Nacion/STAR MAX/IPx 2018 9/23/18 Daymond John at the 2018 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City.

A businessman, author, motivational speaker and investor, Daymond John got his start in fashion as the founder, CEO and president of ‘90s streetwear brand FUBU.

John built his clothing brand into an empire by coaxing music’s biggest stars to wear FUBU in their videos. Once Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Busta Rhymes and LL Cool J were repping FUBU, the clothes started flying off the shelves.

With a net worth of $350 million, John also serves as an investor on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” sitting alongside Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavec, Barbara Corcoran and Kevin O’Leary. Throughout his run on the show, he’s invested over $8 million and helped build businesses including Spikeball, Bombas, TITIN and One Sole.

John has won multiple awards, including the Brandweek Marketer of the year and the NAACP Entrepreneurs of the Year twice, and has written books including “The Power of Broke: How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget, and a Hunger for Success Can Become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage” and “Rise and Grind: Outperform, Outwork, and Outhustle Your Way to a More Successful and Rewarding Life.”

‘The Power of Broke’

Courtesy of Amazon

'The Power of Broke' by Daymond John $14.99 Buy It

‘Rise and Grind’

Courtesy of Amazon Courtesy of Amazon

'Rise and Grind by Daymond John $17.99 Buy It

LeBron James

Lazy loaded image
Sipa USA via AP

Drafted to the NBA straight out of high school, LeBron James joined the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003. Since then, the four-time NBA MVP has been regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, and the financial records mirror it.

After joining the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018, James garnered a four-year, $153 million contract according to Forbes. Forbes reported that the star has the NBA’s top endorsement portfolio, headlined by his production company SpringHill Entertainment, which most recently produced “Space Jam 2,” starring James, and his media company Uninterrupted.

Although the NBA hit a 20 percent decrease in revenue without spectators due to COVID-19, James, among other athletes, had blockbuster sneaker contracts that kept them among the highest paid athletes during the pandemic. According to Forbes, James is the top-earning player for the seventh straight year, including off-court income. He’s expected to earn $95.4 million, including an estimated $64 million from endorsements, memorabilia and media.

Outside of sports, James is involved in many other ventures, including teaming up with Cindy Crawford, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lindsey Vonn in 2018 to launch Ladder, a health and wellness company.

Additionally, the Lebron James Family Foundation plans to spend $41 million to send children to college since opening its first elementary school in 2018.

James has also made a name for himself in the restaurant business, with he and his partners owning 19 Blaze Pizza franchises in Chicago and South Florida.

Ladder Pre-Workout

Courtesy of Ladder Courtesy of Amazon

BUY NOW: $49.95 Buy It

Michael Jordan

Lazy loaded image
ESPN

Michael Jordan earned $90 million during his ultra-successful NBA career, where he won six titles for the Chicago Bulls and made a name for himself as one of the greatest basketball players in NBA history.

But like many all-star athletes, he made the bulk of his fortune through lucrative sponsorships with Nike, Hanes and Gatorade, adding an impressive $1.8 billion to his net worth. Aside from sponsorships (and starring in the 1996 classic “Space Jam”), the 58 year-old athlete has made a series of smart business decisions since retiring from the court: he joined sports-betting firm DraftKings as a special advisor to the board and investor in 2020, and became a NASCAR team co-owner in 2020.

Plus, as the owner of the Charlotte Hornets, he sold a minority stake in a clever 2019 deal that brought the NBA team’s value to $1.5 billion.

Sean Combs

Puff Daddy performs onstage during the Bad Boy Family Reunion Tour on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016, in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision/AP)

Whether he’s going by Puff Daddy, P.Diddy, Diddy or Love — Combs is always money.

In addition to his three Grammy wins (and 13 nominations) as a music mogul, Combs has made a name for himself within the alcohol and spirits industry. His partnership with Diageo’s Ciroc Vodka, in addition to his own DeLeón tequila and Aquahydrate alkaline water, has boosted the rapper-turned-entrepreneur’s net worth to an estimated $55 million, according to Forbes.

Combs can be credited with Ciroc’s global success. Despite being founded in 2003, Ciroc didn’t take off until the rapper partnered with its parent company Diageo to oversee the vodka company’s lifestyle brand and marketing, where he grew sales from 50,000 nine-liter cases a year to nearly 2 million.

He brought his star power to DeLeón Tequila in 2013, where he now owns 50% of the company, and to AQUAhydrate, where he serves as an active investor and board member.

Ciroc Vodka Summer Colada

Courtesy of Drizly

BUY NOW: $49.99 Buy It

DeLeon Tequila

Courtesy of Drizly

BUY NOW: $39.99 Buy It

Gabrielle Union

AMERICA'S GOT TALENT -- “Live Results Finale” Episode 1423 -- Pictured: Gabrielle Union -- (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)

Not only does Gabrielle Union boast titles as an actor, producer and business woman, but she does it all while using her voice to fight for a more diverse and equitable culture within Hollywood.

Her on-screen career has seen her as a host on “America’s Got Talent,” where she made headlines for calling out their toxic work culture and, most notably, as a star on “LA’s Finest,” which enjoyed a successful two-season run on Spectrum (and primetime slot on Fox). Through her acting career, she also found her stride as a producer, inking her own first-look deal with Sony Pictures with her own production shingle I’ll Have Another, where she’s currently developing the comedy series “New Money” on Showtime.

Union has used her platform to make a name for herself as an entrepreneur, launching her majority Black-owned hair care line Flawless by Gabrielle Union in 2017, and coming on as a co-founder of the organic snack company Bitsy in 2020. Most recently, the multi-hyphenate star has added best-selling author to her ever-growing list of job titles. She came out with the children’s book “Welcome to the Party” last year alongside her husband Dwyane Wade, after she became a New York Times Bestseller with “We’re Going to Need More Wine” in 2017. While her exact net worth is yet to be confirmed, it’s clear that her wide range of revenue streams place her as a top Hollywood earner.

‘We’re Going to Need More Wine’ by Gabrielle Union

Courtesy of Amazon

'We're Going to Need More Wine' by Gabrielle Union $13.58 Buy It

‘Welcome to the Party’ by Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade

Courtesy of Amazon

'Welcome to the Party' by Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade $11.48 Buy It

Tracee Ellis Ross

Tracee Ellis Ross

Tracee Elliss Ross has a long list of iMDB credits as both an actress and producer, but the Golden Globe-winning star is clearly passionate about making waves outside of the screen, too.

Her most impassioned project as an entrepreneur may be her natural haircare line “Pattern Beauty,” which she created in 2019 to cater towards Black women who have textured hair similar to her own. The seven-product line includes thoughtful products for people whose hair fall within five hair texture types, from 3B (springy ringlets) to 4C (tightly coiled). And it’s not just Ross’s star power backing that has led to its success: it addressed something the beauty industry was direly missing when she first started pitching her idea in 2008, and in the years since, natural Black haircare has grown into an industry valued at more than $2.5 billion. Other Black women creatives making big moves in the beauty business, include Oscar-nominee Taraji P. Henson with “TPH by Taraji” and Emmy-nominee Issa Rae’s “Sienna Naturals.”

Pattern Leave-In Conditioner for Curly Hair

Courtesy of Amazon Courtesy of Amazon

Pattern Beauty Leave-In Conditioner for Curly Hair $34.91 Buy It

Pattern On-The-Go Hair Kit

Courtesy of Amazon Courtesy of Amazon

Pattern Beauty On-The-Go Hair Kit $35.50 Buy It