The Last Jedi grossed a staggering $450 million at the worldwide box office its opening weekend, but George Lucas won’t be cashing in—he sold Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012 for $4.1 billion in cash and stock after decades of lofty annual hauls from the Star Wars franchise he created. Yet the force is still strong with his bank account: Lucas’ fortune now stands at $5.5 billion, making him America’s wealthiest celebrity.
Billion-dollar exits and money-spewing assets are part of the territory in the upper reaches of our list. Steven Spielberg (No. 2, $3.6 billion) has been a director for half a century, but saved one of his biggest highlights for last year with the $3.8 billion sale of DreamWorks Animation, the studio he cofounded. Oprah Winfrey (No. 3, $2.8 billion) continues to build her fortune through the OWN network but banked the bulk of her bucks from her years as a talk show host.
“What I learned in all of those thousands of interviews is that there is a common denominator in our human experience,” she once told FORBES. “Everybody wants to know: ‘Did you hear me, and did what I say matter?'”
All in all, America’s 10 wealthiest celebrities boast a combined fortune of $18 billion, up 7.8% from last year’s $16.7 billion. To compile our list, we looked at each candidate’s entire empire. We valued private company stakes by speaking with an array of experts and by considering public competitors; for publicly-traded companies, we used stock prices as of December 15, 2017.
For entertainers without private companies, we based our estimates on net lifetime earnings after taxes. Real estate, art and other assets were also factored in where applicable. Eligibility was limited to American citizens who’ve gotten rich off their fame, rather than become famous for their wealth (sorry, Donald Trump).
This list includes a much more diverse range of names than other wealth rankings like our flagship Forbes 400: though just one of America’s 10 wealthiest celebrities is a woman, six of the figures are people of color. The list members’ areas of expertise range from Hollywood to sports to magic, and all have found ways of monetizing their respective corners of the entertainment business.
Michael Jordan (No. 4, $1.4 billion) earned $94 million on the court during his career, but has made $1.4 billion elsewhere, most notably Nike, which generates some $3 billion annually from his Jordan brand; the superstar’s 90% stake in the Charlotte Hornets has grown fourfold in value since 2010. David Copperfield rounds out the top five with a fortune of $875 million, accumulated by playing upwards of 600 shows in Las Vegas annually; his collection of more than 650,000 magical artifacts is the world’s largest.
Hip-hop is especially well-represented thanks to Diddy (No. 6, $820 million), Jay-Z (No. 7, $810 million) and Dr. Dre ($740 million), all of whom are among the youngest names on the list. Though all three got their start as artists, their empires now revolve around non-musical ventures like Diddy’s Revolt cable channel, Jay-Z’s Armand de Brignac champagne and Dr. Dre’s Beats headphones, sold to Apple for $3 billion in 2014 (for more, check out my upcoming book, 3 Kings).
“They said we couldn’t start businesses outside of hip-hop,” Kendrick Lamar told FORBES earlier this year. “These are the three individuals that showed us [how].”
The 10 Richest Celebrities In America
- George Lucas ($5.5 billion)
- Steven Spielberg ($3.6 billion)
- Oprah Winfrey ($2.8 billion)
- Michael Jordan ($1.4 billion)
- David Copperfield ($875 million)
- Diddy ($820 million)
- Jay-Z ($810 million)
- Tiger Woods ($750 million)
- Dr. Dre ($740 million)
- James Patterson ($730 million)
– Written by ,
The Talented Choir That Never Had A Music Lesson
From humble beginnings to the limelight in Hollywood, their success is for every ordinary African with big dreams and a bigger mission.
From the dusty rural Moutse village in South Africa’s Limpopo province to the bright lights of Hollywood, the Ndlovu Youth Choir have proven there can be no impediment to global glory if your ambition is great and your passion greater.
When this group of young boys and girls came together, little did they know the world would rise in unison to applaud them. Late last year, their turn as the finalists of America’s Got Talent, a televized American talent show competition in the United States created by Simon Cowell, earned them prowess and praise.
So when an opportunity came to meet them at popular South African restaurant Nando’s in the suburb of Lorentzville in Johannesburg, during a launch event last month, I seized it with conviction and my camera.
The choir’s co-founder and choirmaster Ralf Schmitt started from the beginning, about how he got involved with the group at the opening of the amphitheater in the village of Moutse.
What started out as a mission to serve the community ended up becoming an even greater force – on the world stage.
“This is the same village that raised the Ndlovu Youth Choir powered by the Ndlovu Care Group. The group was doing amazing work with HIV awareness and treatment in the early 2000s and the amphitheater was built for the community to gather, receive information and do drama workshops around HIV/AIDS.”
Schmitt was contacted to do music for the opening in 2008 because of his track-record in the industry, as he was also part of the internationally-renowned Drakensburg Boys’ Choir.
“I’ve always loved choir and singing. I went on to study music and it worked from day one. I started conducting school choirs and worked with young people. I love composing, I love conducting, I love performing and I love teaching and the medium of a choir allows me to do them all,” he enthuses.
These young people can be the beacons of what’s possible in a rural community.Ralf Schmitt
He had originally suggested they start a brass band but because of their location in Limpopo, far from big city Johannesburg, it would have been difficult for the teachers and trainers to regularly access and develop them.
The choir became the obvious choice as part of the orphans and vulnerable children’s program at the Ndlovu Care Group.
The horrific HIV pandemic had left many orphaned and the program was meant as a healing curriculum for the community. It became so successful that when it came for the participants to leave school, they were not willing to leave the program as they were unable to find employment or afford secondary education.
Schmitt says thus an idea of transforming the choir into a platform to generate an income for unemployed youth was born.
READ MORE | The Choirboy Inspired By Criminals
Today, the choir boasts about 40 members and includes a job creation program for the older singers who do most of the performances.
The choir has also started a home schooling program for learners – a full-time tutor travels with them locally and internationally.
“When we turned professional in 2018, it took about six months to get us going. I called a few people I knew in the industry and bookings were coming in slow,” recalls Schmitt.
“We needed a product and the arrangement we did of a Zulu version of Shape Of You by Ed Sheeran, brilliantly translated by Sandile Majola and Sipho Hleza, went massively viral on social media and had 25 million views and that got the nation’s attention and that was the first time we got serious publicity and bookings started flooding in.”
Soon after, the choir performed live for a South African radio station and that’s where America’s Got Talent heard the Zulu arrangement and made contact and asked for videos.
He remembers he couldn’t get the videos out to the producers because of service delivery protests in the area. The choir conductor was blocked by an angry mob with burning tyres and rocks, but that didn’t stop the choir from performing at the Derby Theatre miles away from home.
“I am so pleased that these young people can be the beacons of what’s possible in a rural community, every single one of them are from that community and not anyone went and studied music at tertiary level, all that is produced is raw talent and they never had a music lesson in their life. As the artistic director, I try very hard at preserving that talent because that’s the magic,” he says.
The first time they got on stage, he recalls thinking that the audience didn’t know them; they probably just saw the group as kids from a rural community in South Africa.
However, the warmth they received was unforgettable. Whereas, in comparison, the experience at America’s Got Talent was intense and draining, but exhilarating, he recalls.
“It was nerve-racking when the music went down and the lights dimmed and Gabrielle Union [American actress] screamed ‘you are going through!’ and everyone just lost their minds. It was special we were through to the live finale.”
Thulisile Masanabo is one of the senior members in the choir who also assists with wardrobe. She has been with the choir since 2013 when she was 16 and very shy.
“I used to stand at the back of the row at the beginning. As the years went, I began to gain confidence and moved to the third row, then second, now, I’m in the first row,” says Masanabo.
She opened the song Africa by Toto wearing bright yellow garments to a noisy and ecstatic American crowd.
Looking back, she chuckles saying she had auditioned singing the South African national anthem.
“I was on my way back from school and Sandile called me in. He was standing outside and just calling people in to audition. He didn’t want to know if you can or cannot sing,” Masanabo says of her recruitment into the group.
All members of the choir are under the age of 30; among them, is 25-year-old Majola who helped arrange the Zulu version of Shape Of You.
He joined when he was a 14-year-old school boy accompanying his sister to the auditions.
“I was invited inside to try my luck on August 23, 2009,” he recalls vividly.
“I first traveled internationally with the choir in 2011 to Holland and the performance was average, it was not as nice as we perform today.”
He says the choir upped his self-esteem and he now can communicate better with people and perform more effectively on stage.
One of the songs instilled in him was written by Schmitt titled Believe dedicated to the choir.
“The message was for us, but now, it’s for other young people as well. They should never stop dreaming,” says Majola.
This young group of music-lovers is testament that believing and dreaming big can indeed make you cross borders.
Their journey was from a tiny village, to grabbing the limelight in one of the globe’s biggest talent search shows. The world is now truly their stage.
Harry And Meghan Need $3 Million-Plus To Be ‘Financially Independent.’ Here’s How They May Do It.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle would like to “become financially independent,” they announced Wednesday—and that may have to happen sooner rather than later, as Prince Charles, Harry’s father, is reportedly threatening to pull the millions he gives them each year. How they plan to replace those funds remains a subject of feverish palace intrigue about which the couple remains mum.
But what is clear: By stepping away from their duties, they likely are no longer prohibited from earning income the way senior members of the royal family are, clearing the way for them to take real jobs. What will those be? And how much will they actually need to make in order to live in the style to which they’ve become accustomed?
Annual Costs: Roughly $3 Million A Year (Not Including Renovations)
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact amount that Prince Harry and Markle earn from the various royal mechanisms each year—and a spokesperson for the Sussexes did not respond to questions about on the couple’s finances—but 95% of their annual income comes from Prince Charles, Harry’s father, via the Duchy of Cornwall. A trust that consists of 131,000 acres of real estate and more than $450 million in commercial assets within the United Kingdom, the Duchy of Cornwall was established in 1337 to support the direct heir to the throne.
That estate paid a combined $6.5 million (or £5.1 million) to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Kate Middleton) and to Prince Harry and Markle in the fiscal year ending March 2019, according to the latest financial report. The funding for the princes and their families didn’t change much from 2018 to 2019, although both reports were prior to the birth of the Sussex couple’s son, Archie. Let’s assume the brothers split that income from the Duchy (though William and Kate, with three children, are likely taking a bit more). While the Duke and Duchess did not immediately surrender this income, reports surfaced Friday that Charles is threatening to cut them off completely.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex did announce that they will “no longer receive funding through the Sovereign Grant,” which we know covers an additional 5% of their income, and used for their official duties. It covers official business such as international tours, travel to official events and the upkeep of their homes and offices, and comes from about 25% of the revenue from the Crown Estate (£85.9 million or $112.2 million for the 2020–2021 fiscal year), a portfolio of investments controlled by the monarchy—though not by the royal family or the government—and includes properties across the United Kingdom. (For example, the Queen herself does not own Buckingham Palace.)
In 2018 and 2019, the couple used money from the Sovereign Grant to travel across the world, from Fiji to South Africa, on official royal business. While the royal annual reports don’t detail how much the Sussex’s travels cost in total, their trip to Fiji and Tonga cost $105,000 (£81,000), according to the latest Sovereign Grant financial report. (While it may seem that travel costs could go down as the couple steps back from royal duties, they say they plan to split time between the British Isles and North America, which will lead to new expenses.)
Based on what we know, we estimate the total of the couple’s funds from the Duchy and Sovereign Grants to be a (very conservative) $3 million—again, not including security costs.
And that’s not including the cost of their home and renovations: The Sovereign Grant covered last year’s $3.12 million (£2.4 million) refurbishment of the Frogmore Cottage, the four-bedroom plus nursery home in Windsor where the couple lives when they are in England. The home’s maintenance began before the couple decided to move in and was covered by the Queen, under existing commitments to maintain the upkeep of certain historical buildings, while the couple privately paid for the furniture and decor. Even though the house is property of the Queen, the couple plans to continue using it as their official residence when they are in the United Kingdom—meaning less rent to pay.
None of this takes into account the cost of their security, which is reportedly covered by the Metropolitan Police, and which the family is expected to continue to accept.
With all of these expenses and their easy access to funds facing a precarious future, the questions remains of how, exactly, the couple plan to earn the millions that their lifestyle demands.
What Could Make A Royal Gig: Books, Speeches, SponCon?
They do have some money to live off of: Thanks to her seven-year stint on the television drama Suits, Forbes estimates that Markle has a net worth of about $2.2 million. Prince Harry has money of his own as well, as he and his brother received the bulk of Princess Diana’s $31.5 million estate upon her death in 1997.
But it is likely that they will join other royals, like Harry’s cousins Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, and actually take paying gigs (the former works in finance, while the latter works at an art gallery). While no announcements have been made as to how exactly the couple plans to make money, it would seem natural that they take up work in the entertainment and media fields.
Markle has said that she was giving up acting for good once she joined the royal family; maybe this is an opportunity for her to change her mind. At the height of her acting career, she commanded up to $85,000 per episode of Suits, Forbes estimates, a number that would likely shoot up thanks to her royal title if she decided to return to the screen.
But it is more likely that the pair will take up shop on the speaking and book circuit. High-profile speakers like former president and first lady Bill and Hillary Clinton can earn up to six figures per speech to corporations and universities, while even B-list celebrities like Jersey Shore’s Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi could command $32,000 per oration during the height of her fame.
A hit book has the potential to earn the couple even more. A seven-figure advance is typical for celebrities like Amy Schumer and politicians like Elizabeth Warren, with some high-profile authors earning even more. In 2017, former president and first lady Barack and Michelle Obama signed a record-breaking $65 million book deal with Penguin Random House, while Hillary Clinton scored a $14 million advance for Hard Choices in 2014, and Bruce Springsteen got $10 million for 2016’s Born to Run.
There’s also talk that the couple, which favors new media and direct lines of communication with their fans, may even start a podcast, which could be a lucrative endeavor. Last year, advertising spend on podcasts reached an estimated $680 million, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report, and that number is supposed to shoot up to $1 billion by next year.
And in the unlikely chance they’re ever interested in following the footsteps of the royal family of Calabasas, the Duke and Duchess could surely earn an enormous sum doing sponsored content on their widely popular (10.4 million followers) Instagram account. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian West and her half-sister Kylie Jenner earn up to $500,000 per post.
Of course, the details of the couple’s future, and their future earnings, are all in flux, as Buckingham Palace’s curt statement on the matter made clear. And the wording of their own statement made sure that they can work toward financial independence on their own time. One thing is for certain: It doesn’t seem as if the Duke and Duchess will be hurting for cash anytime soon.
Forbes Africa’s Best Photographs In 2019
[Compiled by Motlabana Monnakgotla, Gypseenia Lion and Karen Mwendera]
Kabelo Mpofu, an entrepreneur, took over his mother’s shop in Meadowlands, in the South African township of Soweto. He is hopeful of making the family business a success despite big retail stores opening up in the townships and swallowing up the corner groceries.
Africa is the youngest continent in the world. Every year, South Africa observes June as Youth Month, honoring the anniversary of the Soweto Uprising on June 16. In this image, the country’s sprawling township of Soweto comes alive with youth dancing in the winter weather to local and international music at the Soweto International Jazz Festival, an annual confluence of history, art and culture.
Women hold up placards against gender-based violence during a ‘Shutdown Sandton’ campaign; this after a spate of brutal rape and killings in South Africa.
Car dealerships were among the businesses set alight in Johannesburg’s Jules Street, during the spate of xenophobia attacks in South Africa in August this year. The spark that fueled the raging fire began in Pretoria, the country’s capital, when a taxi driver was shot dead by a foreign national who was selling drugs to a youngster in the central business district.
Sibusiso Dlamini, the co-founder of Soweto Ink, works on one of his regular clients at his tattoo parlor founded in 2014 with his long-time friend, Ndumiso Ramate. In 2019, Soweto Ink held the fourth annual tattoo convention, and for the first time in partnership with BET Africa, to break tattoo taboos in Africa.
Mmusi Maimane, the former leader of South Africa’s opposition party, Democratic Alliance, is about to cast his vote in front of local and international media houses who had wrestled to get the perfect shot in his hometown in Dobsonville, Soweto, during the elections in South Africa in 2019.
The brother of South African journalist, Shiraaz Mohamed, begs for government intervention after Mohamed was kidnapped in Syria on January 2017 by a group of armed men. The group demanded more than $500,000 for his freedom.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa with his body guards at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, where the three-day South Africa Investment Conference was held in November.
In a world that’s embracing new technology, inspiration is being found in bug behavior. The hard-bodied dung beetle is now key to robotics research, in Africa too. Astounded by this discovery early this year is Marcus Byrne, a researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg who has been studying dung beetles for over 20 years. He holds up a metallic replica of a dung beetle in his hand in his office at the university.
Mzimhlophe Hostel, a hostel among many others in Soweto, erupted with service delivery protests prior to the elections in South Africa. In the same vicinity, an informal settlement was also allegedly set on fire. Brothers Mduduzi (32) and Kwenzi Gwala (22), pictured, had arrived in Johannesburg looking for employment. They sold African beer, but their shack was set alight while they were still at church. They lost all their stock and possessions.
A thrift market in the heart of Johannesburg’s central business district, not too far from a busy taxi rank, known for its pavement robberies. Despite the crimes, thousands of small entrepreneurs trade in this raucous market every day.
ANC, DA and EFF supporters dancing and chanting outside the Hitekani Primary School in Chiawelo, Soweto, South Africa, as they await South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to cast his vote in his former primary school.
Tenants in the discarded Vannin Court in Johannesburg look on from their balconies as jubilation erupts on the ground floor.
Vestine Nyiravesabimana makes money weaving intricate baskets made of grass to feed her nine children in Kigali, Rwanda.
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