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America’s Wealthiest Celebrities 2017: The Top 10 By Net Worth

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George Lucas Star Wars

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?'”

READ MORE: Oprah Keeping The Promise Made To Mandela

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.

READ MORE: The 25 Highest-Paid Athletes Of All Time

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

  1. George Lucas ($5.5 billion)
  2. Steven Spielberg ($3.6 billion)
  3. Oprah Winfrey ($2.8 billion)
  4. Michael Jordan ($1.4 billion)
  5. David Copperfield ($875 million)
  6. Diddy ($820 million)
  7. Jay-Z ($810 million)
  8. Tiger Woods ($750 million)
  9. Dr. Dre ($740 million)
  10. James Patterson ($730 million)

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Celebrating Women With Monumental Strength

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Sixty two years ago, on August 9, 20,000 women of all races, classes and creed marched, singing and chanting, babies on their backs, to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa’s capital city, to deliver a petition to then Prime Minister J.G Strydom against the introduction of the apartheid pass laws.

This meant black women were not allowed in urban areas for more than 72 hours unless they possessed a pass with the holder’s details, including payment of taxes and permission to be in these urban areas. The march was led by the struggle stalwarts: Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Albertina Sisulu, Sophia Williams-De Bruyn and Rahima Moosa.

“I didn’t see much of Helen Joseph at the march, she was in front of the crowd. She was a big strong woman and she led the march with other strong women. They told us that women are holding passes and if we don’t demonstrate against [the government], we [too will one day end up] holding these passes,” recollects Ramnie Naidoo to FORBES AFRICA. She was only was 14 years old at the time, escorting her mother at the march.

Pictured here is Helen Joseph (1905-1992), founding member of the Federation of South African Women, and Rahima Moosa (1922-1993), union activist and member of the Transvaal Indian Congress, both co-leaders of the 1956 Women’s March.

They have been immortalized in the Long March To Freedom, a procession of 100 life-sized bronzes celebrating the pioneers of South Africa’s journey to democracy, at the Fountains Recreation Resort in the City of Tshwane, Gauteng, South Africa.

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Arts

Talking African Writing in London

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Africa Writes, the Royal African Society’s annual literature festival, dwelt on Afrofuturism and where black British artists see themselves in the burgeoning new aesthetic.

(more…)

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Life

Kingdom Calling At The Bushfire Festival

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It’s an early morning in May and as the sun rises, red, orange and yellow hues bathe the swaying sugarcane fields of Malkerns, a small town in the landlocked southern African country of Swaziland.

Swaziland, renamed ‘the kingdom of eSwatini’ in April this year on its 50th birthday, awakens to the sounds of the rustling wind and chirping birds. Very soon, these natural notes will be replaced by the cacophony and camaraderie of thousands of guests jetting into the country for the annual Bushfire Festival, a three-day fiesta of art, culture, music and food in the last week of May.

It’s a busy time of the year for a kingdom that is one of the world’s last remaining monarchies.

Within the Bushfire Festival arena, djembe drums beat to the rhythm of the heartbeat of Africa. Revelers indulge in traditional feasts at the food markets as the musicians take center-stage.

The likes of South Africa’s Samthing Soweto, Brazil’s Flavia Coelho, Nigeria’s Yemi Alade and Mali’s Salif Keita are present, offering a profusion of sounds and melodies.

In the camping arena is a confluence of cultures, as over 29,000 guests who have traveled here to attend the festival make new friends and form unlikely collaborations.

Many stop to admire a hand-crafted grass hat worn by a young woman who has traveled from Lesotho. Anna Thai is originally from Memphis, Tennessee, in the United States.

“The people here are very relaxed and accepting of each other. There are so many from different countries, so many languages and so many different faces and I really enjoy the diversity of it,” she tells FORBES AFRICA.

What started as a cultural meet around a small amphitheater, where artistes performed in front of a crowd of no more than a hundred, is today one of Africa’s most talked-about festivals.

 

Swazi-born Jiggs Thorne. Photo by Karen Mwendera.

“We started off as kind of a charity running a business and very quickly learned that it needed to be a business running a charity.” – Jiggs Thorne

Swaziland-born Jiggs Thorne, the founder and director of the festival, always had a passion for the arts, but admits he had to learn the business aspect of the festival the hard way.

“The important thing is I never studied to become a festival director and that’s the thing with entrepreneurs, you are driven by passion; the kind of passion that gets you up and creates that drive you need to make something work. And you have to be incessant,” Thorne tells us.

Born in Manzini, he was inspired by his parents who owned a restaurant. He went on to pursue a degree in drama and politics at the University of Natal in South Africa.

In 1994, when he finished his degree, he decided to return to his home country and apply his passion for the arts. Thorne wanted to develop the local arts scene.

In 2000, he set up House On Fire, the eclectic venue where the festival is now held.

However, its business model wasn’t sustainable, and Thorne realized that if he didn’t act quickly, his dream would slowly fade away.

“Well, I was very much an artiste and I think I’ve become entrepreneurial along the way and we started off as kind of a charity running a business and very quickly learned that it needed to be a business running a charity,” he says.

The Bushfire Festival came into being.

“It was always about a positive light, warmth, about celebrating diversity,” he says.

A majority of the funding came from sponsorships, and partnerships – the festival is called MTN Bushfire.

With his brother Shelton, Thorne fine-tuned the business model to keep its mandate as a creative arts platform and business at the same time. As Thorne came from an arts background, he had to depend on others to make his dream work.

Read More: Setting Fire To Swaziland

“There needs to be integrity in the way in which you deal with people so I think that’s kind of paramount in this equation where you are dependent on others to make it happen,” says the 48-year-old father of two.

The festival grew beyond what Thorne had imagined, he says, contributing over E50 million ($3.7 million) to Swaziland’s economy.

“When the king travels overseas, people ask him about Bushfire, you know. So it’s quite a surreal thing that the concept that came up all those years ago in a sense has become owned by others,” laughs Thorne.

This year, the local newspapers, radio stations and social media were abuzz with news on the festival.

Thorne owes its success to his team and his parents who left the legacy for him and the family to build on.

“It was kind of the fire they started and it’s a light that we’ve been able to follow. They are the legacy, says Thorne, who runs the festival with his siblings and extended family.

“Entrepreneurship is something that you don’t really study, you learn, and it’s something that takes over, and it’s kind of all-encompassing,” he signs off.

After the curtains come down on the festival, it’s back to the idyllic sights and sounds of Swaziland, until next year, when the little town of Malkerns will fire up again.

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