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From Beyoncé Knowles-Carter to Kim Kardashian West, America’s Richest Self-Made Women Under 40

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Taylor Swift was only 18 when she scored her first No. 1 album, the aptly named Fearless, in 2008. After a decade defined by bestselling albums and worldwide tours, the pop star is one of America’s Richest Self-Made Women, with a net worth that Forbes estimates is $360 million.

When Swift first made our list in 2016 with a fortune of $250 million, she was the youngest member by far, at 26, and one of only four women under 40. This year, Forbes expanded the ranks of America’s Richest Self-Made Women to 80 members, four of whom are in their 20s, including Swift, now 29. Another seven are in their 30s.

2019 Billboard Music Awards - Show
Pop star Taylor Swift is worth an estimated $360 million. GETTY IMAGES FOR DCP

The youngest is 21-year-old Kylie Jenner, whose three-year-old beauty brand, Kylie Cosmetics, is worth at least $900 million by Forbes’ estimate. The rest of her fortune comes from her earnings from the profitable business. “I didn’t expect anything,” said Jenner of becoming the world’s youngest self-made billionaire in March. “I did not foresee the future. But the recognition feels really good. That’s a nice pat on the back.”

Some internet readers didn’t think she deserved the accolades and questioned Forbes’ decision to call her self-made, given her family’s fame and the help she received from her mom, Kris Jenner, in building her cosmetics firm. By Forbes’ definition, the term self-made describes anyone who did not inherit his or her fortune; our methodology is explained further here. The makeup mogul is America’s only female self-made billionaire under the age of 40.

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Whitney Wolfe Herd is the Queen Bee of dating apps.JAMEL TOPPIN FOR FORBES

Two other entrepreneurs in their twentiesare newcomers to the self-made women ranks but are well known for founding successful startups. Whitney Wolfe Herd, 29, is worth $290 million thanks to her stake in Bumble, the dating app that lets women make the first move.

Bumble, which boasts 47 million users and topped $175 million in revenue last year, has expanded into friend-finding and networking. Wolfe has also launched a venture capital fund—with tennis champ Serena Williams as a coinvestor—that is focused on early-stage investments in businesses founded and led by women of color and underrepresented groups. “The power lunch is no longer just for men,” Herd told Forbes in 2017. “We all deserve a seat at the table.”

Karissa Bodnar, also 29, started her vegan cosmetics line Thrive Causemetics in 2015 after a close friend passed away from cancer at age 24. Bodnar is worth an estimated $275 million thanks to the success of Thrive Causemetics, which sells one mascara every eight seconds, according to the company. “My advice for young women who want to start their own business is to know your ‘why’ from day one,” Bodnar says.

“There’s nobody that’s going to work as hard as you, and if you don’t know your ‘why’—why you’re starting this business—it’s going to be really tough when you’re up at 4 a.m, printing labels and packing orders for customers.”

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Rihanna is the richest newcomer to the list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women.AFP/GETTY IMAGES

America’s richest female musician, Rihanna, debuts at age 31, not because of the money she’s made from singing but mostly thanks to her lucrative partnership with LVMH. Fenty Beauty, the cosmetics brand she co-owns with the luxury goods giant, generated approximately $570 million in revenue last year. With LVMH’s announcement of luxury clothing label Fenty, Rihanna will become the first black woman to run a major fashion house in Paris.

Serena Williams, another newcomer, is famous for her athletic prowess, but off the court she too is venturing into diverse fields, from fashion to venture capital, amassing a fortune estimated at $225 million. Williams, 37, launched a self-funded, direct-to-consumer clothing line, S by Serena, last year, and also owns stakes in the Miami Dolphins and mixed martial arts promoter UFC. The 23-time Grand Slam winner has invested in 34 startups over the past five years through Serena Ventures, targeting companies founded by women and minorities. “I want to be the brand instead of being the face,” Williams told Forbes.

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Katrina Lake is the youngest female founder to ever take a company public.© 2018 BLOOMBERG FINANCE LP

Some of these women are hesitant to identify as female leaders. “I didn’t want to just be a female CEO,” says Katrina Lake, the 36-year-old founder of online personal styling firm Stitch Fix. “I wanted to be a successful CEO, regardless of gender.”

Still, Lake, worth an estimated $380 million, understands the example she is setting. When she took Stitch Fix public in November 2017, Lake made headlines for becoming the youngest female founder to take a company public—and for holding her young son while ringing the Nasdaq opening bell. She didn’t plan the moment, but she realizes why it was a significant statement. “There just aren’t enough great examples of different types of people that are at the top,” Lake says. “I feel a lot of responsibility in making sure that others can see themselves there, and not just a lot of men in suits.”

America’s Richest Self-Made Women Under 40

Kylie Jenner
Kylie Jenner is America’s only self-made female billionaire under 30.JAMEL TOPPIN FOR FORBES

Kylie Jenner

Net Worth: $1 billion

Age: 21

Residence: Hidden Hills, California

Self-Made Score: 7

Taylor Swift

Net Worth: $360 million

Age: 29

Residence: Nashville

Self-Made Score: 8

2018 Forbes Women's Summit
Karissa Bodnar is a newcomer to the rankings of America’s Richest Self-Made Women.2018 GETTY IMAGES

Karissa Bodnar

Net Worth: $275 million

Age: 29

Residence: Los Angeles

Self-Made Score: 9

Whitney Wolfe Herd

Net Worth: $290 million

Age: 29

Residence: Austin, Texas

Self-Made Score: 8

Rihanna

Net Worth: $600 million

Age: 31

Residence: Los Angeles

Self-Made Score: 10

Neha Narkhede
Neha Narkhede is a cofounder of open-source software unicorn Confluent.COURTESY OF CONFLUENT

Neha Narkhede

Net Worth: $360 million

Age: 34

Residence: Palo Alto, California

Self-Made Score: 8

Huda Kattan and Mona Kattan Portrait Session
Huda Kattan built her billion-dollar makeup brand off the beauty blog she started in 2010.MATT LICARI/INVISION/AP

Huda Kattan

Net Worth: $610 million

Age: 35

Residence: Dubai

Self-Made Score: 9

Katrina Lake

Net Worth: $380 million

Age: 36

Residence: San Francisco

Self-Made Score: 8

Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 - Show
Beyoncé first made America’s Richest Self-Made Women’s list in 2015.GETTY IMAGES FOR GLOBAL CITIZEN FESTIVAL: MANDELA 100

Beyoncé Knowles

Net Worth: $400 million

Age: 37

Residence: Los Angeles

Self-Made Score: 8

Serena Williams
Serena Williams graces the cover of our June 2019 issue.COPYRIGHT LEVON BISS 2018

Serena Williams

Net Worth: $225 million

Age: 37

Residence: San Francisco Bay Area

Self-Made Score: 9

Kim Kardashian West
Kim Kardashian West has parlayed her fame into a nine-figure fortune.JAMEL TOPPIN FOR FORBES

Kim Kardashian West

Net Worth: $360 million

Age: 38

Residence: Hidden Hills, California

Self-Made Score: 7

Hayley C. Cuccinello; Forbes Staff

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The Highest-Paid Actors 2019: Dwayne Johnson, Bradley Cooper And Chris Hemsworth

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A bankable leading man is still one of Hollywood’s surest bets, even if your name isn’t Leonardo DiCaprio. While the lucrative twenty-twenty deal ($20 million upfront and 20% of gross profit) doled out to the likes of Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise may be more or less gone, Hollywood still has its big-money brands, those actors who can promise an audience so big that they command not only an eight-figure salary to show up on set but also a decent chunk of a film’s nebulous “pool”—or the money left over after some but not all of the bills are paid. 

Dwayne Johnson, also known as the Rock, tops the Forbes list of the world’s ten highest-paid actors, collecting $89.4 million between June 1, 2018, and June 1, 2019.

READ MORE | Marvel Money: How Six Avengers Made $340 Million Last Year

“It has to be audience first. What does the audience want, and what is the best scenario that we can create that will send them home happy?” Johnson told Forbes in 2018.

It seems he makes the audience happy. Johnson has landed a pay formula as close to the famed twenty-twenty deal of yore as any star can get these days. He’ll collect an upfront salary of up to $23.5 million—his highest quote yet—for the forthcoming Jumanji: The Next Level.

He also commands up to 15% of the pool from high-grossing franchise movies, including Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which had a worldwide box office of $962.1 million. And he is paid $700,000 per episode for HBO’s Ballers and seven figures in royalties for his line of clothing, shoes and headphones with Under Armour.

READ MORE | ‘Black Panther’: All The Box Office Records It Broke (And Almost Broke) In Its $235M Debut

While Johnson’s deal is the biggest in the business right now, he’s not the only one with a lucrative deal. Robert Downey Jr. gets $20 million upfront and nearly 8% of the pool for his role as Iron Man, and that amounted to about $55 million for his work in Avengers: Endgame, which grossed $2.796 billion at the box office. 

That gross was so big that it secured spots on this year’s top-earner list for Chris Hemsworth, Bradley Cooper and Paul Rudd, in addition to Downey; together, they earned $284 million, with most of that coming from the franchise. 

“Celebrities such as Downey and (Scarlett) Johansson currently have extreme leverage to demand enormous compensation packages from studios investing hundreds of millions of dollars in making tent-pole films, such as The Avengers series,” entertainment lawyer David Chidekel of Early Sullivan Wright Gizer & McRae told Forbes. 

READ MORE | Worldwide Box Office, The Best It’s Ever Been

Cooper is the rare actor who can thank a bet on himself for his 2019 ranking. The actor earned only about 10% of his $57 million payday for voicing Rocket Raccoon in Avengers. 

Seventy percent came from A Star Is Born, the smaller musical drama that he directed, produced, cowrote and starred in with Lady Gaga. The movie was a passion project for Cooper, and he forfeited any upfront salary to go into the film and Gaga’s salary. It paid off—the movie, which had a production budget of only $36 million, grossed $435 million worldwide, leaving Cooper with an estimated $40 million. 

The full list is below. Earnings estimates are based on data from Nielsen, ComScore, Box Office Mojo and IMDB, as well as interviews with industry insiders. All figures are pretax; fees for agents, managers and lawyers (generally 10%, 15% and 5%, respectively) are not deducted.

The World’s Highest-Paid Actors Of 2019

10. Will Smith

Earnings: $35 million

9. Paul Rudd

Earnings: $41 million

8. Chris Evans

Earnings: $43.5 million

6. Adam Sandler (tie)

Earnings: $57 million

6. Bradley Cooper (tie)

Earnings: $57 million

5. Jackie Chan

Earnings: $58 million

4. Akshay Kumar

Earnings: $65 million

3. Robert Downey Jr.

Earnings: $66 million

2. Chris Hemsworth

Earnings: $76.4 million

1. Dwayne Johnson

-Madeline Berg; Forbes

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Comedian Jim Gaffigan Rakes In $30 Million By Ditching Netflix And Betting On Himself

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Gripping a lukewarm Heineken, Jim Gaffigan hunches his six-foot-one frame over a peeling table in the green room of the An Grianán Theatre in Letterkenny, Ireland. Summer nights are never terribly hot in these parts, but this one is warm enough to need some air conditioning, which the theater almost never uses. It’s hardly a glamorous moment. But then again, glamour isn’t really his thing.

“There’s nothing sexy about Jim Gaffigan,” he says, sweat dotting his brow. “I’m not young. I don’t have a full head of hair. I’m out of shape. I don’t talk about having dinner with Kanye.”

Fortunately for him, he is funny. Just ask the more than 300,000 people in 15 countries who’ve paid an average of $56 to see his latest routine. For the 53-year-old father of five, it’s been a grueling schedule: more than 75 cities in the past year, including whistle-stops like Letterkenny, a northern community of 20,000 that was once lauded as the Republic’s “tidiest town.”

READ MORE | Trevor Noah Is Laughing All The Way To The Bank

They may not offer much sizzle, but places like this are the lifeblood of Gaffigan’s business. He has raked in $30 million this year, putting him at No. 3 on Forbes’ list of the highest-earning stand-up comedians. Half of that was earned by putting “butts in seats.”

The rest comes from spreading his punch lines far and wide. And in this business, if those jokes are funny enough—and your reach wide enough—you can fill a lot of seats with a lot of butts. With the right distribution deal, those jokes can deliver exponential returns. But that’s where it gets a bit tricky.

“In the entertainment industry, every house is made of ice and it’s melting,” Gaffigan says. “So you’d better be building a new house.”  

Gaffigan’s been building. In 2016, he agreed to partner with Netflix, the industry’s dominant force and home to original specials from all but one of the comedians on Forbes’ ranking. Last year he cut loose from the kingmaker and placed a bigger bet on himself, pairing up with Comedy Dynamics, an independent producer, to release his next special everywhere but Netflix. 

Gaffigan will star in the first original stand-up special on Amazon, which is going after the streaming giant with a push into comedy. Quality Time goes live today, and it can be shopped on the open streaming market when its exclusive run with Amazon Prime Video is up in two years. And that market is only expanding.

Gaffigan has learned a bit about home building in the entertainment industry. He cut his teeth on the club circuit in the early 1990s, when HBO was the primary destination for stand-up specials and Comedy Central was a fledgling cable network.

READ MORE | Executive Travel: Mpho Popps’ Ghana

In 2000, he landed what was then the holy grail of comedy success—a broadcast sitcom—which was the source of the fortunes the creators of Seinfeld and Roseanne minted once they had enough seasons on the air and could sell the series into syndication.

Gaffigan’s shot proved to be short-lived, but six years later he scored a second chance and headlined a Comedy Central special called Beyond the Pale. This time it paid dividends, landing him his first theater show a month later. The butts were now coming to the seats, and while his rise was live, in person, with microphone in hand, his breakout was digital.

At the time, YouTube was changing the rules of the game, providing comedians a global platform with unprecedented distribution. Then Twitter emerged, giving comedy bookers a real-time assessment of who was attracting audiences.

READ MORE | The World’s Highest-Paid Comedians Of 2018

Then came the debut of streaming on Netflix, which latched onto comedy as a cheap and effective way to lure subscribers, while some, notably the now disgraced Louis C.K., used streaming to control their own distribution, making their shows available for fans to purchase directly.

“It was a technological wave that crashed over the stand-up world,” says Wayne Federman, a comedian and professor of the history of stand-up at the University of Southern California. “And we’re still all trying to figure out what’s going on.”

Gaffigan’s first original Netflix special aired in 2017, long after the company had reshaped the industry. It was a promising place to be: Aziz Ansari and Ali Wong were propelled into superstar status through their Netflix specials, while household names like Dave Chappelle and Jerry Seinfeld reportedly cashed in with $60 million (Chappelle) and $100 million (Seinfeld) paydays in exchange for long-term, multi-program deals. Gaffigan’s first special, Cinco, sold for a more modest seven-figure sum.

Jim Gaffigan stand up comedy specials for Netflix and Amazon Original
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It was more than just a check; it was access to a potential audience of nearly 94 million. Although Netflix’s subscriber base has grown since then, so has its stand-up library. The platform now shops nearly four times the number of original stand-up specials than when Cinco debuted.

That makes it harder to stand out in the scroll. Plus, the streamer often holds onto specials in perpetuity, including Cinco. The up-front money is nice, but there is no ability to earn on the back end. 

Gaffigan used his next special, 2018’s Noble Ape, which was directed and cowritten by his wife, Jeannie Gaffigan, to test the waters. Comedy Dynamics bought the rights and made it available everywhere Netflix wasn’t. It had a theatrical release and could be purchased and rented on multiple services, including  iTunes, YouTube and Walmart’s VUDU.

Later, there were short streaming windows on Comedy Central and Amazon Prime. According to Comedy Dynamics CEO Brian Volk-Weiss, it was even syndicated to planes and cruise ships. The up-front payment to Gaffigan from Comedy Dynamics was lower than at Netflix, but the wide distribution allowed him to earn on the back end, bringing in a total of $10 million, according to Forbes estimates.

READ MORE | Burna Boy’s The African Giant Debuts On The Daily Show With Trevor Noah

And new services are on the way from Apple, WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal and Disney, any one of which could choose to pursue cheap-to-produce and popular stand-up specials. 

Because of this widening field, stand-up specials may have more life (and revenue) in them, and that could be good for comedians looking to gamble on their success with deals that offer back-end participation. “We have titles in our library that are making more in year 12 than they made in year one,” says Volk-Weiss, whose company also owns specials by Bob Saget, Iliza Shlesinger and Janeane Garofalo.

Still, leaving Netflix means walking away from a partner that has now established itself as a formidable entertainment company. Netflix has some 180 original hour-long stand-up specials and is singularly focused on exploiting content around the world. Gaffigan, though, is content to keep the bet on himself.

“In the entertainment industry, every house is made of ice and it’s melting. So you’d better be building a new house.”

In the stuffy backstage room in Letterkenny, Gaffigan reviews some of the new material he tried out on stage. A joke about Ireland’s nonsensical roads killed it. He stumbled with a bit about the English. The classics played well—“My dad never went to a parent-teacher conference; my dad didn’t know I went to school.”  

And he’s well aware that Amazon’s core mission is to sell stuff, even though it has won critical acclaim for shows like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Transparent. With plans to deliver three more specials over the next five years, he’s got time to see just how good a partner the retailer might be. Along the way, he may decide it’s time to find a new neighborhood.

“The reason I went to Amazon is to expand my audience,” he says. “I don’t know what they’re gonna do and I don’t fully understand their marketing might. I might be pleasantly surprised. I mean, it’s a huge corporation. They could probably make more selling socks.”

-Ariel Shapiro; Forbes

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Trevor Noah Is Laughing All The Way To The Bank

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South African Comedian Trevor Noah Is The Fourth Highest Paid Comedian In The World. Here’s how he did it.


With earnings of a staggering $28 million Trevor Noah has become the fourth highest paid comedian in the world.

According to Forbes the Daily Show host, “earned the bulk of his income this year through stand-up, making him eligible for our list”.

Forbes’ methodology is using all earnings estimated from June 1, 2018 to June 1, 2019.

Burna Boy’s The African Giant Debuts On The Daily Show With Trevor Noah

“Figures are pretax; fees for agents, managers and lawyers are not deducted. Earnings estimates are based on data from Pollstar Pro as well as interviews with industry insiders,” they said.

He is signed to host the Daily Show until 2022.

On the show, Noah usually sits down with the biggest headline-grabbers in politics and entertainment.

Noah also covers the biggest news stories in politics, pop culture and more.

Recently he trended after devising a viral conspiracy theory that President Donald Trump is targeting first lady Melania Trump with his immigration policies.

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah currently has over 5,3 million subscribers on YouTube alone and has had 1,9 billion views.

But apart from the show, the South African born comedian made more than 70 stops across the world and had his second Netflix special last fall.

His book Born A Crime, published in 2016, is still ranked as No.1 on the New York Times’ bestseller list for paperback nonfiction.

Africans across the globe celebrated Noah’s listing on social media with some expressing how inspired they are by him.

On the Forbes list, Noah follows after Jim Gaffigan earning $30 million, Jerry Seinfeld earning $41 million and Kevin Hart being the highest earner with $59 million.

On the top ten list the only woman on the list is Amy Schumer at the seventh spot with $21 million.

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