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Rihanna, Celine Dion, Safra Catz: Here Are The Most Successful Immigrant Women In The US

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Each year, tens of thousands of people immigrate to the U.S., hoping for a better future. Robyn Rihanna Fenty’s story started the same way. Over a decade ago, Rihanna left her home country, Barbados, and her abusive addict father behind to launch her music career.

Her journey kicked off with the help of fellow musician (and now billionaire) Jay-Z, who heard a demo of one of her songs. Since then, Rihanna has not only rocked the music industry, she’s also become a force in the beauty and fashion industries.

Building on her fame and her experiences as a woman of color, Rihanna launched makeup brand Fenty in partnership with luxury goods group LVMH in late 2017.  

READ MORE | How Rihanna Created A $600 Million Fortune—And Became The World’s Richest Female Musician

The Fenty line, which includes shades of makeup for a wide range of skin colors and tones, pulled in an estimated $570 million in sales last year. In 2018, she started the Savage X Fenty lingerie line with Los Angeles-based online fashion firm TechStyle Fashion Group.

That was just the first of her forays into clothing design. Last month Rihanna and LVMH announced a new luxury fashion house, Fenty, which will be based in Paris. She becomes the first black woman to lead a major fashion maison.

Primarily thanks to her ventures outside of music, Rihanna is worth an estimated $600 million, according to Forbes. She debuts as one of 19 immigrants on Forbes’ 2019 list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women, which altogether features 80 women.

Two other newcomers to the list were born outside the U.S. as well: Ashley Chen of Taiwan and Neha Narkhede of India. The women immigrants hail from around the globe, from Canada to South Korea, from 14 different countries on four continents; nine moved here from an Asian country. Together this cohort of immigrants, which make up nearly one- fourth of the women in the self-made ranks, is worth an estimated $18.4 billion—23% of the total.

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

This is the fifth year that Forbes has celebrated the nation’s most successful women. The U.S. continues to serve as a beacon for ambitious women who want to transform industries, be it in retail, defense or other industries. In spite of the federal government’s crackdown on immigration, the nation’s most successful immigrant women continue to embody the power of the American Dream.

Thai Lee, who is the most successful woman immigrant in the country, has lived that dream, working very hard along the way. Lee, who was born in Bangkok, grew up in South Korea but moved to the U.S., where she and her older sister lived with a family friend and attended high school in Amherst, Massachusetts. Lee later attended Amherst College to study economics and biology, and received her M.B.A. from Harvard Business School in 1985.

She went on to work at U.S. companies like Procter & Gamble and American Express for four years, but in 1989 she and her then husband bought a software reseller for less than $1 million. They renamed it SHI International, which now works with customers like Boeing and Johnson & Johnson and reported $10 billion in sales in 2018.

China native Weili Dai, Panda Express cofounder Peggy Cherng and Turkish-American billionaire Eren Ozmen, who grew up in Diyarbakir—a city in Turkey close to the Syrian border—all similarly moved to the U.S. in pursuit of a better education. Ozmen sold baklava and worked as a janitor at aerospace and defense company Sierra Nevada to support herself while attending business school at the University of Nevada, Reno.

READ MORE | The Richest Woman In The World

Today she is the president and majority owner of Sierra Nevada, which racked up $1.9 billion in sales in 2018 and counts NASA as one of its clients. “Look at the United States and what women can do here, compared to the rest of the world. That is why we feel we have a legacy to leave behind,” Ozmen told Forbes in 2018.   

Other women moved here in search of a better life and more opportunities. Makeup mogul Anastasia Soare immigrated from Romania to Los Angeles in 1989 and took a job in a beauty salon. Three years later she quit to start her own business and in 2000 launched her eyebrow products line, Anastasia Beverly Hills, now valued at over $3 billion.

Forever 21 cofounder Jin Sook Chang pursued a similar path: She and her husband came to the U.S. from South Korea in 1981. Chang worked as a hairdresser for three years, while her husband worked three jobs. The couple used $11,000 they had saved to open a 900-square-foot clothing store in Los Angeles. Now Forever 21 has over 815 stores and an estimated $3.4 billion in annual revenue.

Another industry where women immigrants make their mark is technology. Twenty women entrepreneurs on Forbes’ list built a fortune in tech, including seven immigrants. One of those is Oracle co-CEO Safra Catz. Originally from Israel, Catz joined the software giant Oracle in 1999. Although Catz is not a founder, she has overseen more than 130 acquisitions worth a total of $60 billion and has become one of the top-paid CEOs in the country. Just in 2017, Oracle paid her $135 million in cash and stock, which helped her join the billionaire ranks in 2019.

Here’s the complete list of immigrants on this year’s list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women:

Thai Lee

Net worth: $3 billion

Country of origin: South Korea

Source of wealth: IT provider

Peggy Cherng

Net worth: $1.7 billion

Country of origin: Burma (Myanmar)

Source of wealth: fast food

Jin Sook Chang

Net worth: $1.5 billion

Country of origin: South Korea

Source of wealth: fashion

Eren Ozmen

Net worth: $1.4 billion

Country of origin: Turkey

Source of wealth: aerospace

Jayshree Ullal

Net worth: $1.4 billion

Country of origin: United Kingdom

Source of wealth: computer networking

Anastasia Soare

Net worth: $1.2 billion

Country of origin: Romania

Source of wealth: cosmetics

Safra Catz

Net worth: $1.1 billion

Country of origin: Israel

Source of wealth: software

Neerja Sethi

Net worth: $1 billion

Country of origin: India

Source of wealth: IT consulting

Weili Dai

Net worth: $960 million

Country of origin: China

Source of wealth: semiconductors

Christel DeHaan

Net worth: $950 million

Country of origin: Germany

Source of wealth: timeshares

Kit Crawford

Net worth: $890 million

Country of origin: Canada

Source of wealth: Clif Bar

Rihanna

Net worth: $600 million

Country of origin: Barbados

Source of wealth: cosmetics, music

Theresia Gouw

Net worth: $580 million

Country of origin: Indonesia

Source of wealth: venture capital

Celine Dion

Net worth: $450 million

Country of origin: Canada

Source of wealth: music

Adi Tatarko

Net worth: $430 million

Country of origin: Israel

Source of wealth: home design

Neha Narkhede

Net worth: $360 million

Country of origin: India

Source of wealth: software

Sonia Gardner

Net worth: $310 million

Country of origin: Morocco

Source of wealth: finance

Ashley Chen

Net worth: $300 million

Country of origin: Taiwan

Source of wealth: IT provider

Toni Ko

Net worth: $270 million

Country of origin: South Korea

Source of wealth: cosmetics

-Deniz Cam; 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
COURTESY

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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