Forbes: Hollywood's Highest-Earning Women
byNov 11th 2010 2:00PM
By Lacey Rose, Forbes.com
From Judge Judy to Lady Gaga, the best-paid entertainers collectively banked $835 million last year.
Hollywood's leading ladies have plenty to boast about financially, until you compare their pay checks to those of their male counterparts.
Fair or not, the entertainment industry's highest-earning men collectively raked in an estimated $1.2 billion between June 1, 2009, and June 1, 2010, compared to the $835 million the women pulled down during the same period. In fact, after Oprah Winfrey, who at $315 million out-earned everyone -- male or female -- Hollywood's second-best-paid woman, Beyoncé Knowles, would place ninth on the men's list. And the remaining top-earning females wouldn't have placed at all.
[Scroll down to see the list of Hollywood's 10 Highest-Earning Women.]
Blame the industry's lack of high-ranking female directors, a category that dominated the men's list. Having built billion-dollar empires on the backs of massive franchises like Star Wars, Transformers and Avatar, top-earners like George Lucas, Michael Bay and James Cameron respectively banked $95 million, $120 million and $210 million.
But the profession, particularly at the upper echelon, tends to be light on women, which explains the hoopla surrounding the Oscar win by Kathryn Bigelow (who was once married to Cameron) earlier this year. Too bad critical acclaim didn't translate to commercial success -- her flick The Hurt Locker made peanuts compared with Avatar's $2.8 billion haul. Needless to say, she didn't make the cut for our rundown of top-earning women.
Actually, the only woman on our list with a true film career is No. 6, Sandra Bullock. With two hit movies (The Proposal and The Blind Side) and an Oscar win this year, Bullock raked in $56 million thanks to her on-screen work, as well as her off-screen role as a producer.
To determine how much the women on our list earned we talked to agents, managers, producers and lawyers. Though some of these leading ladies come from the worlds of film, television and talk shows, musicians dominate our ranking. Global appeal is what sets apart women like Lady Gaga (No. 4), Madonna (No. 5) and Taylor Swift (No. 9). Unlike stars of stateside TV shows, the popularity of which rarely extends far beyond U.S. borders, these musicians are making the bulk of their income touring around the world.
[Story and list of Hollywood's Highest Women Earners continues below.]
Consider Beyoncé, who pulled down an estimated $87 million in the last year. Though her collection of endorsement deals, fashion line and debut fragrance helped pad her pocketbook, it was her 32-country, six-continent I Am... tour that took her around the globe and earned her many millions along the way.
Britney Spears, who much of the entertainment universe had written off only a few years ago, translated her international appeal into $64 million in earnings over the 12-month span. She logged the fifth-highest-grossing tour in the world, bringing in $130 million in gross box office receipts by playing nearly 100 dates. Spears' résumé also includes a high-profile endorsement deal with Candies and a collection of lucrative fragrances from Elizabeth Arden. All of it was enough to garner her a spot at No. 3 on our list, and continued presence in the limelight.
Lady Gaga, too, has a global tour to thank for much of her $62 million income this past year. The songstress, who premiered on this year's Celebrity 100 and ranks No. 4 on this list, remained on the road with a 106-date tour that grossed $95 million. Like her top-earning peers, she also booked a slew of marketing and endorsement deals, with companies like Polaroid, Virgin Mobile and MAC's Viva Glam, and cashed in on album sales and music video tie-ins. She's often recognized for maintaining and feeding that international fan base through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, where she touts more fans than any other star.
And then there's Madonna, who rounds out the top five with an estimated $58 million. At 52 she is not yet ready to concede her spot in pop music's hierarchy to the genre's younger set. In addition to publishing royalties and a handful of fashion-related endorsement deals, the original Material Girl generated the fourth-highest-grossing tour of 2009, bringing in $6 million a night and $138 million overall. Up next, she's launching a series of gyms, appropriately dubbed "Hard Candy" after her 2008 album, around the world.
Hollywood's 10 Highest-Earning Women
Estimated earnings from June 1, 2009 - June 1, 2010 are shown.
(Click on name to see full profile.)
1. Oprah Winfrey - $315 Million
2. Beyoncé Knowles - $87 Million
3. Britney Spears - $64 Million
4. Lady Gaga - $62 Million
5. Madonna - $58 Million
6. Sandra Bullock - $56 Million
7. Ellen DeGeneres - $55 Million
8. Miley Cryus - $48 Million
9. (tie) Taylor Swift - $45 Million
9. (tie) Judy Sheindlin - $45 Million