How These Stars Really Make Their Money

Today's celebrities are known for doing more than one job. Actors, musicians and more across Hollywood have brought new meanings to the terms Renaissance man and Renaissance woman. From Ashton Kutcher launching an investment fund to Jessica Simpson owning a fashion empire that could rival the sales of Gucci, learn how these stars actually make their dough.

Wendy Williams

Wendy Williams got her start on the radio as a trash-talking disc-jockey in the Big Apple, and today she's taken her trash talking to television on the The Wendy Williams Show. Although it's her current claim to fame, it's far from her only moneymaker. Williams, 52, also has a fashion line of shoes, dresses, pants and coats that she sells on the Home Shopping Network (HSN). She launched her own collection, which bears her name, in 2015.

"First of all, I shop HSN," she told WWD. "It's a no-brainer that they bring convenience into households everywhere. Sometimes we get selfish when we live on a coast, we can just run and get fabulousness right around the corner. But when women are living in more remote areas of this country, they don't have the benefit of jumping in the car and doing world-class shopping." All of her items sell for $100 or less and they constantly sell out, so she claims on her show and YouTube aftershow.

After releasing several collections, Williams is well on her way to building an entire empire via the power of television.

Jay Z

The music industry knows and applauds Jay Z for his contributions. From iconic albums to number one songs like "Empire State of Mind," there isn't anything he can't do. The New York Native, 47, has brought that same sense of enthusiasm and success to his businesses. Over the years, Jay Z, who's married to Beyoncé and is expecting twins in 2017, has had a number of investments which have earned him big dollars. In 2004, he purchased a stake in the NBA team The Nets, pouring in one million of his own money, reports Forbes. He sold his share in 2013 after announcing plans to represent athletes with his company Roc Nation Sports.

Then in 2015 came the launch of Tidal, a music streaming service that would rival both Apple and Spotify. According to a separate Forbes report, it's now valued at $600 million. As recently as February, there were several reports the legendary rapper was starting a venture capital fund that will lend cash to tech startups — lining his pockets with even more greenbacks.

But his efforts to earn money aren't always with businesses, sometimes it aligns with the arts. He's produced a number of block-buster hits including the 2014 remake of Annie, starring Jamie Foxx. In all, the film grossed nearly $86 million, according to Box Office Mojo. Up next, Jay Z will team up with the Weinstein Co. to produce a docuseries on the tragic life of Kalief Browder, reports Variety. And according to, he'll also produce a film version of Lin-Manuel Miranda's In the Heights.

Gwyneth Paltrow

Yes, Gwyneth Paltrow has an Oscar, but she doesn't do a lot of acting anymore. She's a businesswoman with a vision and she's also the proud owner of lifestyle website Goop, which not only offers tips and advice on health, fashion, beauty and home, but it sells a number of unusual and high-priced items (vagina jade eggs anyone?). Paltrow, 44, launched the brand in 2008 from a weekly newsletter and rolled it into a massive empire reports Time.

In 2015, she talked money with Fortune, but didn't share any specific numbers in terms of revenue and losses. "We make money. It surprises me when we look at the balance sheet," she explained. "Our revenue is good. We don't lose money. Our burn rate is pretty high. We have to hire people all the time. We don't have any debt at all. We just hired this incredible ad sales team. We need to take money in order to grow."

She's tried to give Goop its own spotlight over the years telling Time, "I want Goop to be its own brand that can thrive and scale without my involvement at some point. I'm always careful about—the same way I'm the creative force behind this brand, any creative force, their brand will represent their likes and dislikes, whether it's Jenna Lyons [of J. Crew] or the guys at Valentino or anyone." With that in mind, in 2016 Paltrow announced she was stepping away from the brand—or rather consciously uncoupling from it. "In order to build the brand I want to build, its scalability is limited if I connect to it," Paltrow said at the 2016 Sage Summit, reports Time. "So I always think: 'How can I grow the brand? How can I separate myself from the brand?' and I think it's going to be more its own brand."

Jessica Alba

While Jessica Alba's Hollywood career has slowed down in recent years, she made the right decision to dump her time, energy and money into launching the Honest Company. She started the brand with Christopher Gavigan, Sean Kane and Brian Lee in 2011. Their goal was to have a company that developed and sold natural, sustainable home and beauty products that are fit for both kids and adults, according to E! News.

It's taken off making enormous growth in recent years and it's earned the attention of other big name companies too. According to the Wall Street Journal, Unilever PLC, which guides a number of household items, is in talks to buy the Honest Company, which is evaluated at over one billion dollars. "Everything is a chemical. Water is a chemical," Alba, 35, explained about her company to Allure. "I'm not against chemicals. I care about human health, and I want whatever is safest and healthiest. Some people can have very extreme points of view. I created the Honest Company because I'm not extreme. I couldn't identify with people who wanted to do everything completely 100 percent from nature. I don't have a garden growing my own organic fruits and vegetables. I don't have an organic farm where I'm raising my own livestock. That's not my reality. So I want the best options that work for me without me feeling like I want to compromise on health or safety. Honest is about that happy medium, and not extreme."

And as she described to the magazine, she puts in long hours and doesn't leave the hard decisions up to others. "When you're a founder of a company, there's really nothing going on that you're not part of," Alba detailed. "So when it comes to the design of the site, the display ads, our marketing strategy, I'm part of all those discussions and involved in all those creative assets."

Jessica Simpson

Jessica Simpson broke into the spotlight as an airy-singing pop star with a reality show. But once both of those sunk like stones in a pond, Simpson, 36, turned her sights on the fashion business. According to Forbes, the Jessica Simpson Collection earns over $1 billion annually and is made up over 30 products ranging from clothing, shoes and accessories. "I want to make every woman feel confident in what they're wearing," she said. "I do feel like we're very fashion-forward, but we also listen to the consumer."

In fact, Simpson, a mom of two, pins her success on knowing women around the nation. "I have been every size on the planet and I understand women," Simpson added. "And I just know how to dress them. I know there's all different kinds. There's life in the whole world beyond LA and New York. I understand Middle America and their mindset."

What's next for the businesswoman running a mega fashion empire that can rival any brand? Baby clothes and home furnishings. "People will be sleeping on my bedspreads!" she quipped.

Ellen DeGeneres

She's a comedian, actress and talk show host, but did you know Ellen DeGeneres owns a real estate and interior design empire? DeGeneres, 59, who according to Forbes, has bought and sold more than seven homes in the last 10 years. Her portfolio includes a million dollar treehouse and a $40 million mansion and she always manages to earn a profit. She's also sold homes to her celebrity friends like Nick Jonas and Ryan Seacrest to name a few. DeGeneres is always on the hunt and moving around the Los Angeles area as she and wife Portia De Rossi sold their Hollywood Hills home for $9.9 million in the summer of 2016, reports Forbes.

But the homes she sells don't come empty, she furnishes them as well! It's seemingly part of a larger plan for the star, who according to Apartment Therapy, is taking her ED by Ellen line to new heights in 2017. The brand will roll out three new lines including furniture, rugs and tabletop items.

Per a People interview about her interior design book, Home, DeGeneres has always been in love with creating beautiful spaces. "When I'm in a room, I want everything I'm looking at to make me happy," she said. "I've gotten better over the years. This didn't happen to me right away. I shop a lot and I study a lot and I look at a lot of books and magazines. I just learned what I like." Her passion for design even struck her early in life while living in New Orleans saying, "I had taste before money. But I just knew I had to get in the market. It's like jumping into a moving jump rope. You're kind of scared to death to do it but you have to get in there."

Lenny Kravitz

Lenny Kravtiz burst onto the music scene in the late '80s and he earned wide recognition for each of his 10 albums. But in recent years, he's branched off into other creative fields that have become equally lucrative. As described in the New York Times, Kravtiz, 52, has a strong sense of interior design and his attention to detail and level of taste has architects and businesses knocking down his door. In 2003, he launched Kravitz Design and has since worked with mega home brands such as CB2 and Kartell and even created a chandelier for Swarovski. He also put his own spin on a fancy Rolex watch. When it comes to bigger projects, this Grammy winner has designed spaces for Miami's Paramount Bay condo, hotels for South Beach and even a new residential building in New York City's trendy NoLita neighborhood. The latter property boasts 38 units and prices range from $1.6 million to $15.5 million.

"I mean it's all over the place. It seems like I'm incredibly busy, and I am," the rocker told Vogue in 2016. "But I love being able to switch mediums, make music one moment, design one moment, make a television appearance, go back in the studio . . . it's really gratifying to be able to stay creating, yet keep changing the medium so you're restimulating yourself and re-inspiring yourself."

While the projects for his design firm begin to flood in, he'll one day make his own mark on hotels. "Having my own hotel is something I really want to do in the near future," he envisioned. "I spend my life in hotels; I love designing for them. I just feel like I could create a really great hotel. I've done hotels before, but I'd like to have my own hotel, under my name."

Ashton Kutcher

From That '70s Show geek to Demi Moore's much-younger husband to dad and now tech investor, Ashton Kutcher has been many things to many people. But it's his most recent title of venture capitalist that is finally earning him the big bucks. According to a Forbes profile, Kutcher, 39, and his business partners Guy Oseary, and Ron Burkle, run a $250 million portfolio with investments in brands and products that everyone knows and loves. Their company name is A-Grade Investments. According to the magazine, the men have more than 70 investments in big-name companies such as Skype, AirBnB, Spotify and the eye-frame company Warby Parker. But it seems his most savvy investment came with Uber. Kutcher and Oseary pumped $500,000 into the on-demand car app in 2011. The profits in the company are now 100 times that amount.

As a successful actor in Hollywood, things changed for Kutcher after witnessing rapper 50 Cent earn $100 million from a Vitaminwater deal, in which he not only became the spokesperson but took home a large stake in the company. "I had done a [traditional endorsement] deal for Nikon at the time," Kutcher said. "I'm like, 'Whoa, hold on, wait a second. I've got to figure out how to get in the equity game, because it just makes so much more sense.'"

According to a previous Forbes piece, Kutcher doesn't overthink where he put his money. Rather, he looks for companies and products that bring both happiness and makes life easier. "If we can create efficiencies in that which is mundane, then we accelerate our paths to happiness," he said. "The companies that will ultimately do well are the companies that chase happiness. If you find a way to help people find love, or health or friendship, the dollar will chase that."

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey is the queen of media. It seems everything she simply touches turns to gold. Be it television, movies or Weight Watchers stock, everything within her grasps instantly becomes a hot commodity. But as she's moved through her career, she's become a savvy businesswoman. Surely her Oprah Winfrey Network has earned her big coins since its inception in 2011, but a closer look at her financial portfolio proves she's also quite the art collector.

According to Bloomberg, Winfrey, 63, sold a stunning european painting by Gustav Klimt, titled "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II," for $150 million in 2016. As it goes, the billionaire quietly purchased the massive work through Christie's auction house in 2006 for $87.9 million. She was reportedly approached by friend David Geffen, who had been in contact with famed art dealer Larry Gagosian who had a Chinese buyer for the work. Winfrey set a price of $150 million and it was sold!

As impressive as that is, this wasn't Winfrey's first art sale. In 2015, the media mogul unloaded a ton of works from her Chicago abode, according to In the sale, organized by Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Winfrey sold a Hovsep Pushman painting that was estimated to sell for between $35,000 and $45,000 and a Richard Edward Miller painting that was expected go for at least $80,000 to $120,000.

Kim Kardashian

In 2014, Kim Kardashian leaped from television screens and onto mobile devices with the launch of "Kim Kardashian: Hollywood." She was an overnight success commanding attention from every business and tech insider. When her app first started in the summer of that year, CNN reported it was pulling in a jaw-dropping $700,000 a day. The app, which costs users $1.99, mimics the reality star's life giving them the opportunity to gain fame and rise from the E-list to A-list. In-app purchases also helped pull in the dough.

Two years later, Kardashian found herself on the cover of Forbes magazine. The publication reported the app, which was downloaded more than 45 million times, earned a whopping $160 million since it went public. In all, Kanye West's wife pocketed a cool $45 million from the tech deal. "I became really intrigued with the tech world," Kardashian told the magazine. "I started spending a lot of time in San Francisco. I realized this is really going to be the next cycle of my career and this is what I want to focus on."

From there, Kardashian expanded her growing tech empire to include an app that provides updates to her life and gives users, who pay $2.99 a month, exclusive access to photos, personal notes and opportunities to shop her closet. She's also launched a successful line of "Kimojis," which bear her likeness and other cool things about her life. Sure a sextape and a reality show were ways to earn cash, but jumping into the tech world seems far more lucrative than a television deal.


Akon rose to fame as a silky R&B singer in the early 2000s with the massive hit "Lonely." While platinum records are signs of wealth and success, it pales in comparison to owning a diamond mine.

Akon, 43, purchased his very own South-African diamond mine in 2005, reports Entertainment Weekly. He's kept quiet about his business affairs related to the diamond industry just saying, "It's real complicated."

Then in 2013, Akon joined forces with two other investors to launch Akon Lighting Africa. It's a company that aims to bring electricity to 600 million Africans across the continent and is backed by a Chinese investor with a billion dollar line of credit, reports Forbes. So far, it's had much success bringing 100,000 solar street lamps into communities across 15 countries and it also created over 5,500 jobs.