Here's How Much Wanda Sykes Is Really Worth

Wanda Sykes has been in the entertainment business for decades, so let's shine a spotlight on her success. Celebrity Net Worth says she's worth $10 million, which makes sense based on how long she's been in entertainment and the overall size of her brand. 

But before we go any further, Wanda was born in Portsmouth, Virginia on March 7, 1964. Her dad Harry Sykes was an army colonel who worked for the Pentagon, per Yahoo!, while her mom, Marion Sykes, was a homemaker before becoming a bank teller. Eventually, the family moved to Gambrills, Maryland, and Wanda graduated from Arundel High School. As of 2008, she's been married to a woman named Alex Niedbalski and they share two children together, Olivia and Lucas, who are fraternal twins.

As the Washingtonian states, Wanda knew that she had a gift to tell jokes since high school but it took her some time to give stand-up a real go. But, she obviously found her proper career path, hopped on it, and followed it to that reported $10 million. So, let's see how she accumulated all of that dough.

Wanda Sykes first pursued another profession

When a person wants to enter a profession that's considered hard to succeed in, what's the best course of action? Should he or she March straight toward that risky career goal with no other backup plan or go the safer route and pursue a job that's known to be more stable? When it comes to Wanda Sykes, she did the latter and headed to Hampton University in Virginia, earning herself a marketing degree, per BET. She made that move despite always wanting to be in entertainment.

Sure, graduating from college probably thrilled Sykes' parents but if given the chance, she'd do things differently. "If I had to go back, in college, I probably would've gone to be a theater major or something like that instead of business marketing, because I knew what I wanted to do," Sykes told Backstage in 2020. "I made the safe decision: Let me get a degree I could use down the road if this stuff doesn't pan out. I would say [to someone], take a chance. Always bet on yourself."

Yes, it's true that Sykes might regret not betting on herself from the start, but in the end, she got in the game, plunked down a few aces, and won.

She used to be a government employee

Before Wanda Sykes was in the joke business, she worked for a little outfit called the United States government. More specifically, she was a contracting specialist for the National Security Agency, which collects and analyzes intelligence information, as its website describes. In her role, Sykes bought items for the government like radar and surveillance equipment, which she explained in 2019 while visiting "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert."  She also talked about having debt while trying to secure the job, which almost prevented her from getting it.

"You can't be in debt," the comedian told Colbert about one of the requirements. "After I had my clearance ... I bought some stereo equipment ... I had a hard time paying it off and they called me in and was like, 'You have debt going on, you got to get rid of this.'" 

As of 2021, a contract specialist for the NSA can earn between $50k to $92k per year, according to Glassdoor. Sykes held the position in the '80s and '90s, so no telling how much she made back then, but it was likely a lot less. It was still a job, however, with a steady paycheck, and she probably received some decent health benefits, as well. Yet, it still wasn't enough to keep Sykes at that job, and she left to chase her dreams. Of course, she'd eventually catch those dreams and have mega success.

Wanda Sykes went from the NSA to comedy

Years after getting that NSA job, Sykes' comedy career took off, with a 1987 talent show serving as the runway. Per Us Weekly, she entered the show after seeing an ad. Then over the next five years, she'd split her time between her U.S. government gig and causing gut-busting laughter on stage. It's not known how much Sykes earned in that talent show, if anything. Mainly, it's because it's nearly impossible to pin down a normal salary for a beginning comic since there's such a wide range. As Indeed puts it, a stand-up comic can be handed a $20 bill after performing or get a check cut for thousands, depending on many factors.

But whatever Sykes made or didn't make at that talent show, it was probably more about getting her feet wet in comedy since she had her NSA paycheck to fall back on. So, maybe getting that marketing degree from Hampton University wasn't such a bad idea. Either way, stand-up comedy will probably always be Sykes' first love, despite the many hats she eventually wore. Plus, her passion for it hasn't subsided over the years. "I feel I can be free," she told NPR in 2019 about why she loves doing stand-up.

She divorced a musician

When Wanda Sykes was starting out in her comedy career, her income added to that of Dave Hall's, a record producer who she was married to from 1991 to 1998. And it's not like Hall was a local, small-time, producer who was trying to make it; he worked with huge acts like Mariah Carey, Madonna, and Mary J. Blige, which he confirmed on his Instagram page

So more than likely, Sykes had to adjust her lifestyle after the divorce and get used to living off one income again. But it's not like she regrets the split based on what she told The New York Times Magazine in 2019. "I wanted to get away," she stated. "Like, 'God, there's his stupid face, and he's chewing. Ugh, does he have to breathe? Make him stop breathing.' Now I'm in a great relationship, and I'm happy, so my wife's chewing doesn't annoy me." The wife Sykes was speaking of is Alex Niedbalski, who she married in a 2008 secret ceremony.

Wanda Sykes became a double threat

In entertainment, being able to earn a consistent paycheck by being in front of the camera is rare enough, but when someone can earn extra income by writing for others, they're in a group that's even more exclusive. Wanda Sykes is one of those actors who crafts lines for people and she's been doing it since early in her career. PBS shows that she wrote for "The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show," a late-night program that ran from 1997-1998. Sykes even got in front of the camera in one episode and told a joke. "So, y'all heard The Psychic Friends Network is going bankrupt," said an unknown Sykes."That's a d*amn shame because Dionne Warwick is going to start making records again." Yikes! The comic was also one of the writers for the MTV Video Music Awards in 1997 and again in 1999.

So before the '90s wrapped up, Sykes was an official double threat, being a comedian and writer, which only strengthened her staying power. On top of that, in a 10-year span, the Maryland-raised funny woman went from entering a talent competition to leaving her government job, to landing some huge entertainment gigs. But whatever success Sykes achieved in the late 90s, it was nothing compared to what she would accomplish once the millennium got underway.

She was hooked up by Chris Rock

If writing for "The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show" and MTV was a huge step for Wanda Sykes, then writing for "The Chris Rock Show" was a mile-long leap. In 2020, Sykes told Backstage that she opened for Rock in New York while he was on his "Bring The Pain" comedy tour and that led to the writing opportunity — not to mention more money. "After 'Bring the Pain' blew up, he got a talk show," Sykes told Backstage about Rock. "I got a call to submit some writing samples to do the show and I did, and I got the gig, and I think everything took off from there."

The HBO show would also add to her income once it went off the air in 2000 because Sykes said she learned a tremendous amount during its five seasons. The Hampton University alum then pulled from that knowledge when she started producing programs herself. Undoubtedly, Sykes kept her hands and feet on the rungs while climbing toward success and never stopped moving upward.

Wanda landed some big-time film roles

From the way it seems, Wanda Sykes kept working with bigger and more famous comedians as time went on. First, it was Keenen Ivory Wayans, then Chris Rock, then a person who both of those guys probably looked up to. That's right, we're talking about Eddie Murphy, the comedian who would go down in stand-up comedy history after releasing just two specials. Sykes was cast as the character Chantal in Murphy's 2000 film "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps," a sequel to 1996's "The Nutty Professor." So by the time Sykes was cast, she was earning money in multiple ways, as a comic, a writer, and film actor.

After the film with Murphy, her star shined even brighter since she played in the movie "Monster-in-Law" with Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda. It's safe to assume that Sykes' bank account also benefited from that "Monster-in-Law" role. If not from that film, then from the bevy of other big-screen opportunities that followed since she appeared in a long list of comedies and animated projects, which only added to her TV work. 

She struck TV gold

Whenever modern-day TV classics are discussed, "The Sopranos" usually comes up. Some of the other shows that are typically mentioned in that conversation are "The Wire," "Mad Men," "Sex and the City," and "Breaking Bad."

Another series that will certainly go down in TV and cable history is "Curb Your Enthusiasm," which Wanda Sykes was a part of from 2001–2011. Since the show was a huge hit and drew so many viewers, Sykes was introduced to a whole new audience. More than likely, the show also served as auditions for Sykes to secure future projects. "It's all improv, so I have a great time doing it. I never know what the show is gonna be about until I actually get there," she once told A&E about "Curb," according to The Minnesota Daily.

Plus, it's possible the comedian's time on the HBO series led to her having "The Wanda Sykes Show," which ran for one season. She had a series on Comedy Central as well called "Wanda Does It" after being on "Curb." Besides that, Sykes was cast on "The New Adventures of Old Christine," which ran from 2006-2010, so her TV work just kept going. "Curb Your Enthusiasm" was an avenue for Sykes to showcase her wry brand of humor, to boot, which had to bring more people to her comedy shows.

Wanda scored a major Hollywood deal

In 2013 Wanda Sykes and TV writer Page Hurwitz started Push It Productions, a production company which focuses on the comedy genre while also promoting diversity both off-camera and on, according to its website. In the same year the ladies started their company, Deadline reported they landed a first-look deal with NBCUniversal to spearhead several TV projects. So, on top of her other revenue streams, Sykes began earning money as an executive.  "Wait, I thought we were getting 'The Tonight Show,'" she joked while speaking about the deal in a press release.

A first look deal is "A contractual agreement between Party A (an actor/director/producer/writer and their production company) and Party B (a production company, network, or studio)," as Catholic University breaks down. "The contract stipulates that Party B will have first rights to consider a project by Party A for production and/or distribution by giving financial support during the development period." Like most times in Hollywood, the terms of Sykes' deal was kept confidential but one doesn't have to be an insider to know it shored up her income and gave her some industry muscle.  

She has at least two homes

So, where does Wanda Sykes do her writing and joke crafting? Furthermore, where does she chill out with her family, rest between gigs, and crash out in front of the TV? According to Virtual Globetrotting, she does it in a large Los Angeles home that takes up at least two blocks. Plus, The Hollywood Reporter shows she also has a place in Pennsylvania and voted in Media, Pennsylvania in 2018.

The "Black-ish"' actor hasn't discussed either home at length or why she chose to split her time between the East and West Coast. However, like many actors with children, she probably wanted to raise her little ones outside of the glaring Hollywood spotlight. But it doesn't appear that Sykes gets a lot of downtime in either house, based on what she told The Hollywood Reporter at the height of the pandemic.

"I've been working from home, so it's a lot of meetings," Sykes explained then. "Our writers room for this Netflix show, 'The Upshaws,' wrapped last Friday, and then the kids take up so much of your time. And then it's, 'Oh, I guess we have to eat. Let me open up the cafeteria.' The majority of my time now is the cafeteria lady, the janitor, and the hall monitor. It's crazy."

Wanda refused to be lowballed

Remember when the comedian Mo'Nique said that Netflix lowballed her while she was negotiating her comedy special? If not, she made the accusation in 2018 and Wanda Sykes said the company did the same thing to her. But after standing her financial ground, Netflix made things right with Sykes, which resulted in the release of her special "Wanda Sykes: Not Normal" in 2019. If anything, Sykes sticking up for herself shows that she knows her worth and won't be underpaid, not even by a cent.

"They moved that comma," said Sykes at a conference hosted by Variety. "I had to step up and say something ... This is what they feel the special is worth. I disagree and I'm going to find another buyer. This time around, Netflix came in with a good offer. It wasn't Dave Chappelle money but I'm not doing Dave Chappelle business. The offer was commensurate with the business I was doing." 

The Chappelle reference may have to do with Mo'Nique saying that Netflix should have offered her the same pay as the controversial comedian, as well as Chris Rock,  who received $60 million and $40 million, respectively.

She isn't into big splurges

So, with $10 million to her name, Wanda Sykes must've purchased a bunch of big, bright, shining things, right? Wrong. In fact, she seems to be more on the frugal side of things based on what she told Black Enterprise in 2012.

"Live within your means," she advised. "Just because all of a sudden you're coming into this money, it really shouldn't change you as far as who you are and the things you value, like going out and buy[ing] this big stupid car and all that. If [those are] the things that [are] going to make you happy, then there's something else you need to check out before doing that."

And if one were to cruise the Internet, that person wouldn't see Sykes posing in front of a luxury car or rocking a bunch of diamonds like many other celebrities. There aren't a bunch of interviews of her going on about famous brands or designers either. But some might say that Sykes still looked quite spiffy on the red carpet of the 2022 Oscars, as she was decked out in all white.

Wanda earned from TV commercials

Applebee's, Dannon Yogurt, and the cleaning product Gain. Those are just some of the brands and companies that Wanda Sykes was a spokeswoman for. In some of those ads, she just lent her voice, but for others, she was in front of the camera, like in the TV spot for Aflac. In that commercial — which was rolled out for 2022's March Madness — Sykes co-stars with fellow comedian Lil Rel Howery and they both swap snarky one-liners about insurance. 

As far as Sykes using her distinct voice to do voiceovers, it obviously allowed her to rake in even more dough throughout her career. But there was a time when her tone and way of speak weren't considered good things and they got her into trouble. She spoke about it on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" in 2012. "As a kid, my mother would try to get me to change my voice ... to sound more pleasant," Sykes told DeGeneres. "I guess my voice got on her nerves." More than likely, Sykes' mom got over being annoyed, especially once she saw how her daughter's voice brought in cash.

She gives back in multiple ways

Wanda Sykes doesn't only use her well-known name to cash in on opportunities for herself, she also uses it to help others. Look to the Stars shows that she's worked with charities and organizations like the Alliance For Children's Rights, GLAAD, and Soles4Souls, which provides free footwear to the less fortunate. Plus, being a cancer survivor, Sykes supported the American Cancer Society and raised cancer awareness with Stand Up to Cancer.

"As a breast cancer survivor, I am honored to join Stand Up To Cancer and The Safeway Foundation in this critical initiative," said Sykes in a press statement. "Together we hope to raise funds and create awareness toward cancer research to help find more effective ways to treat the disease that has affected not only my life, but the lives of our mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends."

Sykes was in a public service announcement as well, which focused on the harm of people saying "That's so gay" to express their feelings about something being bad or stupid. "It's insulting," Sykes tells three young people in the PSA. "It's like if I thought this pepper shaker was stupid and I said, 'Man, this pepper shaker is so 16-year-old boy with a cheesy mustache.' Just saying." Another thing that Sykes can say is that she gave back to a lot of people in her career.