Forbes’ Richest Celebrity List Illustrates the Pay Gap Between White & Black Women

Kylie Jenner
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Forbes released its list of the 100 highest-paid celebrities of 2019 on Thursday, June 8. The highest-paid women make up 20 of the 100 celebrities represented, and of that number only six are women of color.

According to a 2016 report by the Pew Research Center, white women make 82 cents to every dollar a white man makes. For women of color, that number is drastically lower. The center reports that Black women make 65 cents for every dollar a white man makes, while Latinx women are paid the least, earning only 58 cents to the dollar a white man makes. Though the highest paid celebrity of 2019 is a woman (if you’ve been keeping up with celebrities’ net worths, you should be able to guess who that is), the lack of women of color in the list is a severe disappointment. Of the 20 women on the list, only four of them are Black. Two are Latinx. And one is Asian. (Naomi Osaka is biracial.)

Forbes’ list of the 100 highest-paid celebrities of 2019—which spans stars from TV and film to sports and music—illustrates how much work needs to be done to close the pay gap between men and women, but also between white women and women of color. The responsibility lies on Hollywood and those with privilege to speak up, share their salary information and fight for equal pay.

Kylie Jenner

Despite her controversy with Forbes over her tax her returns and her questionable billionaire status, Jenner topped Forbes’ richest celebrities of 2019 list. The magazine reported that she made $590 million in 2019 thanks to a $600 million deal with Coty, Inc., which she traded her cosmetics brand, Kylie Cosmetics with. Forbes wrote that Kylie pocketed $540 million of that deal. While she’s not a billionaire—the magazine reports that she’s worth $900 million—Kylie stills makes a lot of dough, most of which is from Kylie Cosmetics, which made $200 million in revenue in 2019 alone.

Earnings in 2019: $590 million

Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen DeGeneres

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Earnings in 2019: $84 million

DeGeneres was the next highest-paid woman on Forbes’ list with $84 million earned in 2019. The comedian, who ranked in 12th place, makes a lot of her money from her talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which nets her an eight-figure check. DeGeneres’ cash also comes from lines at PetSmart and Bed, Bath & Beyond, as well as a producer’s credit on shows like Little Big Shots.

Ariana Grande

Earnings in 2019: $72 million

Grande came in third with $72 million earned in 2019. The singer, who ranked 17th overall, made most of her money in 2019 from her Sweetener World Tour, which grossed $146 million. Her cash also comes from her perform, Cloud Eau De Perfume, as well as her performance at Coachella. Grande is the highest-paid female musician on Forbes’ list.

Taylor Swift

Earnings in 2019: $63.5 million

Swift came in next with $63.5 million earned in 2016. The singer, who ranked in 25th place, received the bulk of her money from sales for her album, Lover, which sold more than 4 million copies in its first year. Lover was also Swift’s first album with her new record label, Universal Republic Records, after leaving Big Machine Records in 2018.

J.K. Rowling

JK Rowling

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Earnings in 2019: $60 million

Rowling ranked 28th overall with $60 million earned in 2019. As expected, the author’s Harry Potter series continues to sell, with 2.6 million books sold between June 2019 and June 2020 alone. Rowling also receives money from Broadway’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which makes around $2.3 million in ticket sales each week. However, Rowling’s biggest money-maker comes from Universal Studios’ “Wizarding World” attractions.

Billie Eilish

Earnings in 2019: $53 million

18-year-old Eilish is the youngest person on Forbes’ highest-paid celebrities list, with $53 million earned in 2019. The singer, who ranked in 43rd overall, made $25 million from her Apple documentary in 2019. A lot of her cash also came from her debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, which sold $3.9 million copies and reached number-one.

Kim Kardashian

Earnings in 2019: $49.5 million

Jenner’s older sister, Kim Kardashian, ranked 38th overall, with $49.5 million earned in 2019. The reality star’s wealth came from several sources: her video game Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, her shapewear brand Skims, her reality show Keeping Up With the Kardashians. But the bulk of Kardashian’s money came from her cosmetics brand, KKW Beauty, and her perfume company, KKW Fragrance, which earned $100 million in sales in 2019.

Judge Judy

Judge Judy

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Earnings in 2019: $49 million

Judge Judy may have announced the end of her talk show in 2020, but she ended on a high note in 2019. The TV star has earned $47 million per year since 2012 for her daytime talk show. She also sold her rights for the episodes in 2017 for $100 million. She ranked 49th overall.

Jennifer Lopez

Earnings in 2019: $47.5 million

J-Lo ranked 56th overall, with $47.5 earned in 2019. The triple-threat’s money came from brand deals with Versace, Quay, DSW, as well as her own fragrances. J-Lo also earned money as a performer. Forbes reports that she made $100 million in two years with her Las Vegas residency, as well as $55 million in ticket sales from her world tour. That isn’t to mention the cash she received as a producer and star in the 2019 film Hustlers. Lopez is one of two Latinx women represented in Forbes’ list.


Earnings in 2019: $47 million

Pink ranked 57th, with $47 million earned in 2019. Most of her money came from her 2019 tour, which grossed $215 million in ticket sales. Pink’s eighth studio album, Hurts 2B Human, which reached number-one, also accounted for her earnings last year.


Earnings in 2019: $46 million

Rihanna is the highest paid Black women on Forbes’ list, and 60th highest paid celebrity overall. (She’s tied with David Copperfield.) Forbes reports that Rihanna made $46 million in 2019 from her businesses Fenty Beauty and Savage X Fenty. Despite her successful music career, Forbes reported that Rih made the “bulk” of her income in 2019 from her makeup brand, Fenty Beauty, which she co-owns with LVMH.

Sofia Vergara

Earnings in 2019: $43 million

After Lopez, Vergara is the second and last Latinx women to be represented in Forbes’ list. The actress, who ranked at number-71, made $43 million last year from her role on Modern Family, as well as her judge role on America’s Got Talent, which earns her an eight-figure salary. She also has a successful jeans line with Walmart.

Celine Dion

Earnings in 2019: $42 million

Dion ranked 72nd with $42 million earned in 2019. Most of her earnings came from her Las Vegas residency show, as well as her Courage World Tour, which sold out all 52 of its North American dates. The singer also makes steady cash from her albums, of which she’s sold 220 million copies worldwide.

Heidi Klum

Earnings in 2019: $39.5 million

Klum ranked 82nd with $39.5 million in earnings in 2019. Klum’s checks come from her roles on reality shows including Making the Cut, America’s Got Talent, Germany’s Next Top Model and Dragstars Germany. She also has a successful lingerie brand Heidi Klum Intimates.

Katy Perry

Earnings in 2019: $38.5 million

Perry came in at number 86 on Forbes’ list, with $38.5 million earned 2019. Much of her income came from her role as a judge on American Idol, which pays her $25 million per season. 

Lady Gaga

Earnings in 2019: $38 million

Gaga ranked at number-87 on Forbes’ list of the highest-paid celebrities of 2019, with $38 million in earnings. According to Forbes, most of Gaga’s earnings last year were from her Las Vegas residency. She released her sixth album, Chromatica, in 2020.

Naomi Osaka

Earnings in 2019: $37.4 million

Osaka ranked 90th in Forbes’ list of the 100 richest celebrities of 2019. Per the magazine, she made $37.4 million in 2019 and is the highest-paid female athlete of last year, unseating the previous record holder, Serena Williams, who held the title for the past four years. Osaka, who is half-Japanese and half-Haitian American, earned most of her money—$30 million, to be exact—from brand deals with Nike, Nissan, MasterCard and other companies. She’s also the only Asian woman represented on Forbes’ list.


Earnings in 2019: $37 million

Oprah was the third-richest Black woman on Forbes’ list at 91st place. The former talk show host made $37 million last year from cable channel, OWN, her 10 percent stake and brand ambassador deal with Weight Watchers, and her new interview series on AppleTV+. While Oprah isn’t the richest celebrity of 2019, she is worth a ton of money. Forbes reports that her net worth is $2.6 billion—of which $75 million is from OWN.

Serena Williams

Earnings in 2019: $36 million

Williams is the fourth and final Black women on Forbes’ list with $36 million earned in 2019. The tennis player and fashion designer, who ranked at number-98, made a lot of her money from her investments in startups via Serena Ventures. Along with the money she’s made as a professional tennis player, Williams’ cash is also from her fashion line, S, as well as her stakes in the Miami Dolphins and UFC.

Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie

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Earnings in 2019: $35.5 million

Jolie ranked at number 99 on Forbes’ list, with $35.5 million earned in 2019. The actress made most of her money from her movies. Her upcoming role in Marvel’s The Eternals netted her an eight-figure check. She also starred in 2020’s Come Away and The One and Only Ivan.

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