"I've got gold pharaoh wolverine blood in my bone marrow," Kanye told me in a recent interview for Forbes. If you think that sounds wild, check out the rest of my cover story on the controversial superstar, who went from lamenting personal debts of $53 million in 2016 to earning $150 million over the past year thanks to his Yeezy sneaker empire.
The Kanye profile anchored our annual Celebrity 100 issue, which ranks the highest-paid front-of-camera entertainers on the planet. Leading the way: Taylor Swift with $185 million in pretax pay, followed by Kylie Jenner at $170 million at No. 2 and her brother-in-law West at No. 3. The overall numbers are just as gaudy: the top stars pulled in over $6 billion, with even No. 100 (Celine Dion) clocking $37.5 million--a 7% increase in price-of-entry from a year ago. Check out my colleagues' stories on Swift's bonanza, Hollywood's persistent gender pay gap and how six Avengers tallied $340 million. For utmost entertainment value, watch this video of list newcomer DJ Khaled counting down the top five from atop a waterfall in his backyard.
Kanye and wife Kim Kardashian West (No. 26, $72 million) combined with in-law Jenner and her boyfriend Travis Scott (No. 39, $58 million) to earn nearly half a billion dollars over the past year, largely by following the same formula: launch a product, find a distribution partner and leverage the family's hundreds of millions of social media followers in lieu of pricey traditional marketing. Love them or hate them, they've established a remarkable blueprint for entertainers to own their audiences and profit accordingly.
For me, the Celeb 100 capped a busy spring at Forbes that also saw the launch of our annual list of richest rappers, punctuated by Jay-Z's coronation as a billionaire as part of the beautifully-redesigned print edition. That came on the heels of mourning a star gone far too soon and looking toward the future with our annual list of Hip-Hop Cash Princes And Princesses. All this music talk got you wishing you could invest in the industry's biggest hits? Then take a look at my mag piece on buying music royalties by stars from Cardi B to Bette Midler.
No matter how seriously you take the business of entertainment--and I'd say I'm on the "very seriously" end of the spectrum!--it's hard not to look around and see the bevy of more significant issues facing our increasingly-divided country and world. Sometimes, those spheres collide, as they did in the case of 21 Savage, the British-born rapper who was detained by ICE earlier this year and nearly got deported despite having built a career and family in Atlanta. I did a deeply-reported dive into what led to his arrest and the process that brought about his eventual release. Hopefully, this account can be helpful to others in the same position; at the very least, it's a potent reminder of what's going on all around us, usually with less fanfare.
Lastly, some good news--a title for my fourth book--it will now be called A-List Angels: How A Band Of Artists, Actors And Athletes Hacked Silicon Valley. Featuring interviews with entertainers-turned-startup-investors like Shaq, Nas, Joe Montana, Sophia Bush and Steve Aoki, it'll be published by Little, Brown next year. I'm currently in the final stages of editing, which I'll hopefully be able to tell you I've completed in the next Zoglet. Until then, enjoy the rest of your summer!
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