Celebrity entrepreneurs: the female stars with a head for business

Business is tough – and it can be tougher when you are a female entrepreneur trying to make a mark in a “man’s world”. However, women celebrities in the biggest spotlight have shown us that all is possible when you set your mind to it. From Rihanna and Jennifer Lopez to the Kardashian-Jenner clan, these are the women celebrities who show us their prowess in running a business empire

Rihanna arrives at the Gucci show during Milan Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2022.
Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images for Gucci

All eyes may be on Rihanna’s new motherhood, but the music star is still work, work, work, work, working hard.

The Cookies N Clean clay facemask, released under Rihanna’s own beauty brand Fenty Beauty, has become a hit with the fans.

Despite repeated requests from fans for new music, the Barbadian singer has not released an album since 2016. Though she has alluded to already having new material since 2019, her focus has been on her other business ventures.

Upcoming baby and demanding fans aside, it does seem like she has hands full.

The entertainer-entrepreneur has been working with financial advisers on an initial public offering that could raise US$3 billion or more for her Savage X Fenty lingerie company, according to a report by Bloomberg. The company has created undergarments for both women and men.

But $1.4 billion of her own $1.7 billion fortune is said to come from her Fenty Beauty company, in which she owns a 50 per cent stake. She shares the other half of the company with French luxury conglomerate LVMH.

Just a decade ago, the star had to take her accountant to court for mismanagement, negligence and providing bad financial advice. She won a $10 million settlement and has since kept a careful eye on her money.

Rihanna is of course, far from the only celebrity with a head for business.

Singer Jessica Simpson has turned her initial singing success into a successful run on reality TV and now as a fashion mogul.

The Jessica Simpson Collection was initially launched in 2005 as a shoe line with Nine West designer Vince Camuto. But the brand now spans a range of fashion categories and has broken $1 billion in annual revenue.

But it wasn’t just a simple journey of cashing in on her celebrity to make the brand boom.

Simpson sold the majority stake in her namesake brand to licensing company Sequential Brands, which subsequently had to file for bankruptcy.

Later on, she sought to regain control of her company with a $65 million bid. 

“I drained everything to buy it back,” Simpson says. “But I’m my best investment to myself. I believe in big things. I don’t think anything is impossible.”

The move was risky. But her big gamble paid off.

“With money, there’s just so much fear attached to it. I’m the person that you get mad at the blackjack table. I’ll put it all out there if it’s me that’s driving the show because I believe in myself and I know what I can do.”

There are plenty of other stars that have turned their fame and fortune into business ventures that have paid off handsomely.

At 29, actress Jessica Alba launched The Honest Company, a company that focuses on non-toxic household goods. It went public in May 2021 with a $1.4 billion valuation, just days after her 40th birthday.

“In entertainment, in particular, there’s no amount of success that ever gives you a real foundation or a real place in this industry,” Alba told CNBC.

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow turned her e-mail newsletter into an online shop that evolved into the controversial alternative wellness platform known as Goop, which had a $250 million valuation by 2018.

Over the decades

One of the first celebrities to truly wear the businesswoman hat was Madonna. In 1992, she launched her own record label Maverick. Unlike most vanity labels, the company had a number of successes that weren’t from the megastar founder alone. Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill, one of the highest-selling albums of the ’90s, was released under the label.

Since the 2000s, Madonna has launched a series of businesses that share names with her musical output. This includes the Hard Candy gyms, MDNA skin products and Material Girl clothing line.

Dancer turned actress turned singer Jennifer Lopez also embodied the multi-hyphenate title outside the entertainment scene. She has launched perfumes, wellness brands, and production companies among other things.

But her biggest disappointment was her first clothing line in 2001, J.Lo by Jennifer Lopez.

The venture was the result of a partnership with Tommy Hilfiger’s brother Andy. The line eventually ended in 2007.

“I felt like I was trapped in a situation I couldn’t get out of, and my name was stamped on things that I didn’t believe in,” Lopez has said.

jlo beauty jennifer lopez mirror
Jennifer Lopez. Photo: handout

But experience has taught the megastar to trust her instincts and put herself to all that she touches. 

“I am the scarce asset — somebody who is a proven creator, artist and entrepreneur who has an ability to really connect with people,” J.Lo has said on the formula for her business success. “I cherish it and try to use it in the best way that I always can.”

Fast forward to present day, celebrity entrepreneurs like Kylie Jenner have remained hands-on in all their ventures, be it mobile apps or cosmetics. In 2019, Forbes named Jenner the youngest self-made billionaire at the age of 21.

But much debate was made about Jenner’s privileges from her famous family’s background and if that constituted “self-made”.

Jenner argued that she was cut off financially at 15 and has paid her dues. “What I’m trying to say is I did have a platform, but none of my money is inherited,” she said.

Jenner’s older sister, Kim Kardashian, recently caught heat for what appeared to be a tone-deaf call for women in business to “work harder.”

She has since apologised and explained that the quote was taken out of context.

“The advice that I would give is that… having a social media presence and being on a reality show does not mean overnight success,” clarified Kardashian. 

“You have to work really hard to get there even if it might seem like it’s easy and that you can build a really successful business off of social media.”

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