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Ranked: Top 10 Highest-Paid Celebrities

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The Top paid celebrities in 2021

Ranked: Top 10 Highest-Paid Celebrities

It can be hard to make money in media—but for those lucky enough to make it to the big leagues, the payoff can be astronomical .

In 2021, the world’s 10 highest-paid celebrities earned a combined $2.7 billion. Who are these high-earning entertainers, and how do they make their hundreds of millions?

Using data from Forbes, this graphic by Athul Alexander highlights the top paid entertainers around the world, based on 2021 pre-tax earnings (minus business expenses such as management fees, agent costs, etc).

The Highest-Paid Celebrities in 2021

The world’s celebrities may be well known for the media they produce, but the bulk of their earnings are made through business dealings.

First on the list is New Zealand director Peter Jackson, best known for directing, producing, and writing the screenplays for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies.

RankNameNationality2021 pre-tax earnings
1Peter Jackson🇳🇿​ New Zealander$580 million
2Bruce Springsteen🇺🇸​ American$435 million
3Jay-Z🇺🇸​ American$340 million
4Dwanye "The Rock" Johnson🇨🇦​ 🇺🇸​ American/Canadian$270 million
5Kanye West🇺🇸​ American$235 million
6Trey Parker and Matt Stone🇺🇸​ American$210 million
7Paul Simon🇺🇸​ American$200 million
8Tyler Perry🇺🇸​ American$165 million
9Ryan Tedder🇺🇸​ American$160 million
10Bob Dylan🇺🇸​ American$130 million

In addition to creating and directing blockbuster hits, Jackson is also the founder of the VFX studio Weta Digital, which he sold a portion of last year for a whopping $1.6 billion and the bulk of his earnings.

Second on the list is singer, songwriter, and musician Bruce Springsteen, who earned an estimated $435 million in 2021. Like Jackson, Springsteen’s earnings came from a major sale, as he sold Sony Music the rights to his entire music collection in a deal worth nearly $500 million last December.

One of the only actors on the list is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who comes in fourth place with an estimated $270 million in 2021 pre-tax earnings. But only about a quarter of his earnings came from leading roles in movies like Jungle Cruise and Red Notice, with the bulk coming from his tequila brand Teremana.

Some High-Level Trends

Taking a closer look at this list reveals a few trends worth highlighting:

  • Nine out of 10 entertainers on the list are American
  • Only two actors made the list, while six are musicians
  • All of top 10 earners in 2021 were men

Hollywood’s gender pay gap has been a hot topic of conversation over the last few years. Research indicates that there’s about a one-million-dollar pay gap between male and female actors at the “superstar” level.

But the gender gap in the entertainment industry extends further than that—women aren’t just underpaid compared to their male counterparts, they’re also just underrepresented, especially in big-decision, behind-the-scenes roles, and may subsequently miss out on the business opportunities made available.

Women have made the top 10 earners in Forbes celebrity rankings in recent years, including Kylie Jenner from 2018-2020, Taylor Swift in 2019, and Judge Judy Sheindlin in 2018. But they were the only females in an upper echelon of celebrity earners composed mainly by males.

Comparing YouTubers to Traditional Celebrities

As social media and online entertainment continue to gain traction, it’s interesting to see how much social media creators are earning compared to their traditional media counterparts.

According to Forbes, the highest-paid YouTuber (Jimmy Donaldson, better known as MrBeast) earned $54 million in 2021. Notably, that would place MrBeast in the top 25 of celebrity earners, just ahead of Taylor Swift’s $52 million in 2021.

With more celebrities embracing social media to grow followings and earnings revenue, it might not be long before we see more influencers and social media creators in the list of the world’s highest-earning celebrities.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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VC+ Special Dispatch - Your shortcut to understanding IMF's World Economic Outlook

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