Is there a way to put a price on fame?
If this sounds like an esoteric question, you’re wrong. There’s one thing that Hollywood does well — other than providing photobombing moments for Jennifer Lawrence and Benedict Cumberbatch — and that's squeezing dollar value out of fame; of every sellable aspect of fame, in fact.
But how much does that ultimately add up to? What is the final bottom line value of being a star?
I've assembled a list of every possible way a star can make money just by being a star and assessed how much they can earn through each. The takeaway: Thanks to insta-communication tools like Twitter and Pinterest, it turns out that simply being famous is more lucrative now than ever before.
My co-conspirators in this venture? Jo Piazza, author of Celebrity, Inc.: How Famous People Make Money, and Henry Schafer of The Q Scores Company, which, quite literally, helps monetize fame by advising corporate clients looking for that perfect celebrity endorsement.
To start with, there is such a thing as a perfect celebrity endorsement: his name, apparently, is Leonardo DiCaprio, a guy so universal that his mug appears worldwide, from whiskey commercials in Japan to jewelry store windows in the Caribbean.
"I see him all over the place,” says Schafer, whose company went international a year and a half ago because of this very phenomenon. "I'm traveling in the Caribbean, and last night I walking through a town and he’s on windows everywhere — jewelry store, fashion boutiques, just pushing products everywhere."
Speaking of "pushing products," aside from a $10-million A-list movie salary, luxury and beauty endorsements are probably, still, the most lucrative gig for a star. Robert Pattinson won a reported $12 million in 2012 to shill for Dior fragrance for three years, while Brad Pitt scored closer to $7 million for his esoteric work for Chanel No. 5. That said, the more typical rate for a beauty endorsement tends to hover between $1 million and $5 million yearly, Piazza says.
Ditto with perfume lines such as Katy Perry's Killer Queen, which debuted last year.
"Those are about $5 million to start," Piazza tells me.
How else can a star make a quick $5 mil or so? Well, there's always a diet company. Jessica Simpson scored a reported $3 million for her Weight Watchers gig, though Piazza tells me that $5 million is not unheard of for such deals.
And if there are no Japanese commercials that need shooting ($1 million to $3 million right there), a star can always appear at a birthday party for a dictator or sheik. Jennifer Lopez has been accused by the Human Rights Foundation of taking north of $10 million from various "crooks and dictators" over the years.
Of course, scoring a seven-figure paycheck doesn't have to involve a big corporate sugar daddy or a guy with his own island in Dubai. A star can always simply share his or her children with the world. Demand for paparazzi photos of stars with their kids may have dried up a bit in the U.S., but worldwide, media outlets are still paying upwards of $2 million a year for those rights, Piazza says.
All of these moneymaking opportunities require a star to have an outgoing personality, someone who is willing to garner as much exposure for themselves over as many different types of media as possible, Schafer tells me. The idea? When a star charges, say, half a million to wear a certain necklace on the Oscars red carpet, or up to $3 million yearly just to be seen pushing a certain stroller or driving a certain car, the star power will resonate from Sweden to Senegal.
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Even a single night's work — say, appearing at the opening of a club — can trigger an $800,000 paycheck.
But that doesn't mean that stars need to leave their mansions to make a bundle these days. Not when they can send out a paid tweet promoting a product or service.
The going rate for those? How about up to $100,000 per tweet?
"It's all about impact," Schafer says. "People can follow a star's personal and professional life so freely these days, it's only natural that a famous person can turn around and command more dollars just because of that."
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Leslie Gornstein is an entertainment writer and the host of the weekly Hollywood gossip podcast The Fame Fatale.