7 Entertainers’ Success With Businesses –

Basketball legend Magic Johnson’s much anticipated cable network ASPiRE launched this week. The network features new as well as classic films and television shows created by and starring African Americans. “I wanted a vehicle to show positive images and have stories written, produced, and directed by African Americans for our community,” Johnson says about ASPiRE. In addition to his own post-NBA business ventures, which include running several companies under Magic Johnson Enterprises, Johnson was diagnosed as having HIV in 1991, and continues to this day to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS through his Magic Johnson Foundation. Johnson and the seven athletes and entertainers we list below, should be celebrated not only for their financial success, but for the way they changed the world of “business as usual” by ignoring any barriers based on race and gender.

  1. Oprah Winfrey:

    Oprah’s name is synonymous with success. Not just financial success, but a kind of self-empowerment that comes from experiencing and surviving profound personal struggles. Women of all ethnicities seem to connect with Winfrey on a deep, emotional level. In its earliest days, her popular talk show was groundbreaking for addressing taboo topics, including spousal abuse, addiction, and sexual orientation, that other shows wouldn’t touch at the time. In addition to being a film producer and philanthropist, Winfrey is founder of the popular O, The Oprah Magazine and CEO of her own TV network, OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network.

  2. Lucille Ball:

    Every self-respecting Trekkie knows that without Lucille Ball, there would have been no Star Trek. Ball’s comedic skills are legendary, but did you know she was also a talented producer? Desilu Productions, created in 1950, and co-owned by Ball and her first husband and co-star Desi Arnaz until their divorce in 1960 (Ball would run the company herself several years afterward), produced television shows that would become giant franchises, including Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, and The Untouchables.

  3. Quincy Jones:

    Without Quincy Jones, there probably wouldn’t be a Jay-Z or Sean Combs (two other entertainers on our list). However, Jones’ career includes artistic accomplishments that are likely beyond reach of many of today’s pop stars. Jones left the Berklee College of Music to hit the road as an arranger with the great Lionel Hampton. His career took him overseas to study composition with Nadia Boulanger, and then back to New York where he became vice president of Mercury Records and the first upper-level black executive to work at a major record company. Jones broke down racial barriers in the entertainment industry by scoring for television and film, as well as arranging and producing for artists across the color line. His Quincy Jones Media Group has several feature film, television, and cross-media projects in development, and in the world of audio technology products, Jones and AKG teamed up to create a signature line of headphones for the home or studio.

  4. Jay-Z:

    Somehow, through some miracle and a lot of hard work, Sean Corey Carter, better known as Jay-Z, was able to leave behind a life of drug dealing and become one of the most financially successful hip hop artists in America instead of another statistic. Jay-Z, a name he took from the subways he rode in and out of the New York neighborhood he grew up in, has already “retired” at least once, only to return to making music and developing other roles as a businessman, including overseeing the marketing and licensing of the clothing company Rocawear and becoming part-owner of the NBA team, the Brooklyn Nets. His philanthropic efforts include teaming up with the United Nations and MTV to raise awareness about the lack of clean water available to people in developing countries.

  5. Sean John Combs:

    As part of their commitment to provide more programming and employment opportunities for minorities, Comcast will also carry rapper, producer, and actor Sean Combs’ music and news channel Revolt when it launches at the end of 2012. Combs’ umbrella company Bad Boy Entertainment Worldwide includes Bad Boy Records, two clothing lines, a movie production company, and two restaurants.Combs, known currently as Diddy, may be one of the most controversial people on this list, and seems to be both loved and loathed by members of the hip-hop community.

  6. Shaquille O’Neal:

    Fifteen-time NBA All-Star and three-time NBA Finals MVP Shaquille O’Neal, like the other men and women on this list, is not only a business owner but a brand. Fast Company magazine included O’Neal on their 2012 100 Most Creative People in Business list, citing his ability to expand his “celebrity brand” beyond the role of an NBA analyst for TNT and NBATV networks and into worlds of shoes, mobile video, and television. Not surprisingly, as an early Twitter user and Google investor, social media plays a huge role in O’Neal’s public relations and marketing.

  7. CeeLo Green:

    In terms of musical talent, CeeLo sticks out as being one of the more diverse artists on this list. His viral single “F— You” was not only hilarious, it was as strong musically as the classic soul and R&B artists it paid homage to. As one of four freaks who host the cringe-inducing television show The Voice, CeeLo sticks out as the freakiest, a fact he’s aware of. He’s managed by Primary Wave Music, who do their best to keep up with this self-described “singer-writer-producer-personality-actor-entrepreneur-mentor-freak.”