Forbes, a magazine that just loves to rank everyone from billionaires to fictional characters, has put out its annual list of the most powerful celebrities in the world. The revered ranking is supposedly based on the amount of money a celeb has raked in during the past year, as well as a complicated metric of how many times they’ve been mentioned by the media. But since Forbes also happens to be my former employer, I can tell you from experience that sometimes the stars who top the list are just picked to be there because the editors think they should be.
In order to compile these types of lists, Forbes editors assign a slew of reporters to evaluate each celeb on the list, as well as some new additions who may make it on each year. From my experience, money earned is the biggest consideration for a star to make the top 100, but check out the bottom of the list — someone like Alec Baldwin (number 88), who only reportedly earned $8.5 million in the past year can outrank someone like comedian Juff Dunham (number 93), who earned $22.5 million, because he has better name recognition. And of course Robert Pattinson (number 50) and Kristen Stewart (66) both make it on the list this year, thanks to a little movie called Twilight. Way to finally jump on that bandwagon, Forbes.
All of this is explained in the list’s methodology. If rank was solely based on earnings, billionaires like Oprah Winfrey and Tiger Woods would consistently top the list year after year (as it is, Oprah is number one this year) but that’s not very much fun, is it? What isn’t really explained is how the editors figure out how much money someone earns each year. Here’s the secret: it’s mostly just educated guessing!
Not surprisingly, people in Hollywood like to stay mum about what they are earning. Sometimes, a reporter will happen upon a particularly chatty source (and if they’re going to talk, they’ll talk to Forbes) but if someone close to a star is going to quote you an earnings number, chances are it’s higher than reality. Forbes figures out earnings from stars by using ballpark figures, trade reports and insight from experts. But, you never really know. Occasionally, someone will call to complain that their number is too low, and maybe the next year they’ll be more helpful in providing earnings info. But, a lot of it is just made up as they go along. Kind of like when Forbes decided to kill off Jabba the Hut.