Each year, Forbes puts out a list of the wealthiest self-made women in America.
You may have remembered this list from its controversies of years past — most notably, the conversation around Kylie Jenner being a “self-made” billionaire. Rest assured, Forbes has recently created a “self-made” ranking system, which you can see here.
This year, nine Black women made the Forbes top 100 wealthiest women in America’s list. Their impressive backgrounds include fashion, music, media, hotels, health, and sports. Even more impressive? Their ages range from the late 30s to 70s, proving wealth can be accumulated at any point in your life.
Check out the following article to find out who made the list and how they made their wealth!
#13 Oprah Winfrey
You know her. You love her. You probably reference her lifestyle advice at least twice a month. That’s a big reason Oprah Winfrey is the wealthiest Black woman in America — her iconic brand is a central part of the cultural zeitgeist.
Coming in at $2.5 Billion, Oprah’s hard-earned and meteoric rise earned her a seat among America’s most prolific icons. Growing up without plumbing in rural Tennessee, Oprah skyrocketed in her career as a television host of the Oprah Winfrey Show. She then reinvested her money, launching OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network), becoming a leading media mogul. She is one of five women of color to comprise the top 15 wealthiest American women and the only Black woman in the top 15.
Work, work, work, work, work, work. Rihanna may have been a teenager when she was discovered, but her ambition and work ethic propelled her to become the 20th wealthiest woman in America. Coming in at $1.4 billion, this Oscar, Grammy, BET, and Billboard winner first came onto the stage for her musical feats. She became a billionaire through her entrepreneurial endeavors in fashion and beauty through her Fenty and Saveage x Fenty brands. Most impressive, according to Forbes’s self-made score, Rihanna is as self-made as it gets.
#28 Sheila Johnson
Although Johnson missed the benefits of Title IX, she was the first African American cheerleader at the University of Illinois. She was also the first Black woman to become a billionaire.
Johnson is known for her role in founding the Black Entertainment Network, the parent company of BET. The company was founded in 1981 by her and her then-husband. After Johnson sold her shares in 2002, she expanded her business portfolio into media, resorts, and sports teams. The representation of women as sports leaders is something she believes is essential to building women leaders in the workplace.
True to her word, Johnson has stakes in the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, as well as the NBA’s Wizards and the NHL’s Capitals. She also has an impressive philanthropic background as a Global Ambassador for CARE, Chair of the Board of Governors of Parsons The New School for Design. Johnson sits on the boards of VH1’s Save the Music Foundation, Americans for the Arts, the Curry School of Education Foundation at the University of Virginia, and the University of Illinois Foundation.
#42 Janice Bryant Howroyd & family
Janice Bryant Howroyd moved to Los Angeles with $900 and a part-time gig set up by her brother-in-law. But, acting on the family philosophy that attitude beats aptitude, Howroyd identified the industry need for headhunters. She started with a phone, fax, and a small office, eventually becoming the first Black woman to run a billion-dollar company. On facing racism and discrimination throughout her life, she says,
“My personal business protocol, my life mantra: never compromise who you are personally to become what you wish to be professionally.”
Beyonce broke the music industry. She holds the current record for the most Grammy’s ever won (32), is tied (with her husband Jay-Z) for the highest number of Grammy nominations ever held, and is one of the highest-selling artists ever. She also has earned 540 million dollars, bringing her in at #48 on this year’s Forbes list of America’s wealthiest women.
This high-school dropout made most of her money through her musical career, proving that education doesn’t beget business savvy or star power.
#77 Iman Abuzeid
Incredible Health has had a meteoric rise since its founding in 2017. Incredible Health helps health systems source permanent nurse talent and dramatically improve hiring operations. They can hire permanent nurses in about three weeks.
In 2022, Dr. Iman Abuzeid — an immigrant whose Sudanese father was a surgeon in Saudi Arabia — raised a $80 million Series B round, giving her company a valuation of $1.65 billion. Valued at $350 million, Abuzeid comes in at 77th on the Forbes list and occupies one of the rare positions of being one of the few Black women to run a company valued at over $1 billion.
#84 Emma Grede
As a British citizen who grew up in the self-proclaimed “rougher ends” of East London, Gerde’s stealth rise is about as American Dream you can get.
Emma Grede has made her mint creating and running brands with the iconic Kardashian family. She is the CEO of Good American (cofounded with Khloe), founding partner and chief product officer of SKIMS (with Kim), and the co-founder of Safely (with Kris). Before this, Grede started her marketing firm at the tender age of 24. Coming in at $320 million, she is 84th on the Forbes list of America’s richest self-made women.
#89 Serena Williams
Everyone’s favorite tennis icon is entering her second act. Many know that Williams perpetually dominated the tennis circuit for over 20 years. During her time, The GOAT won 23 Grand Slam titles — the most in the open area and the second most of all time. She is also the only male or female player to boast career Grand Slams in both singles and doubles. She is the 49th highest-paid athlete in 2023.
Williams’s savviness on the court has always translated to the business world, including her fashion brand, S by Serena. But now, the retired icon is focusing on expanding her business operations. Since 2020, Williams has steadily grown her net wealth from $225 million to $290 million through the launch of Serena Ventures, Will Perform, and Nine Two Six Productions, where she will take a production role.
#96 Shonda Rhimes
Shonda Rhimes is responsible for many of our most iconic generational television moments. Her works like Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, Bridgerton, Inventing Anna, and How to Get Away with Murder have been cultural pillars since the early aughts. Rhimes is also the founder of Shondaland — a news, media, and production company.
Coming in at $250 million, this Dartmouth grad has a lot to be proud of — she’ll most likely go down as perhaps the most proficient showrunner (producer, writer, and director) of modern television and streaming history.