Lady Gaga may have topped Forbes’ annual list of the highest-earning celebrities, but when it comes to the rest of the list, it’s good to be a white guy. Sixty-seven of the 100 celebrities or groups on the list are men, 32 are women, and 1, the Black Eyed Peas, is made up of men and a woman. Seventy-six of the 100 are white, 23 are black or Latino (there are no Asian individuals on the list), and the Black Eyes Peas are, again, the lone representative of mixed-race groups.
These results aren’t really that surprising, and I feel some temptation to dismiss them as telling us what we already know: that white men have a lot of financial power. But at the same time, it’s worth noting that if you pull this kind of bank, you have power beyond your pocketbook. As a proven earner, you’re likely to have more creative power than someone who is critically acclaimed but not necessarily commercially successful, or someone at the start of their career. And that means you can take time to do prestige projects, get your own ideas greenlit and have someone else pay to make them happen, or pay to make your own projects happen without the requirement that you listen to anyone. If Tyler Perry’s the only black movie producer on this list, then we’re probably going to get a lot more Tyler Perry-style characters on movies and television and not much else. If we want mass entertainment to get more interesting, supporting your favorite artists with your dollars actually matters. It doesn’t just support them. It can help buy them creative freedom.