Black Women Billionaires & How They Made Their Money

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Many successful Black women have net worths in the millions of dollars, but very few have the rare distinction of being billionaires. Sheila Crump Johnson made history as America’s first Black female billionaire after co-founding Black Entertainment Television (BET) alongside her husband in 1980. After breaking the racial barrier and carving out a career as a successful multimillion-dollar entrepreneur in the sports space and hotel industry, her achievement made way for more Black women to gain recognition for running impactful businesses.

Here are the incredible stories behind how these billionaire ladies made their money, including Black women in the United States and abroad:

Oprah Winfrey

Net Worth: $2.7 billion (Forbes, 2024)

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Oprah Winfrey established herself as a household name thanks to her illustrious career in the entertainment industry, especially as a television personality. The decorated journalist-turned-media mogul’s production studio, Harpo Productions, not only facilitated her show but also had a hand in the original The Color Purple back in the 1980s. She also launched a successful cable channel with Warner Bros. Discovery in 2011, and the brand provided a variety of Black American programming. Forbes also credits her incredible wealth to her stake in Weight Watchers and her massive real estate portfolio, which includes over a dozen homes in California and Hawaii.

Rihanna

Net Worth: $1.4 billion (Forbes, 2024)

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Rihanna‘s journey toward a billion-dollar empire began with her award-winning, critically acclaimed music at a very young age. After years in the music industry, the pop star made a huge money-making move in 2017 by partnering with French luxury conglomerate LVMH to launch Fenty Beauty. Many business experts cite this trendsetting brand as the reason why the “We Found Love” singer became the youngest self-made female billionaire in 2022.

Fenty Beauty bucked the trends of most makeup brands by providing a wide range of inclusive skin tones, forcing competitors to add more shades to keep up with the cosmetics company’s meteoric rise. A 2023 report from Cosmetify revealed Fenty Beauty is the world’s most successful celebrity cosmetics brand, valued at billions of dollars.

Rihanna also has a 30% stake in the Savage X Fenty lingerie line, which hit a $1 billion valuation in February 2021, according to Forbes. She’s since stepped down as CEO.

Folorunsho Alakija

Net Worth: $1 billion (Forbes, 2020)

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The Nigerian businesswoman found herself on numerous Forbes African Billionaires list thanks to her massive indigenous oil exploration company. Folorunsho Alakija is the co-founder and vice-chair of Famfa Oil, which is a longtime operator in the Agbami Oil Field in Nigeria. Forbes said the business, which is partnered with Chevron, also owns a $50 million stake in Oil Mining License (OML), one of Nigeria’s most prolific oil blocs. Her business ventures include banking, a prolific career as a fashion designer, a printing and monogramming company, and a luxury real estate development company.

Even though Alakija lost her status as a billionaire, at least by Forbes’s standards, she remains one of Africa’s wealthiest and most influential people. Alakija also founded the Rose of Sharon Foundation, a Christian charity dedicated to helping widows and orphans across Nigeria.

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