LOS ANGELES — Pants-less pop stars, late-night warriors and sexy vampires spiced up the fame game last year, with Lady Gaga, Conan O'Brien and "Twilight" superstars Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson joining the Forbes Celebrity 100 list for the first time.
But despite their impressive debuts (Gaga hit the list in fourth place), Oprah Winfrey is the year's big winner. After being ousted by Angelina Jolie on last year's list (Jolie dropped to No. 18 this year), the Queen of all Media takes back her crown on Forbes' annual ranking of the world's ultra-famous. Winfrey earned $315 million over the past 12 months.
The talk-show host choked up when announcing that this coming season of her flagship chat fest would be her last. The news helped the self-made billionaire garner more press mentions than any other member of the Celebrity 100. Winfrey earns big thanks to The Oprah Winfrey Show as well as her magazine, popular website, radio channel, TV specials and movies like the Oscar-nominated Precious. Looking ahead, her Harpo production company, which launched the careers of Dr. Phil, Rachael Ray and Dr. Oz, will introduce interior designer-turned-talk-show host Nate Berkus this fall.
Months later, the mogul will roll out the lifestyle-themed Oprah Winfrey Network in partnership with Discovery Communications.
The rest of the best
Beyonce Knowles climbs two spots to No. 2 on this year's list, raking in $87 million over the course of the year. Her 90-plus date global tour grossed more than $85 million, bolstering a portfolio that includes album sales, her House of Dereon fashion line and a slew of endorsement deals, ranging from Nintendo to L'Oreal. Continuing to expand her business empire beyond music, the female half of hip-hop's most powerful couple also released her first fragrance, Heat, earlier this year.
In at No. 3: director James Cameron. Thanks to the box office success of "Avatar," the man who once declared himself "the King of the World" pulled down a hefty $210 million over the last year. Though his 3-D film failed to win the Best Picture Oscar, it broke Cameron's own record by grossing $2.7 billion at the global box office, making it the highest-grossing film ever. ("Titanic" had rested at the top for 12 years with $1.8 billion.) With the Blu-ray edition of "Avatar" setting sales records and a sequel in the works, expect Cameron to continue to mint money for years to come.
Despite stock market swings and a global economy that seems reluctant to restart, the earnings power of the Celebrity 100 remains remarkably resilient. The stars on our list collectively earned $4.7 billion this year, up from the $4.1 billion they banked a year earlier.
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The Celebrity 100, which includes film and television actors, TV personalities, models, athletes, authors, musicians and comedians, is a measure of entertainment-related earnings and media visibility (exposure in print, television, radio and online). Because of the growing power of social networks, we added a social media ranking that reflects each celebrity's presence on Facebook and Twitter. The earnings consist of pre-tax income between June 1, 2009, and June 1, 2010. Management, agent and attorney fees are not deducted.
A Gaga debut
Lady Gaga catapults onto our list, ranking ahead of much more established pop stars like Madonna (No. 10) and U2 (No. 7). She has a 106-date world tour and her willingness to partner with corporations like Virgin Mobile and Polaroid to thank for an estimated $62 million in earnings. What's more, her fame and theatricality have brought her gobs of press coverage, while her music videos have made her something of an Internet sensation. Proof: The fashion-forward rocker ranks first for social media and Web presence among the Forbes Celebrity 100.
Gaga is also the list's top-ranked newcomer, leading a group that includes the Black Eyed Peas ($48 million), O'Brien ($38 million) and "Twilight" costars Pattinson and Stewart. Pattinson comes in at No. 50 with estimated earnings of $17 million, while Stewart, who is working on fewer non-"Twilight" projects, comes in at No. 66 with a $12 million haul.
Woods stays strong — for now
Rounding out the list's top five: golfer Tiger Woods. Despite personal and professional setbacks this year (all negative publicity was extracted from this year's list), the tabloid target still managed to earn $105 million between June 2009 and June 2010. The reality: While his revenue streams have diminished post-scandal (Accenture, AT&T and Pepsi have all dropped Woods as a spokesman), he continues to generate millions from deals with Nike, Electronic Arts and Upper Deck. His golf course design business is also struggling due to the troubled global economy.
Expect to see Woods' income take a sizable dip on next year's list, a byproduct of his tarnished image and the reality of celebrity earnings at large.
Smith drops off
Dependent on new deals and fickle fans, the stars and their incomes have a tendency to fluctuate from one year's list to the next. Among this year's drop-offs is Will Smith. After ranking 11th on last year's list with $45 million, the blockbuster king fell off this year because he had no new films in the works during the time frame we analyzed.
Also absent from this year's list is rapper 50 Cent. In 2009 he ranked 50th with an impressive $20 million income. But his last album, "Before I Self Destruct," sold barely 500,000 copies and he has been out of the limelight while losing 25 percent of his body weight to play a cancer patient in the upcoming film "Things Fall Apart."
More on the methodology
The Celebrity 100 is a measure of power based on money and fame. Earnings estimates, which include income from films, television shows, endorsements, books and other entertainment ventures, are calculated between June 2009 and June 2010. Figures were rounded off where appropriate.
Additional sources include Billboard, Pollstar, Adams Media Research, The Nielsen Company and SNL Kagan. Fame is calculated using Web hits on Google Blog Search, TV/radio mentions on LexisNexis, overall press mentions on Factiva and the number of times a celebrity's image appeared on the cover of 25 consumer magazines. Social rank is calculated using metrics like Facebook friends and fans as well as Twitter followers.
© 2012 Forbes.com