Black Hollywood actresses have been making waves in the entertainment industry for decades. This was a notable year for many Black women entertainers — both veterans and those new in the game. Though oftentimes their contribution to the culture is not reflected in their salaries.
For example, Viola Davis was the only Black woman featured on Forbes’ list of the Top 10 highest-paid actresses of 2020. Davis earned $15.5 million thanks to her legendary performance in the role of Annalise Keating in the show “How to Get Away With Murder” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” on Netflix.
Despite this, Black actresses have been able to break through glass ceilings in the face of a global pandemic and continue to build impressive discographies and net worths.
Check out some of the most popular Black actresses along with their net worths below.
According to Forbes, Kerry Washington was the only Black woman to appear on the 2018 Top 10 Highest Paid Actresses list — none were listed in 2019. Washington was paid $1.1 million per episode for the Hulu drama “Little Fires Everywhere,” according to Business Insider, and is Entertainment Weekly’s 2020 Entertainer of the Year. As of this year, she has a net worth of $50 million.
This year Gabrielle Union celebrated the 20th anniversary of the timeless movie “Bring it On.” After that breakthrough role, the actress went on to star in dozens of rom-coms, action dramas, and notably starred as lead character in the BET drama series “Being Mary Jane.”The show ended somewhat abruptly after a legal dispute about her salary.
While music may have been her claim to fame in the early ’90s, this past decade has proven that Mary J. Blige is a multi-hyphenate entertainer. In 2018, the “Mudbound” actress became the first person to be nominated in an acting and song category for the same film. This year, she starred in the Netflix horror film “Body Cam” and has amassed a $20 million net worth from music and acting combined.
Tracee Ellis Ross made her acting debut on the popular 2000’s sitcom “Girlfriends” which recently made its way back to television on Netflix. Ross has been a champion for pay equality for Black actresses for years. When news broke that the “Black-ish” actress was paid significantly less than her male co-star, she publicly took a stand and was able to negotiate a higher salary setting the tone for her peers to do the same. Now, she reportedly makes $200,000 per episode, according to Celebrity Net Worth.
Viola Davis has an onscreen presence that is impossible to forget. The “Fences” co-star is a multi-award-winning actress and became the first African American to earn The Triple Crown — that is winning an Oscar, Emmy, and Tony award. Davis may be on her way to an EGOT, as she did her own singing as the character Ma Rainey a.k.a. “the mother of Blues” in the 2020 film “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” on Netflix.
Zendaya Coleman has had one of the smoothest transitions from Disney child star to blockbuster Hollywood Actress. At just 24-years-old, she has been able to build in impressive discography by joining the classic Marvel Spider-Man franchise and popular HBO show “Euphoria.” Coleman’s $15 million net worth is a combination of her acting, beauty, and fashion endorsements.
Octavia Spencer is a multi-award winning and Oscar-nominated actress. She’s played some iconic roles in movies like “Hidden Figures,” “The Help,” and as of this year, “Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker.” She has executive produced many movies such as “Green Book” and “Ma”. Last year she signed a three-year deal with 20th Century Fox to develop TV shows, comedy and drama, across all platforms.
This was a historic year in Regina King’s three-decade long career as she celebrated winning her second career Emmy in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie category for her performance in HBO’s “Watchmen.” She is also listed among People Magazine’s People of the Year for her social advocacy and film-making history as the first Black woman director to premiere a movie at Venice Film Festival for her feature “One Night in Miami.” According to Celebrity Net Worth, her career net worth is $12 million.
Most people were introduced to Janelle Monáe, her signature tuxedo wardrobe, and intricate hairstyles about 10 years ago. However, she’s built her $9 million net worth off of more than just music. In 2016, she made her acting debut with two breakout roles in critically acclaimed films “Moonlight” and “Hidden Figures.” This year she starred in the psycho-horror film “Antebellum.”
Actor, writer, producer, and director Issa Rae has one of Hollywood’s best come up stories. She found success with her YouTube series “Awkward Black Girl” and became a source of inspiration for independent filmmakers. Rae has since been on a roll, producing and starring in her own comedy series, HBO’s “Insecure.”
Jurnee Smollett is not new to the game. She started off as a childhood actress and has starred alongside Hollywood’s heavy hitters. This year she’s been making headlines for her role in HBO’s “Lovecraft Country.”
Marsai Martin — most known for her role as Diane in ABC’s “Black-ish” — is Hollywoods youngest executive. She officially broke the Guinness World Record of being Hollywood’s youngest executive producer for the 2019 movie “Little” starring herself, Issa Rae, and Regina Hall.