Celebrities of all shapes, sizes, and colors can only dream about having multi-million dollar deals. But there are some celebrities who prefer to walk away because they are worth so much more.
In some cases, the decision to walk away from hefty paydays — whether on principle or on principal — proves to be a wise one. There are plenty of celebrities who play the long game that end up getting more in dividends because they chose to hold out for what they felt they deserved.
And then there are other cases where the celebrity doesn’t know when to hold them — or when to fold them — and the consequences are devastating (We’re sure, for example, that Matt Damon could use that extra couple million right now. Should’ve done “Avatar,” sir, and you wouldn’t have the disaster of “Stillwater” to contend with).
Did you know, for example, that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson turned down the opportunity to host the 2019 Oscars? According to Us Weekly, the wrestler-turned-multi-hyphenate was the first choice for the awards ceremony but had to turn it down due to a scheduling conflict. “Ah mahalo dude, I was their first choice to host this year, and my goal was to make it the most fun and entertaining Oscars ever,” he said. “We all tried hard, but couldn’t make it work since I’m shooting Jumanji. Academy and I were super bummed but maybe one day down the road.” Clearly, it worked out in his favor, as the follow-up to “Jumanji” turned out to be just one of many multi-million dollar deals for Johnson.
But while things worked out in Johnson’s favor, that’s not the case for other Black celebrities.
Let’s take a look at how turning down multi-million dollar deals worked out for them…and it’s not always a positive thing, either, for them.
The Deal: “2 Fast 2 Furious”
The Price Tag: $500,000, plus a portion of the box office
What Happened: Though Ja Rule was offered only $500,000 to reprise his role in “2 Fast 2 Furious,” he was also promised a portion of the box office receipts. And, had he signed on for the franchise, he’d have gotten bigger paychecks each time.
Unfortunately, Ja Rule turned down the opportunity to appear in the follow-up to the runaway hit, “The Fast and the Furious” (The role went to Ludacris, instead, and he’s been in the films ever since). At the time, he claimed that he was “taking acting more seriously” and didn’t think the role in “2 Fast 2 Furious”suited his sensibilities.
But before he died, John Singleton broke down how Ja Rule basically “blew his chances” in Hollywood by turning down the role.
“Ja got too big for himself. He turned it down. He turned down a half a million dollars,” Singleton said. “He got 15 grand to be in the first movie. He was really big at that time. I guess Murder Inc. was throwing out hits and were making money hand over foot. He was acting like he was too big to be in the sequel. He wouldn’t return calls. I went to the studio to go see him — that’s just my mantra, I deal with a lot of music people. He was kinda playing me to the side and I was like, ‘What? What is this s**t?’ This was all initiated by me. I then made a call. I called Ludacris. I said, ‘Hey, Luda, I haven’t met you before, but I like what you’re doing right now.’ Luda was all humble, excited to meet me. I said, ‘I’m doing this movie and I’m wondering if you want to be a part of it.’ He goes, ‘What? Yeah! Anything you do I want to be a part of.’ That’s how Ludacris got in 2 Fast 2 Furious, and the rest is history.”
How Did It Work Out: Two words: Fyre Festival.
In 2021, Ja Rule seems to be making a recovery. Daily News reports, in March, the rapper sold a Fyre Festival painting for $122,000 in cryptocurrency. AfroTech also previously reported that he recently helped launch Flipkick.io — a non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace. As of this writing, Ja Rule is said to have an estimated net worth of $4 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.
The Deal: “Chappelle’s Show”
The Price Tag: $50 million
What Happened: Put simply, Dave Chappelle wasn’t feeling it anymore. Not even $50 million was enough to entice him to keep the show alive.
“There are other things in my life that I do not purchase with money that are very valuable,” he said.
He then jetted off to South Africa for two weeks and reconnected with his roots.
How Did It Work Out: Perfectly fine. As AfroTech previously reported, in 2016, Chappelle was paid a whopping $60 million for his specials — a record at the time, and one of the largest deals ever paid to a comedian in any medium.
Kanye West — Twice
The Deal: Nike
The Price Tag: $10 million
What Happened: In 2013, West severed his relationship with the prominent shoe company Nike and took on a subsequent deal with adidas for $10 million. Reportedly, West was displeased with Nike’s proposed royalty disbursements.
How Did It Work Out: Well, considering that Yeezys sell out every time a new style hits the circuits…and it’s a multi-billion dollar venture…we’d say it worked out just fine.
The Deal: Reebok
The Price Tag: $40 Million
What Happened: As AfroTech previously reported, Shaquille O’Neal walked away from a $40 million Reebok deal because an elderly fan confronted him about his shoes “not being affordable.”
“I was like, ‘You know what, she’s right.’ So that day, I cut ties with Reebok and started my own brand,” he recalled. “I said keep the money… this ain’t right. I’ll still wear the shoes I wear during the season, but I’ll be looking to do my own thing. So, I started the Shaq brand,” he said. “I went to my favorite store, Walmart, and we did a deal. I was in all stores and my price point for the shoes was $29-$19 and since then we have sold over 400 million pairs. It’s not kids that don’t want to wear $20 shoes, they don’t want to wear shoes that look like they cost $20.”
How Did It Work Out: It worked out perfectly fine. O’Neal shoes continue to be sold in Walmart to this day, and he has a net worth of over $400 million.
The Deal: Nike
The Price Tag: $2.5 million/year
What Happened: In 2013, Steph Curry walked away from a $2.5 million/year to sign, instead, with Under Armour. Rumors circulated on social media that the deal fell apart because Nike wouldn’t let Steph Curry write Bible verses on his shoes (It’s not true).
But the reality is far, far worse.
“The pitch meeting, according to Steph’s father Dell, who was present, kicked off with one Nike official accidentally addressing Stephen as “Steph-on,” the moniker, of course, of Steve Urkel’s alter ego in Family Matters. ‘I heard some people pronounce his name wrong before,'” says Dell Curry. “I wasn’t surprised. I was surprised that I didn’t get a correction,” reported NBC. “It got worse from there. A PowerPoint slide featured Kevin Durant’s name, presumably left on by accident, presumably residue from repurposed materials.”
How Did It Work Out: Quite well, actually. Under Armour offered Curry $4 million/year, plus his own signature shoe line. The company’s current valuation, according to Yahoo, is over $9 billion, and Curry’s influence is credited with bringing the company into the “big leagues.”