How The Wayans Family Went From 'In Living Color' To A $300M Empire
Photo Credit: Evan Agostini

How The Wayans Family Went From 'In Living Color' To A $300M Empire

The Wayans family is an American show business family that has been delighting audiences for generations. Originally coming to prominence in the late 1980s, today’s members are comprised of a diverse group of comedians, actors and actresses, comedy writers, and script doctors.

Chaunté Wayans — whose mother, Elvira, wasn’t as prominent in the entertainment industry as the rest of the Wayans family — is best known for appearing on MTV’s “Wild N’Out.” Meanwhile, Damon Wayans Jr. — whose father, Damon Wayans Sr., was a groundbreaking comedian — has had starring roles on such mainstream shows as “New Girl.”

But none of their careers would be possible without the groundbreaking work of the original five: Keenan Ivory, Damon, Kim, Marlon, and Shawn. The actual family, though, consists of ten siblings — helmed by Howell Stouten Wayans, a supermarket manager, and his homemaker late wife, Elvira — but only five of them are in the entertainment industry today.

Keenan Ivory Wayans is at the core of this legacy: he was the first to venture into show business and subsequently built an empire for his siblings — and future generations — to build upon. According to Cheatsheet, Keenan Ivory Wayans’ hard work created a lasting empire that has grossed more than $1 billion at the box office and has created an overall net worth of more than $300 million for the family empire.

Let’s take a look at how the originators set the groundwork for the Wayans family of today.

Editorial note: The net worths listed in this piece are speculative estimates drawn from a variety of online sources.

Keenan Ivory Wayans

Photo Credit: Rachel Luna

Net Worth: $65 Million

The eldest of the Wayans family in show business (though Keenan is the second child of the Wayans family, overall; the family’s oldest son, Dwayne, is a film and television composer), Keenan Ivory Wayans set the tone for the rest of the family. After a chance meeting with Robert Townsend, Wayans was the first to break through into the mainstream with the 1987 film, “Hollywood Shuffle.” From there, he got funding for his cult comedy classic, “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka,” which was released in 1988. Wayans’s growing popularity drew the attention of the then-fledgling Fox Network, and they approached him to star in his own comedy show. The end result was the now-legendary, and groundbreaking, comedy sketch show known as “In Living Color,” which ran from 1990 until 1994. Though “In Living Color” would only last for four years, it created a lasting impact on the pop culture zeitgeist that’s still felt to this day, and cemented the Wayans family’s place in the entertainment industry. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Keenan Ivory Wayans has a net worth of $65 million.

Damon Wayans

Photo Credit: Frederick M. Brown

Net Worth: $35 Million

Damon Wayans has made most of his money from his successful acting, writing, directing and comedy career, which began in the early 1980s. His first role was in the classic Eddie Murphy film, “Beverly Hills Cop.” However, he really came into his own when “In Living Color” debuted on the then-fledgling Fox network.

Additionally, Wayans Sr. also has some of his net worth tied into real estate. In 2005, he paid $3 million for a condo in Santa Monica, CA. According to Variety, he listed the condo for rent in 2018 — at a $20,000 per month asking price.

As AfroTech previously reported, he has a net worth of $35 million.

Kim Wayans

Photo Credit: Lars Niki

Net Worth: $8 Million

Though not as popular as her brothers, Kim Wayans has still made waves in the comedy industry. But before starring on “In Living Color” with the rest of her family, Kim Wayans had starring roles in “A Different World” and the Vietnam-era drama “China Beach.” These days, she makes her money behind the scenes, specifically as the author of the successful children’s book series, “Amy Hodgepodge.” According to Celebrity Net Worth, Kim Wayans has a net worth of $8 million.

Shawn Wayans

Photo Credit: Paul Archuleta

Net Worth: $30 Million

Like the rest of his family, Shawn Wayans got his start on the comedy series “In Living Color” — but he was known as a DJ, who went by the name SW-1. Often seen alongside his brother and comedy partner, Marlon, Shawn Wayans has made a successful career with shows like “The Wayans Brothers” and films like “White Chicks.” According to Celebrity Net Worth, Shawn Wayans has a net worth of $30 million.

Marlon Wayans

Photo Credit: Rodin Eckenroth

Net Worth: $40 Million

The youngest member of the Wayans family, Marlon Wayans’ presence wasn’t as prominent on “In Living Color” as the rest of his siblings (He was too young, at the time — he was only 18-years-old when “In Living Color” debuted). However, thanks to teaming up with his older brother, Shawn, Marlon Wayans made his own way in the entertainment industry. In addition to his success with “The Wayans Brothers” and “White Chicks,” Marlon Wayans has appeared in “Scary Movie,”  “Requiem for a Dream,” “Dungeons and Dragons,” and more. According to Celebrity Net Worth, he has a net worth of $40 million.