Oprah Loses No. 1 Spot

The world’s Most Powerful Celebrities

She’s rich. She’s talented. She’s beautiful. And now Angelina Jolie is the most powerful celebrity in the world.

Thanks to the release of several blockbuster movies and an endless sea of media buzz, Jolie has dethroned Oprah Winfrey to top this year’s Celebrity 100 list, Forbes’ annual ranking of the world’s ultra famous.

Jolie raked in $27 million in the past 12 months thanks to a movie schedule that included “Kung Fu Panda,” “Wanted” and the not-yet-released spy thriller “Salt.” Even more impressive: The publicity she garnered following the birth of her twins, as well as the consistent headlines she grabs for her philanthropic efforts and her relationship with actor Brad Pitt, who ranks No. 9 on the list.

In Pictures: The World’s Most Powerful Celebrities

Winfrey drops to No. 2 on the list. The media maven has pocketed $275 million in the last year, making her the list’s top earner. Though viewership for her daily chat fest, “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” continues to erode, her earnings remain unchanged from a year ago. In addition to Winfrey’s monthly magazine, she has a three-year, $55 million deal with XM Satellite Radio. Early next year, the self-made billionaire will roll out the lifestyle-themed Oprah Winfrey Network in partnership with Discovery Communications.

In a year filled with humbling bank failures and violent stock market swings, the earning power of the 2009 Celebrity 100 remained remarkably resilient. The cumulative earnings of the 2009 list totaled $4.1 billion, up slightly from last year’s $4 billion haul.

The primary reason celebrities are still making big money: Many stars are locked into long-term performance and endorsement contracts. If the economy does not improve, expect the downturn to catch up to the A-list next year.

The Celebrity 100, which includes film and television actors, models, chefs, athletes, authors, and musicians, is a measure of entertainment-related earnings and media visibility (exposure in print, television, radio and online). The earnings estimates consist of pre-tax income between June 2008 and June 2009. Management, agent, and attorney fees are not deducted.

Rounding out the top five on the list are pop icon Madonna ($110 million), singer Beyonce Knowles ($87 million), and golfer Tiger Woods ($110 million).

More Galleries on Forbes.com

The Material Girl banked the majority of her millions on the road. Her “Hard Candy” tour rounded out 2008 as the year’s top-grossing international tour, raking in $280 million across 17 countries.

Knowles’ haul came from album sales, tour performances, films, a fashion collection, and a lengthy list of endorsement deals.

Woods’ pile of cash came mostly from endorsements, appearance fees, and a lucrative gig designing golf courses. He spent most of the year sidelined with a knee injury.

Among the newcomers on this year’s list: “Twilight” scribe Stephanie Meyer (No. 26) and country crooner Taylor Swift (No. 69). Meyer, who sold 29 million books and created a vampire frenzy, earned $50 million during the year-long period. Swift was the top-selling U.S. artist of 2008, banking $18 million off of a tour, album sales and endorsement deals.

Barack Obama joins the list as the first sitting head of state to land on the Celebrity 100. The President’s historic election last year helped him sell millions of books. He debuts on this year’s list at No. 49, with book earnings of $2.5 million for the 12-month period.

To make room for the new entries to the list, 37 bold-faced stars fell off. Among them: J.K. Rowling and Johnny Depp. Rowling lacked a new “Harry Potter” book, while Depp failed to release or collect on an installment of “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

Edited by Matthew Miller, Dorothy Pomerantz, and Lacey Rose


Surprising Facts About Conan O’Brien

by Amy and Nancy Harrington

Jay Leno passes his “Tonight Show” baton to Conan O’Brien this week, and we couldn’t be happier. We’ll miss Letterman (sorry, Dave — if we’re forced to choose, we pick Conan) and we won’t miss Leno (because he’s just moving to earlier time slot… if we decide to watch). And so in anticipation of Conan’s first show, we take a look at some of our favorite things about Conan and a few surprising facts we didn’t know.

He Stole from a Superhero

Back in 1984, when Conan was a student at Harvard and president of the Harvard Lampoon, Burt Ward (yes, the TV “Batman’s” Robin) came to the school to give a lecture, cape in hand. He arrived on campus to be greeted by “security guards” sent to “safeguard the costume.” But Burt realized he’d been taken for a ride when those same security guards burst into the middle of his speech, dimmed the lights, and stole the costume. Conan (the heist’s ringleader) held hostage negotiations with the actor the following day, and the Boy Wonder’s gear was returned unharmed.

He Worked Week to Week at First

Making a virtual unknown the host of his own late-night talk show was a big risk for NBC. Sure, Conan was funny and had written for “Saturday Night Live” and “The Simpsons,” but he wasn’t really a stand-up and hadn’t spent a lot of time in front of the camera (aside from an occasional “SNL” walk). What were they thinking? They were thinking, “Lorne Michaels recommended him, and that dude knows talent.” They were also thinking, “Let’s make him renew his contract every few weeks, instead of years. That way, if he stinks we can fire him whenever we want.” Looks like that gamble paid off.

He Took Tap as a Kid

When Conan was in grade school, he decided he wanted to be an entertainer. He approached his parents and told them that he was going to be in show business, so he needed to learn how to tap dance. After a considerable amount of begging, they signed him up with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson protégé Stanley Brown, who taught him how to tap. Wonder if he was the one who helped hone Conan’s “string dance.”

He Dated a “Friend”

Back before either were stars, struggling comedians Conan O’Brien and Lisa Kudrow were an item. They split up when O’Brien left L.A. for New York to begin hosting “Late Night.” It’s rumored that he pined for Kudrow for two years until she married Michel Stern in 1995. Conan met his wife, Liza, in 2000, but he and Kudrow are still “Friends.” Sorry, it was begging to be said.

He Was in a Music Video

In 2005 Conan did a cameo in The White Stripes’ “The Denial Twist” as part of an ongoing friendship and mutual admiration society. They have been on his show numerous times since he met them in a bowling alley in the late ’90s. And in a final farewell, Jack and Meg, who hadn’t played live together in almost two years, reunited on Conan’s last “Late Night” to perform “We’re Going to Be Friends.”

Letterman Supported Him

A week after he was announced as David Letterman’s “Late Night” replacement, Conan appeared on Dave’s show and said people were stopping him on the street and saying, “Hey, look! It’s that guy who doesn’t deserve a show.” Well, Dave thought he did, and he showed his support all the way. Letterman was a guest on one of Conan’s first nights, and Conan appeared on the “Late Show” several times. And back in the days when people didn’t get Conan’s nervous energy, Dave would send over his standby audience to help fill the younger host’s studio. Don’t think they’ll have that problem at “The Tonight Show.”

He Gave Us Triumph

Without Conan, we wouldn’t have one of our favorite puppets of all time. No, not Kermit. Not Grover. Not Lambchop. We’re talking about Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, Robert Smigel’s genius creation that debuted on Conan’s show in 1997. Triumph has insulted the biggest names in entertainment, from Jennifer Lopez to Eminem to every “Star Wars” fanatic that ever lived. If you haven’t seen him talking to “Attack of the Clones” fans, do yourself a favor and check this out. It’s a very funny video…for us to poop on! We keed, we keed.

Conan and the Finnish President: Separated at Birth

Although Conan has no Finnish ancestors, he bears a striking resemblance to Finland’s first female President, Tarja Halonen (also the world’s only red-haired leader). Back in 2005, when Conan learned his show had high ratings in Finland, he attributed this phenomenon to the fact that he looked like Halonen. So what if she was a woman? Conan even supported her in her ’06 re-election campaign, because he enjoyed looking like a world leader. Halonen did win reelection, and we’d like to think Conan had something to do with it, in that Oprah/Obama kind of way.

He Sold His Taurus to Brad Pitt

Conan has been talking about his sweet ride, a green 1992 Ford Taurus SHO, on his show for years, including the time Brad Pitt made him dress in a “Troy” costume and then took the green machine for a spin. He’s tried several times to sell the classic car (once at a high-end auction) to no avail, but finally, on one of his last shows, Pitt came back and bought the car. We’re guessing that was just a skit, but now that Conan’s moving to L.A., he might need a new set of wheels. We hear Ford’s bringing the Taurus back in 2010. Maybe they can give him one in exchange for promotional consideration on “The Tonight Show.” After all, Leno owns more than 185 vehicles. Conan had better get crackin’ if he wants to keep up.

Tune in Monday, June 1 at 11:35pm ET for the maiden voyage of “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien.”