by Natalie Finn | Wed., Sep. 23, 2015 6:30 AM
Cookie, Lucious, Jamal, Andre and the rest of the fierce Lyon clan return to TV tonight when the second season of Empire premieres on Fox.
But while their drama is off the charts in true primetime-soap fashion, the idea for a story about a family that built a business from the ground up and now is awash in riches (and, in the Lyons' case, issues) is firmly rooted in reality.
Aside from the fame that comes with success in movies, music and TV, Hollywood is awash with titans of business and brand-name awareness. It seems as though every day another famous-for-other-things celeb has a vision, realizes it and is now the head (or figurehead) of his or her own company.
But long before every star was pushing products, these 11 were empires of their own. So in honor of the season-two premiere of Fox's breakout hit of the year, check out these impressive real celebrity empires:
1. Sean "Diddy" Combs: While his biggest hits as a recording artist may make you nostalgic for the 1990s ('cause that's when they came out), it's the hip-hop mogul's savvy business acumen that once again earned him the top spot on Forbes' list of Hip-Hop Cash Kings that was released just yesterday. The music may have laid the foundation, but the bank stays open with his Sean John clothing line, his TV network Revolt, the alkaline water brand Aquahydrate and Ciroc vodka.
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Jessica Simpson Collection
2. Jessica Simpson: Chicken, tuna...it mattered not. The pop princess and seemingly ditzy reality-TV star ended up being one badass businesswoman who now oversees a $1-billion-a-year fashion retail empire featuring her Jessica Simpson lines of apparel, jewelry, shoes, fragrances and more.
3. Oprah Winfrey: Not being a syndicated day time talk show host anymore doesn't mean that she isn't still the empress of everything. Forbes pegs her net worth at $3 billion, her income coming these days from her OWN network (it worked out after all!), her collaborations with Midas-like filmmaker Tyler Perry and the stake she has in the successful talk shows hosted by talents she helped put on the map such as Dr. Mehmet Oz, Rachael Ray and Dr. Phil McGraw. And she gets to be on the cover of her own magazine every month!
4. The Kardashian-Jenners: Turns out reality TV and their DASH boutiques were just a jumping-off point. Their globally famous brand now encompasses adult and kids' clothes, cosmetics and other grooming supplies, hair extensions, books and apps. And speaking of the digital world, they pretty much own social media. Kim alone has 46.8 million Instagram followers (aka more than anyone, ever) and a pic of Kendall Jenner looking gorgeous but just lying there became the most-liked Instagram photo of all time in June.
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Roc Nation
5. Jay Z: Whether this whole Tidal thing works out in the end or not, his empire—which includes Roc Nation, the 40/40 Club chain of upscale bar-restaurants and Armand de Brignac champagne—is sound. And should that crumble somehow...he's still one of the most prolific rappers of all time, with more than 100 million records sold.
6. Jessica Alba: Who knew that the Dark Angel star had it in her?! The actress took her concern for what sort of products she and her family used on their bodies and in their house and parlayed that into The Honest Company, which in August was reported to be worth about $1.7 billion after securing $100 million in Series D financing. According to Forbes, Alba owns 20 percent of the 120-product empire—and yes, that makes her worth hundreds of millions of dollars, too. On nontoxic paper, of course.
Al Powers/Powers Imagery
7. The Hiltons: Remember the hotel empire from whence Paris Hilton sprang? That's still around, duh, plus the original celebutante of the internet age has gone from sharing a piece of the family pie to making her own damn pie: Her fragrance collection was approaching $2 billion in sales last year, and she had 45 Paris Hilton stores in 40 countries. So she really could give a crap what you think of her.
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Sephora
8. Josie Maran: She may have been voted off of Dancing With the Stars first in 2007, but the eponymous line of argan oil-powered skincare that she also launched that year is wildly popular! Not to mention, doesn't it seem as if she pretty much started the whole argan oil craze, because argan oil (and now many other kinds of oil) is now everywhere and in everything. But Josie remains the Kleenex of argan oil in our eyes.
(Shout-outs here to the other model-moguls who have faces for cameras and heads for business, including Tyra Banks, Kathy Ireland, Heidi Klum, Elle Macpherson, Christie Brinkley, Cindy Crawford, Kate Moss and Iman.)
Angela Weiss/Getty Images for City Of Hope
9. Dr. Dre: Once again, in case this whole empire thing doesn't work out, he's just one of the most influential rappers ever. But since he and Jimmy Iovine sold Beats Electronics (maker of Beats by Dre headphones) to Apple for $3 billion...he'll go with emperor.
David X Prutting/BFA/Sipa via AP Images
10. Mary-Kate Olsen & Ashley Olsen: Already millionaires when they were in single digits, the now 29-year-old twins oversee a powerhouse fashion business that includes couture line The Row, ready-to-wear luxury brand Elizabeth & James (named after their siblings, so what's more all-in-the-family than that), the J.C. Penney-based Olsenboye and T-shirt line StyleMint.
Craig Barritt/Getty Images for SodaStream/Skinnygirl
11. Bethenny Frankel: She's of course not the only Real Housewife to have a brand to promote, but she took her reality-TV opportunity by the balls and made Skinnnygirl happen! The lo-cal flavored water and cocktail mixers have since been joined by energy bars, chips and a host of other Skinnygirl products—and she sold the Skinnygirl Margarita brand to Jim Beam maker Beam Suntory in 2011 for a reported $120 million, according to the New Yorker.
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