The Internet is abuzz with news that singer Janet Jackson is a billionaire. In fact several news outlets are saying she is “officially” a billionaire.
There’s just one problem: it isn’t true.
The reports stem from a story in Variety this week about Jackson titled “Behind the Velvet Rope.” The story is connected to Jackson’s work with the charity AmFAR and is surrounded by full-page ads congratulating Jackson on being “a billion dollar entertainer.”
To be fair, the story does not specifically say that Jackson is a billionaire. It just lays out the money that her work has brought in over the span of her career including $81 million from music and book publishing, $260 million in album sales and $458 million from touring. Together with other areas of business, the revenues add up to $1.2 billion.
But that’s very different than a net worth. Net worth is based on the value of the cash and assets you have at the moment, not on how much your work has brought in over a lifetime. When we evaluate whether people will make our annual list of the World’s Billionaires, we look at things like stock holdings, real estate and art collections. Oprah Winfrey is a billionaire because of the value of her holdings in things like Discovery and Harpo Productions, not because of the ad revenue her show generated over the years.
This isn’t the first time the general press has mistaken the money brought in by someone’s business for the net worth of that individual. Jessica Simpson has been called a billionaire. My colleague Clare O’Connor did an excellent take down of claims that the Kardashians are billionaires. Madonna is also rich, but not a billionaire.
Jackson owns a lot of valuable songs, likes to take ownership stakes in the products she endorses and is married to reported billionaire Wissam Al Mana (who has also never shown up on our billionaire list). She certainly may be sitting on $1 billion worth of assets. But her net worth is not at all clear from what’s being reported.