Gifted with that silver tongue of sales? Start a Shopify business like Alex Becker. Have a social network that puts an Instagram influencer to shame? Capitalise on it to build an enterprise of your own. For those who dig the idea of building your own fortune, it’s one hell of a time to be alive.
It seems pretty self evident that celebrity and entrepreneurism are an obvious combination. A household name has to be an asset when you’re struggling to be seen. Yet for all that, stories of female Australian stars elevating a side hustle to a full blown business empire aren’t exactly thick on the ground.
It’s a story worth telling, and here’s three illuminating examples.
Portia de Rossi
Sporting what may be the classiest cocktail party name of all time, Portia de Rossi is an Australian-American actress with a small but sophisticated assortment of movies to her name.
Portia starred as Nelle Porter in the iconic American drama, Ally McBeal. She also starred on Arrested Development, which is … well… kind of a big deal.
Most stars branch out into obliquely related fields when striding out into the fray to become a captain of industry. Portia de Rossi took a little more of a sideways stumble into fine art and new technologies for displaying it.
De Rossi’s startup, General Public, aims to reproduce works of art as three dimensional models. The goal is to make original works of art on canvas authentically reproducible around the world. To be clear, we’re not talking about prints here. This is a reproduction which comes as close as possible to the real thing — on a visual, tactile and experiential level.
The idea is that, wherever you are and regardless of whether you’re rich or poor, you can still see the art in its original, unsullied form, and exactly as the artist intended. It’s a beautiful (if insanely ambitious) thing to foist on an unsuspecting art community, noted for its conservatism.
Perhaps the most unusual aspect of de Rossi’s startup foray is that, far from merely being the pretty face or household name slapped on the idea to give it cred, this is de Rossi’s brain child. She’s launching it. It’s her idea. It’s entirely her product.
Another unusual quirk to de Rossi’s entrepreneurial story is that her idea is being greeted by the art community with cautiously open arms. You might think the notion of reproducible works of art would be greeted with hostility and suspicion by art aficionados. After all, creating more of one thing devalues it.
Instead, her mission has been lauded as something which will undeniably bring some good to the world, allowing more people that rare moment of beholding art in its original and purest form.
The coolest thing about Portia’s entrepreneurial story is that her success is by no means a done deal or sure winner. She’s up against a massive industry, and she’s just one small startup voice. Sure, she has a famous name, but in this particular field of business that actually won’t count for much.
It’ll be interesting to see if she makes it!
Despite the affliction of what may well be the worst nickname ever — “The Body” — supermodel and outrageously attractive female human Elle Macpherson has seized life by the horns following her modeling career.
She busted into movies with such questionable theatrical offerings as Batman and Robin (the one with the disturbing codpieces) and South Kensington (the one with the … to be honest I can’t remember).
While her movie offerings might not be the stuff Oscars are made of, for a woman nicknamed The Body, she has one hell of a business mind.
Macpherson, not surprisingly, has extended her business savvy into the intimate fashion world, with her own signature line of frilly intimate stuff with weird straps, shockingly named, you guessed it, Elle Macpherson Intimates.
Yet for all that predictability, Macpherson is a woman who beat the odds, bludgeoning tired stereotypes into submission. In 2005, Macpherson was awarded entrepreneur of the year by Glamour Magazine, and in 2007 she was recognixed as an ambassador for women in business.
Not content with that, she also co founded WelleCo, a wellness and supplements line. The business is thriving today and she remains a force for business in Australia and abroad.
Kylie Minogue began her public life as rambunctious tomboy, Charlene on the interminably iconic soap which defined a generation, Neighbours.
While it’s all a bit complicated, her character fell in crazy suburban love with mild mannered Scott Robinson. Then they got married. And people loved it. OK perhaps it’s not that complicated.
It was all very predictable. Kylie Minogue cashed in on her fifteen minutes of soap opera fame to release her first music single (‘Do the Locomotion’ — yes that is correct — ‘Do the Locomotion’), and critics shrugged and gave it a limp thumbs up. And that was pretty much that.
Except for what happened next.
Kylie exploded. Not literally of course — that would have been a bad thing. But her popularity exploded and it just somehow kept exploding, year after year after year. In a blur of critical acclaim and sold out tours, Kylie Minogue had shed her humble beginnings to achieve symbolic and idolised status.
She became *dramatically pregnant pause* Kylie (tm).
That’s right. From the ashes of acid wash jeans and celebrity appearances on Family Feud, a gay icon … a cultural phenomenon … and most importantly a brand name was born.
Kylie Minogue is an entrepreneur at the business of being Kylie. In 2012, she was acknowledged as the twelfth best selling singer in the UK and the third best selling female artist.
In a 2010 survey, 400 people in the marketing industry were asked to rate Australian celebrities by brand awareness. Kylie blitzed the field. She’s quite simply a money making icon, a titan of the entertainment industry and a Brit pop wunderkind.
She has enough money that the zeroes denoting her personal wealth have begun to lose meaning and just look like an unreasonable number of hugs… and if all that weren’t enough, back in the day her frizzy perm game was so on point it defined a generation.
The fun thing about putting these stories side by side is that it reveals that even starlets have to walk their own unique journey. A TV actress had to convince the high art scene that reproduction is an OK thing. An objectified model overcame being seen merely as The Body to be respected as a hard hitting businesswoman who just happens to sell frilly undies. A suburban soap star had to bust out of her acid washed confines to forge an unstoppable counter cultural mystique.
They’re all stories of conquest and beating the odds.
Maybe the take home is that, wherever you come from, to make it as an entrepreneur at some point you have to be willing to push back and keep pushing until all resistance crumbles, dissolves or just wanders off in search of easier prey.
These women made that happen.
Picture credit: Portia de Rossi and Elle Macpherson in Sirens and Kylie Minogue in Swinging Safari.