Whether the field is technology, letters, interior design, finance, or broadcasting, LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs are blazing trails for future generations. Here, we present the most successful entrepreneurs in their fields.
- David Geffen tops the list with a net worth of $11.7 billion. The record company owner has also given away millions.
- There are many entrepreneurs in non-entertainment industries who are worth millions as well, such as Suze Orman and Peter Thiel.
- Many of these entrepreneurs use their success to help others. For example, Amanda Gorman helps support literacy programs for girls and women.
Sir Elton John
Sir Elton John has a net worth of $500 million, as reported in an article from April 2022. As reported by an article from 2018, it was estimated that he earned $500,000 a night to perform in Las Vegas. Pianist, singer, and performer extraordinaire Sir Elton John came from humble beginnings, living in government-subsidized housing in Greater London, England, and went on to become one of the world’s highest-paid entertainers, known for such hits as “Bennie and the Jets” and “Tiny Dancer.” He started his career at 17 and is still active at 75 (as of May 2022).
John has recorded 31 studio albums and numerous other soundtrack and collaboration albums and won a host of awards and honors, including five Grammys, two Oscars, a Tony, and a knighthood for his charitable work bestowed on him by Queen Elizabeth II. John founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992, which supports AIDS-related work in 55 countries.
According to Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Geffen, 79 years old as of May 2022, has a net worth of $11.7 billion. Record company owner, film studio co-founder, and film, record, and Broadway producer, David Geffen started at the bottom in the entertainment industry by working in the mailroom at the William Morris Agency talent firm in Los Angeles, a job he held between 1964 and 1968. The fast track he traveled took him from talent agent to executive vice president for Creative Management Associates in 1969.
Along the way, he has produced prime talent in the rock music business, including Cher, Elton John, Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, Peter Gabriel, and Olivia Newton-John; started his own record label; and also co-founded the film studio DreamWorks SKG with director Steven Spielberg and entertainment executive Jeffrey Katzenberg. Through his philanthropic contributions, he has given millions to the University of California, Lincoln Center, Columbia Business School, Yale University, and the Gay Men’s Health Crisis.
Pedro Almodóvar is among the world’s highest-paid directors and has an estimated net worth of $20 million, as reported in a May 2022 article. The fertile imagination, screaming color palette, political overtones, and irreverent humor of Spanish director, screenwriter, and producer Almodóvar have graced movies screens worldwide, winning multiple awards and launching the careers of many, including actress Penelope Cruz, who was nominated for an Oscar for her work for his latest film, 2021's Parallel Mothers. The 75-year-old two-time Oscar winner has written and directed 22 feature films, including his breakout Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown in 1988 and Volver in 2006, and collaborated with many in the film world on other projects.
The world met poet and activist Amanda Gorman on Jan. 20, 2021, when she read her poem “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration. She became the nation’s first National Youth Poet Laureate and at 23 is the youngest person to read a poem at the swearing-in of a U.S. president. The book version of her poem, including a foreword by Oprah Winfrey, hit No.1 on both The New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. Her inauguration performance generated widespread acclaim and boosted sales of her two forthcoming books, a poetry collection and project for youth, Change Sings: A Children's Anthem, which topped Amazon’s bestseller list.
She was commissioned to write and perform a poem at the Super Bowl LV’s pregame ceremony. She told Vogue in April 2021 that she rejected some $17 million in product endorsements but agreed to become cosmetics company Estée Lauder’s "Global Changemaker" to represent the company and support grants worth $3 million that further literacy programs for girls and women.
Interior designer, reality TV star, and author Bobby Berk comes into homes through the Netflix home-makeover series Queer Eye and has a net worth estimated at $6 million, as reported by The Things in February 2022. He is an interior design expert, and his namesake company sells everything from home furnishings to clothing. Following an unstable childhood and young adulthood, Berk, 40, hit his stride in 2006 after launching his first online store, Bobby Berk Home, and then later Bobby Berk Interiors + Designs. He has received numerous awards for his interior design and appeared on HGTV, Bravo, NBC, CBS, and more.
Billionaire, venture capitalist, and political activist Peter Thiel's net worth is $4.7 billion, as reported by Forbes in May 2022. He garners a great deal of attention these days for his support of right-wing causes.
The now 54-year-old Thiel was born in Germany and migrated with his parents to the U.S. when he was 1. Fast-forward to adulthood, when Thiel earned a law degree from Stanford University and then got swept into the world of Internet expansion. He soon raised $1 million to start Thiel Capital Management, founded in 1996, through which he began his venture capital career. By 1999, he had launched the fintech and online payments company PayPal, which went public in 2002 and sold to eBay for $1.5 billion. When it sold, Thiel, then president, realized $55 million. Thiel was also a $500,000 angel investor in the early Facebook (now Meta), joined its board, and served the company largely in securing funding. In a press release dated Feb. 7, 2022, Meta announced that Thiel was retiring from the board of directors.
Thiel has contributed to libertarian and Republican political candidates, including the late Sen. John McCain, former President Donald J. Trump, and former tech executive Meg Whitman, who unsuccessfully ran for California’s governorship in 2010. Through his Thiel Fellowship, he awards college students $100,000 to drop out of college and pursue their own ventures.
Megan J. Smith
Engineer and technologist Megan J. Smith has a net worth of $5 million. She has worked for top technology companies including Apple, Google, and General Magic, and even did a stint in the government for former President Barack Obama as his chief technology officer between 2014 and 2017. In that job, she recruited top tech talent to serve across government collaborating on artificial intelligence (AI), data science, and open source in the interest of inclusive economic growth, entrepreneurship, structural inequalities, government tech innovation capacity, STEM/STEAM engagement, workforce development, and criminal justice reform.
Her teams focused on broad capacity building by co-creating all-hands-on-deck initiatives, including the public-private program TechHire, the Computer Science for All initiative, and the Image of STEM campaigns. Today, at 58, Smith is the CEO and founder of shift7, which works on tech-forward, inclusive innovation for faster impact on systemic economic, social, and environmental challenges. Smith is the ex-wife of technology journalist Kara Swisher, with whom she has two sons.
Financial advisor, author, and TV and podcast host Suze Orman's net worth is $75 million. She has told the heartbreaking story of how she lost all of the $50,000 she borrowed from friends to open a restaurant at 29 because she had invested it with a broker whose strategy was too aggressive. A less-determined person may have nurtured a grudge, but Orman signed on with that very company, Merrill Lynch, for broker training and left it years later as an executive vice president.
She has dedicated her life’s work to making sure she doesn’t fall victim to that scenario again and to helping her readers and listeners on the road to prosperity. She has written 10 consecutive bestselling books about personal finance and hosted The Suze Orman Show, which ran on CNBC from 2002 to 2015. Now 69, Orman heads the Suze Orman Financial Group, which specializes in helping clients with their financial planning, and is the podcast host of "The Women & Money Podcast."
Futurist and creator of broadcaster Sirius XM and biotech company United Therapeutics, Martine Rothblatt is an American lawyer, author, entrepreneur, and transgender-rights advocate with an estimated net worth of $585 million. After earning J.D. and MBA degrees in 1981, she worked in Washington, D.C., in the fields of communications satellite law, and later in life sciences projects such as the Human Genome Project. She is also influential in the field of aviation, particularly electric aviation, as well as sustainable building. Today, the 67-year-old is board chairwoman of United Therapeutics. In 2017, she ranked as the top-earning CEO in the biopharmaceutical industry, with a compensation of $37 million.
What Is an Entrepreneur?
An entrepreneur is an individual who creates a new business, bearing most of the risks and enjoying most of the rewards. The process of setting up a business is known as entrepreneurship. The entrepreneur is commonly seen as an innovator and a source of new ideas, goods, services, and business/or procedures.
What Is Net Worth?
What Is Venture Capital?
The Bottom Line
Success can be measured in many ways, from a high net worth to accomplishments that change the world or the conversation in a meaningful way. Some, including those in the list spelled out above, have both.