What makes a move a power move? As Urban Dictionary put it, it is “an outstanding move that can be risky but results in a great reward.” Undoubtedly, a power move is something that can be done in a variety of ways, and it can serve different purposes. But it always involves a lofty idea with an audacious outlook that may appear foolish to the non-risk taker. You know, that guy or girl who finds uncertainty scarier than a two-headed monster. A power move can also be done in different areas of life. In the music industry, for example, such a move can be made to establish one’s self-worth as an artist. In business, one can use a power move to take their idea to the next level of success and profitability. And someone being able to recognize when it’s necessary to make a career pivot can also be a power move.
But which celebrities have made these kinds of moves in their career? We’ve compiled a list that names some of them and shows that no matter how far-fetched a dream may seem, it can still be realized with the right combination of diligence and fearlessness. Here are some of the boldest power moves that celebrities have made over time.
Oprah Winfrey launched her OWN network
The year was 1986. A time when Madonna ruled the Billboard charts after insisting that her “Papa Don’t Preach,” Matthew Broderick entertained audiences as the ultimate trickster in the classic film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and a strange looking furry creature named ALF invaded TV sets.
In that same year, Oprah Winfrey debuted The Oprah Winfrey Show, a talk show that would change the face of daytime television. She would then parlay that show into her own network many years later called OWN, short for the Oprah Winfrey Network. And it’s not like Winfrey merely plunked down a check to purchase a channel — although that would also be super impressive. Rather, she created the network from scratch through a partnership with Discovery, Inc. As of July 2020, the network had four of its shows in the Top 20 of original scripted series for women 25-54, as The Seattle Medium reported.
“Fifteen years ago, I wrote in my journal that one day I would create a television network, as I always felt my show was just the beginning of what the future could hold,” said Winfrey in a 2006 statement when OWN was announced. “For me, the launch of The Oprah Winfrey Network is the evolution of the work I’ve been doing on television all these years and a natural extension of my show.” That statement may lead one to wonder what Winfrey is writing down and plotting in her journals these days.
Reese Witherspoon lit up Hollywood with Hello Sunshine
In what usually amounts to nothing but futility, some wait around for an opportunity to just fall from the sky. Then there are the people who take a giant leap and decide to grab their big chance. Reese Witherspoon seems to be among the latter group of folks, because in 2016 she started Hello Sunshine, a media company that “puts women at the center of every story we create,” as described on its website. The company also has a goal to create stories that “[shine] a light on where women are now and helping them chart a new path forward.” If that’s not making a power move, then what is, right?
Witherspoon became an instant force behind the scenes after producing films Wild and Gone Girl, both released in 2014. She also wowed audiences with the small screen productions Big Little Lies and Little Fires Everywhere, both produced by Hello Sunshine. And all of this was accomplished after Witherspoon has been an A-list star for over two decades. “I made a conscious choice about two years ago to just kind of redirect. I wanted to start producing films, because I wasn’t seeing the kind of roles for women that I wanted to see in films,” she said in 2015 on Today. The way it appears, Hello Sunshine will be shining its rays on the entertainment industry for quite some time.
Tyler Perry made film studio history
One certainly doesn’t have to be a movie expert to know that film studios are to the Los Angeles area what the fashion industry is to New York City and what Nashville is to country music. But now, film studios could start to settle on the East Coast, thanks to Tyler Perry, who opened his own studio in Atlanta. In 2019, he converted a 330-acre lot in the southern city, which used to be Fort McPherson Army base. Perry paid $30 million for the land in 2015 and spent $250 million getting it ready, according to IndieWire. The outlet also noted that Tyler made history with the impressive move by becoming the first African-American to own a film studio outright. Plus, his studio has more acres than all of the major studios in Los Angeles.
Perry explained what his ultimate goal was with the studio during an interview with Variety in 2019. “What I want this to be is a place for the underdog,” he said. “That’s what I’ve always felt like I was … and I just can’t wait to see all of the dreamers and the people who’ve come through this gate who get it and go out and do amazing things.” On Oct. 5 2019, Perry held a star-studded soiree with 800 guests to celebrate the studio’s opening, with guests like Jay-Z and Beyoncé in attendance. If there’s anyone who deserves a standing ovation for a power move, it’s Mr. Perry.
Jon Favreau got his pivot on
Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once said, “Life isn’t about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself.” One could say that quote perfectly applies to Jon Favreau. Why? Because at the start of Favreau’s career, he was an under-the-radar actor who appeared in huge movies like Rudy and Batman Forever. (Yes, he really did have a small cameo in the Batman flick.) In 1996, however, everything would change for Favreau, because that’s when the movie Swingers came out. The film, which was penned by Favreau, received plenty of attention from Hollywood critics and bigwigs; the late, legendary film critic Roger Ebert called it “sweet, funny, observant and goofy,” while Variety said it was “Engaging, refreshingly human, and introduced “some promising new talent.” That last sentence turned out to be a huge understatement.
Swingers launched Vince Vaughn, who acted opposite Favreau in the movie, to stardom and changed Favreau’s life forever. “I went from being outsider to insider,” Favreau told Yahoo! Entertainment in 2016. Eventually, the native New Yorker went on to direct huge blockbusters like Iron Man, Iron Man 2 and the live-action remake of The Lion King. Writing Swingers ended up being a pretty nice power move for Favreau, didn’t it?
Jessica Alba got honest and started a new company
Some may have been introduced to Jessica Alba when she was cast as Max Guevara, the lead character in the sci-fi series Dark Angel. Some may have also thought the show would be her claim to fame — either that or Honey, the 2003 film where Alba played a wannabe hip-hop choreographer. But none of those projects have been the actress’ greatest accomplishments so far.
In 2011, she founded The Honest Company, a consumer goods brand that aims “to create safe, effective products” with “meaningful transparency and thoughtful design,” as its website says. Unlike most start-ups, The Honest Company saw success right out the gate, earning $10 million in revenue, according to Forbes. And after hitting a few bumps in the way of class action lawsuits, then paying to settle them, The Honest Company is reportedly on track to do $350 million in sales this year, as Vogue Business reports.
“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if there was one company I could get all my daily essentials … and I could trust that they would be safe, eco-friendly, affordable, and effective,'” wrote Alba in a 2012 article for HuffPost. “I wanted and desperately needed this kind of company, so I decided to create it.” Translation: It was time for me to make a power move!
J. Cole used his dollars to help single mothers
J. Cole is known for being a few things: A talented lyricist, who shuns many of hip-hop’s norms, a husband, a father, and a graduate of St. John’s University. He’s also known for his altruism, because in 2014 Cole purchased his childhood home for a reported $121,000, according to The Fayetteville Observer, then turned it into a safe place for single mothers and their children.
The address of the Fayetteville house is 2014 Forest Hills Drive, which is also the name of Cole’s third album, released in 2014. He talked about his plans for the 1,600-square-foot property the following year on The Combat Jack Show. “Every two years a new family will come in and they live rent-free,” said the rapper. “The idea, it’s a single mother with multiple kids … I want her kids to feel how I felt when we got the house.”
Cole explained that he, his brother and mother moved into the house many years ago after first living in a trailer park. The move came after Cole’s mother divorced his father and remarried. He told the late Combat Jack the home felt like a “mansion” when they moved in. But as The Fayetteville Observer reported, it was vandalized in 2018, with someone spraying the words “J Cole … do you even care about the ville?” The words were removed shortly afterward, and today it’s not clear if single mothers are using the home or not.
Lauren Conrad went from reality star to retail star
You’ve might’ve noticed that some reality stars stay in their reality show lane after finding success and seemingly don’t want to move on. But not Lauren Conrad, who went from a popular high school student on the show Laguna Beach, to Speidi’s nemesis on The Hills. The Laguna Beach spin-off ran from 2006 to 2010, with Conrad leaving in the middle of Season 5. She then started her company LC Lauren Conrad in 2009, releasing a line sold exclusively at Kohl’s. That relationship has been going strong ever since, and Conrad is way more known for being an entrepreneur than a reality star these days. “One important difference to remember is that this is what I went to school for, this was always my job,” Conrad told Glamour in 2019. “I never looked at working in the entertainment industry as a long career. It was sort of something to do to help launch the career that I did want to have for the rest of my life.”
She also started The Little Market, a nonprofit, which offers “ethically sourced, artisan-made products” made by people from all over the globe. The company’s mission is to combat poverty and empower artisans by “extending their products'” distribution and supporting sustainable income opportunities.” Conrad deserves major props for her power moves, for sure.
LeBron James scored major points by opening a school
Throughout LeBron James’ long-lasting NBA career, he’s often had to take charge whenever his team was losing in the last few seconds of a game. Many times, those actions allowed his team to pull out a narrow victory, with James being labeled a hero afterward. Off the court, he’s displayed a similar approach, because when it appeared that not enough was being done for at-risk youth in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, the hoop star did something about it. In 2018, James opened the I Promise School in Akron for third and fourth graders who’ve fallen behind in key subjects like math and reading. As Crain’s Cleveland Business reported in 2019, the school added fifth grade in its second year, and by 2022, “will expand to serve third through eighth grade.”
On top of that, I Promise provides free tuition, breakfast, lunch and snacks, free uniforms, and a free bicycle and helmet, which is all listed on its website. Plus, every student is guaranteed tuition to the University of Akron once he or she graduates and fulfills certain requirements. “They just need others to believe in them and believe in their dreams, that they can become reality,” said James about young people in April during an interview with Uninterrupted. Of course, most power moves are impressive, but isn’t it nice when one of those moves empowers others?
Rihanna shook things up at LVMH fashion house
Rihanna is one of those rare people who has all the star power of a mainstream celebrity but with the coolness of an underground artist. Plus, she never seems to run out of hit singles, nor outfits that seem to inspire people all over the world. Seeming to recognize the interest in how she looks, Rihanna launched Fenty Beauty in 2017, and like her music, the cosmetics company soon received critical and commercial success.
As far as power moves go, Rihanna could’ve stopped at launching her own beauty brand, but she was far from done with her ascent as a businesswoman. In 2019, it was revealed that her Fenty line joined LVMH fashion house, the French luxury goods conglomerate that has historic brands like Christian Dior and Fendi under its umbrella. The “Take a Bow” singer also added shoes to Fenty, as well as fashion accessories and leather goods.
The move to LVMH made Rihanna the first woman of color to have a label under the fashion house and the first woman to start an original brand with them, according to The New York Times. Speaking about the partnership with The New York Times in 2019, Rihanna talked about her steady climb into fashion and how it led to the historic deal. “I wanted to take it slowly and gain respect as a designer,” she explained.
Kanye West went all out for his 2013 single
Kanye West might be the most loved and hated rapper of all time, as words like “jerk” and “genius” have been used in the same sentence to describe him. One of the many times that West seemed to wow people was in 2013, when he showed video projections on 66 buildings around the world to promote his song “New Slaves,” a track off of 2013’s Yeezus.
Some of the cities where the promotion took place included London, Paris, Toronto, West’s hometown of Chicago and New York. The projections showed West’s face in black and white rapping along to the song, which contains a sample from the cut “Gyöngyhajú lány” by Hungarian rockers Omega. In a video that showed the promotion in Manhattan’s Columbus Circle, a crowd can be seen watching it, at first in silence, then small conversations broke out toward the end.
When it comes to Mr. West, he’s practically made a living out of making power moves, whether it was becoming one of the biggest rappers on earth after first being a producer, making a name for himself in the fashion world or, as Forbes confirmed in 2020, becoming a billionaire. But promoting a new song on 66 buildings around the globe is certainly a big power move for the sheer creativity of it. At least that’s what some people might say.
Taylor Swift made her power move in a recording booth
When a music industry bigwig purchases an artists’ master recordings without their consent, that artist could either take it lying down or take it to the studio. Taylor Swift did the latter when record executive Scooter Braun bought the rights to her first six albums in 2019 without her knowing. He then sold it to Shamrock Capital, a Los Angeles-based private equity firm for about $300 million, as Variety reported. Around the time that Braun bought the recordings, Swift let it be known that her contract would allow her to re-record those six LPs once November 2020 hit, something that she would definitely end up doing.
In the music industry, master recordings are the original recordings of songs and albums that all copies derive from. Whoever owns those masters has the legal right to license songs for things like TV commercials, movies and TV shows, thus putting that owner in a position to make the bulk of the earnings. “The reason I’m rerecording my music next year is because I do want my music to live on. I do want it to be in movies, I do want it to be in commercials, but I only want that if I own it,” Swift told Billboard in late 2019. Then in November 2020, the “Blank Space” creator tweeted that she began re-recording her “older music and it has already proven to be both exciting and creatively fulfilling.” Score.
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