Ladies Get Paid: Celebrity Edition
It’s easy to discount these stories in the lives of everyday women; after all, most of us aren’t negotiating multi-million dollar contracts in the entertainment industry. However, tales of women fighting for equality versus their male peers should always serve to motivate us, and we take inspiration where we find it.
Katy Perry made headlines (and some serious bank) this week, confirming reports that she’s been signed on as a judge for the next series of American Idol with a contract worth $25m. Perry was upfront about her feelings on the deal in an interview with New York City's 103.5 KTU radio station: “I'm really proud that, as a woman, I got paid. And you know why? I got paid, pretty much, more than any guy that's been on the show.”
It’s true. Aside from head judge Simon Cowell, who earns a reporter $45m per series, Katy will be the highest paid judge ever - that’s something to celebrate! Of course the coverage of her success has been littered with talk of her “boasting” about the sum… but she never actually mentioned the figure in the interview, just that she was proud of it. Go figure.
Viola Davis has been outspoken about her opinions on pay equality. In an interview with Mashable, she reflected on the problem not only as a woman, but as a black woman. “Forget the men! We’re not even in that realm yet. And I have to say there are enough people out there, I do believe this, that run studios, that are involved with studios and I think that they’ll get it. I really do. They will, they’ll get it.”
Tackling a difficult problem with positivity, Davis highlights an important point: as much as women as a group are paid less than men, women of colour are paid less than white women, too. Feminism means nothing if it’s not intersectional - we don’t move forward unless we all move forward.
Robin Wright pulled no punches when negotiating her salary vs. co-star Kevin Spacey on Netflix’s House of Cards - and she backed herself with evidence. “I was looking at the statistics and Claire Underwood’s character was more popular than [Frank’s] for a period of time. So I capitalized on it. I was like, ‘You better pay me or I’m going to go public. And they did.”
Reading the comments around this story is pretty tiring; I read suggestions from people online that the move for equal pay on the show would have meant more if Wright had asked Spacey to approach the producers himself, to say that the discrepancy made him “uncomfortable”… thus proving that a man’s discomfort is still held in highest regard in internet comment sections. A huge eye roll to that and a pat on the back for Robin - know your worth and prove it.
Shameless actress Emmy Rossum went a step further in her pursuit of financial equity when she renewed her contract with Showtime; Rossum wouldn’t sign off on her eighth season contract until she would be paid the same as her co-star William H. Macy. However, once an equal salary was offered, she rejected the deal, asking for a larger salary than Macy - since she had been unfairly underpaid for the seven previous seasons. Round of applause from LFC. Sending a message to producers, Emmy showed that if you’re not going to pay your actors fairly from the start… it might just come back to bite you.
Gina Rodriguez, of Jane the Virgin fame, partnered with snack brand LUNA earlier this year to speak up about equal pay and her belief that “equality stands on merit, not gender”. Yesssss. The gender wage gap isn’t about women claiming money that they haven’t earned - it’s about women getting paid the money they have rightfully earned for doing the same job. Statistically, Latinx women are among the lowest paid when you compare amounts on the dollar, but Gina recalls how at the start of her career she was too busy fighting against typecasting and being restricted by her ethnicity when looking for roles to worry about her pay disparity. Thankfully now she’s in a position to tackle both - and keep up the conversation for everyone else as well.
J-Law wrote a well-publicised essay for Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter about the gender pay gap in Hollywood, reflecting on the worry of being seen as “difficult” or “spoiled” when it comes to negotiating her salary. After the Sony hack revealed actor salaries and even emails about their negotiations, she realised that none of her male co-stars had had the same concerns and, surprise surprise, they were making more money, while a fellow lead actress was referred to as a “spoiled brat” in an email about her pay check.
Diving deeper down the rabbit hole, she shared experiences of disparity she’d experienced even when giving her opinion to male co-workers and opened up a reflection on how much time women spend worrying about how their words will come across. I’ve got a feeling she won’t be worrying about playing nice in salary negotiations from now on.
Have you taken the lead from famous women and asked for a raise yourself? Have you had to battle to be equally compensated against male co-workers? We want to hear from you. Use our Your Turn page to submit your #LadiesGetPaid story so we can be inspired by you too!