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The entertainment industry relies on an “it” factor for the stars who sell its product that is stubbornly hard to quantify. You can have it overnight, and lose it just as easily.
Movie stars’ realiability at the box office has faded in recent years, and the traditional label system is no longer the only path to superstardom for a musician.
In Business Insider’s second annual list of the most powerful entertainment stars right now, we look at who has best proven their might in the past year. They’re not just the highest-earning, but the most visible, the most talked-about, the most respected, the most valued, and the most in-demand at our current moment.
Our No. 1, Beyoncé, proved once again that the old rules don’t apply, and she’s more than able to keep the masses interested in her every move, whether that’s a politically charged “visual album” or the carefully curated way she presents herself online. No celebrity is more in touch with how to engage their audience in 2016. (Though our No. 2 is certainly hustling just as hard.)
Here are the 20 most powerful stars in Hollywood in 2016, ranked:
20. Margot Robbie
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In 2016 Robbie went from “it” girl to being a bona fide box-office draw in her own right. The main reason is her bringing beloved DC Comics character Harley Quinn to the big screen in “Suicide Squad,” and coming out of it as everyone’s favorite. Though the movie split fans, her twisted performance was universally praised – and just about every girl wanted the costume. She’s now prepping for her own Harley Quinn spin-off movie and another feature in which she plays disgraced skater Tonya Harding.
19. Adam Driver
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After wowing us last year as the conflicted Kylo Ren in “The Force Awakens,” Driver showed his diversity this year with three very different roles. A scientist looking for answers in “Midnight Special,” a bus driver who loves to write poetry in “Paterson,” and a priest trying to teach Christianity in 1600s Japan. There’s no question Driver is building an impressive filmography and making himelf a household name in the process.
18. Millie Bobby Brown
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The 12-year-old went from virtual unknown to one of the most recognized faces in 2016 thanks to her breakout performance as the Eggo-eating Eleven in Netflix’s hit “Stranger Things.” With a sinister look and shaved hair, we couldn’t turn away whenever Brown showed up on the screen. We can’t wait to see where she takes Eleven in season two of the show.
17. Chance the Rapper
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No other musician put their own individual stamp on pop culture this year in quite the way Chance the Rapper did. He is still, after all, not on a major label (by choice). And even while he may not be turning out top 10 radio hits, he has still proven he can win over a massive following his own way and sell a whole lot of albums without the help of traditional distribution.
Now that he’s partnered with Nike, collaborated with the likes of Kanye West and Madonna, and even helped change the Grammys rules so his new album “The Coloring Book” and other streaming releases can get nominated, you can no longer call him under-the-radar.
16. Kate McKinnon
“Saturday Night Live” followers have been in love with the sketch-comedy show’s current all-star for a while now, but thanks to the all-female “Ghostbusters” movie and her Hillary Clinton on “SNL” during the presidential election, McKinnon’s stock in Hollywood has never been higher.
15. Donald Glover
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As the creator and star of the acclaimed TV show “Atlanta,” Glover’s talent has evolved vastly. And with his casting in the Lando Calrissian role in the upcoming Han Solo movie, he’s poised to win over a lot more fans.
14. Lin-Manuel Miranda
Not so long ago, Miranda was still best known for his Tony-winning 2008 musical “In the Heights.” Now he’s one of the most sought-after talents in the entertainment industry thanks to his massive Broadway hit, “Hamilton.” The show won 11 Tony awards this year and has catapulted Miranda to a new kind of stardom. He’s done everything from rap at the White House to write music for the Disney hit “Moana.”
13. Ellen DeGeneres
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Ellen has always been there to make Americans laugh, even back in the days when she was still finding the right way to come out publicly as gay. She’s since become the queen of daytime TV (and at a $20 million-per-year salary, she doesn’t come cheap), with unbeatable A-list guests she gets to open up, be it Hillary Clinton, Kanye West, or Justin Bieber. With her new Presidential Medal of Freedom, she’s become a certified national treasure.
12. “The Game of Thrones” stars
- Jordan Strauss/AP
The “Thrones” cast seems to have learned something from “Big Bang Theory.” The headlining talent of the epic ensemble – Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Kit Harington, Emilia Clarke, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau – each make half a million per episode, which HBO is no doubt happy to pay out on top of the wild budget to actually create the fantasy show everyone dissects every Monday morning when it’s on.
It helps that the passionate fan base of “Game of Thrones” is willing to follow its stars just about anywhere, and some have already cleverly built up the next phases of their careers, like Clarke, who’s joining the “Star Wars” Han Solo spin-off.
11. “The Big Bang Theory” stars
- Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Being the most popular sitcom on TV gives you a lot of leverage. The marquee stars of CBS’s “Big Bang” -Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, and Kaley Cuoco – negotiated for their current deal, which gives each of them $1 million per episode. That makes the highest-paid stars on TV.
10. Ryan Reynolds
- Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Sustained power in show business requires vision. Reynolds proved he had it with “Deadpool,” an out-of-nowhere blockbuster that took superheroes a little less seriously while lowering the budget and upping the blood and profanity. It shows another way forward for Hollywood, and more than makes up for “Green Lantern.”
9. Kanye West
- Getty Images/Tim P. Whitby
In many ways, Kanye has had some real lows. He cut the tour for “The Life of Pablo” short after a bizarre Donald Trump rant and checked into a hospital reportedly because of exhaustion. But that album’s release was beamed around the world in a strange, innovative, and totally Kanye event that set a benchmark in streaming. Everything from a crass Taylor Swift-referencing lyric to his brief appearance at Trump Tower became “breaking news” fodder for the masses. Adidas, meanwhile, is taking his clothing line to the next level.
Too much has been made of Kanye’s debts. The man has earning power most in Hollywood can dream of.
8. Taylor Swift
- Carlo Allegri/Reuters
Somehow, even in a year when Swift seemed to go out of her waynotto work, she was still at the center of pop culture. The internet debated whether her personal-life decisions were part of a grand music-video plan. That she didn’t endorse a presidential candidate became a widely circulated news story. The more Swift keeps us guessing, the more she wins.
7. Justin Bieber
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No musician better proved their might as a singles artist than Bieber this year, who shot up the Hot 100 chart time and time again with varied songs from his album “Purpose,” which expanded his audience far beyond screaming teen girls. The piles of cash he’s raking in on his tour are the proof.
Adele is still rolling in the success of her album that came outlast year, which still somehow topped Billboard’s year-end chart. And she’ll take home a boatload of Grammys in 2017, unless Beyonce somehow steals all her thunder.
5. Chris Pratt
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If 2015 proved Pratt is the real thing, after he followed up “Guardians of the Galaxy” with “Jurassic World,” he’s since become something like America’s Sweetheart – the actor who can pull off comedy or drama with ease and is beloved by, well, everyone. He’s in a place very similar to Julia Roberts during the ’90s, except, well, he’s a man.Whether they’re looking for a hunky male lead in a tentpole title or the charming guy next door, movie execs are all looking at Pratt.
4. Jennifer Lawrence
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Hollywood is still as starry-eyed as ever for Jennifer Lawrence, the most prominent movie star of her generation (she’s still only 26). She may not have had many movies recently, but an epic sci-fi romance with Chris Pratt (No. 5) is probably enough, and more importantly, she’s continued to set the conversation after speaking candidly about the gender wage gap and other pressures in her own industry.
There should no longer be debate about who is the king of hip-hop. Only Adele sold more records this year, but Drake sent every one of the songs on his new album, “Views,” to the charts, and broke a streaming record while he was at it. He’s setting the agenda on where music goes for the next decade, and breaking the mold of a hip-hop star.Plus he gave Rihanna an assist on one of the biggest songs of the year.
If you weren’t listening to Drake in 2016, it’s likely you weren’t listening to new music period.
2. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
A man who once looked iffy as a pro-wrestler-turned-action star has become the highest-paid actor in the world. It’s hard to think of a more perfect success story in modern Hollywood. The social media-savvy star seems just as hungry to act as he is to produce and promote each of his projects (which at the moment include “Moana,” “Ballers,” and a “Fast & Furious” sequel) – all with a smile. He’s seemingly everywhere but never oversaturated – his fans will watch just about anything he does. It’s easy to see why.
Beyoncé didn’t just succeed in 2016 – she put her stamp on history. And in more ways than one. “Lemonade,” the what’s-it project that premiered shrouded in mystery on HBO early in the year, was immediately hailed as not just a great album, not just a great film, but an event and a harbinger of the future of music. It also spoke to themes of black American identity in ways that were both personal and broad, and especially trenchant in a year when identity and race could not be ignored on the national stage.
Replicated and memed and quoted ad nauseum, her “Formation” video and Super Bowl performance (Coldplay has never looked more like background decoration) either thrilled her millions of fans or rankled a section of the US that claimed her latest work was “anti-police.”
But as with Donald Trump, everyone had an opinion about Beyoncé in 2016 – and that has its own undeniable power.