It has been more than a year since the coronavirus pandemic shut down life as we know it, and of course, celeb-ville was incredibly affected as well. No, they did not lose their jobs like us ordinary people did due to halted economic activity across all industries. However, for celebrities who pursue other revenue-generating deals outside of their main talents – those projects were either delayed or terminated completely. Not all animals are equal though in the entertainment sector.
Whilst other brands scrambled to make money in the face of global-wide shutdowns, actors whose projects stopped filming, and musicians who had to cancel or postpone tours – other celebrities thrived with ease. In fact, they achieved even more success than before. This includes seasoned megastars such as Rihanna, Beyonce, Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, and Zendaya. Local YouTube sensation, Mihlali Ndamase broke the internet when she revealed she had not only made Forbes Africa’sTop30 Under 30 list, but had also made the cover of the prestigious title. Alongside the Forbes Africa nod, the 24year old starred in campaigns for Revlon, Christian Dior, Maven Beauty, BBC Studios and Disney Studios Africa.
Below are the stars who had a successful run amidst the pandemic:
Travis Scott had a better 2020 than most, the superstar performer was unable to host his electrifying concerts last year but in April 2020 he clinched a landmark virtual concert production deal on the hit game Fortnite which reached out to over 12 million players of the game. Outside of that, he joined the ranks of celebrities with bona fide marketing appeal by partnering with fast-food giant McDonald’s. Scott became the first celebrity name since 1992 to be featured on McDonald’s menu since basketball legend Michael Jordan. The rapper’s brand Cactus Jack brand continued at an accelerated pace. In December 2020, the rapper further forayed into luxury fragrance with a scent collaboration with Byredo. The rapper also released a hard seltzer brand in partnership with beer giant AB InBev called Cacti.
Last year Elsa Majimbo was merely a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism at Strathmore University, Nairobi, Kenya, and a 15-time chess champion (yes it’s true). Fast forward to 2021 she is a multi-award-winning youth culture pioneer. During a time when we were all locked in our homes, self-isolating gripped by anxiety and uncertainty of the times, the 19 yr old Kenyan native comedic sensation kept us entertained and comforted with her relatable, quirky humor and the signature fascinating laugh. Armed with just her phone and internet, Majimbo captivated an international audience with satirical monologues on Twitter & Instagram, and her follower count rose from a humble 7k on Instagram to over 2 million currently – in just less than a year.
Of all the emerging talent across social platforms especially from Tiktok like Addison Rae and Charli D’Amelio – Majimbo is the one who captured international recognition in a major way. Since her rise to stardom, she has made chess moves with her career by securing lucrative partnership deals. From Rihanna’s Fenty brand, makeup brand MAC, and popular dating app Bumble. She has proven to be a force to be reckoned with, and a staple soundbite for many people’s Instagram Reels & Tiktok videos. Since her career started Elsa has won awards from Forbes, Streamys, E!, GQ SA and was listed No. 1 on Highsnobiety’s Next 20. She appeared on the cover of Teen Vogue’s 2021 Young Hollywood Class, NY Times, Allure, BBC, Forbes, W Mag, Netflix, NatGeo, and The Cut.
Majimbo has shown incredible discernment when it comes to leveraging her newly-found fame with opportunities presented to her. Her success is a real-time testament that borders do not matter when it comes to captivating the audience. Her most incredible partnership deal to date is with Italian luxury fashion brand Valentino. This month Majimbo casually took us through the project announcement with a cleverly shot behind the scenes video that ends with a shot of her in front of the cameras saying “Elsa has arrived, then the wind starts blowing in my hair. Then I’ll talk about my collaboration with Valentino. I’ll talk about how it’s not a clothing collaboration like everyone expects, it’s a book. For children and parents. And then, I’ll reveal the book”. Her spectacular entrance into the high fashion scene is in a form of a book Co-written by Elsa Majibo and Mohamed Kheir and presented by Valentino, The Alphabet for Kids & Adults. With this luxury brand partnership, Elsa has very much proven that nothing is impossible with her brand.
Kim Kardashian and Rihanna hit the motherload during lockdown with their undergarments brands. Kardashian whose ‘solution wear’ brand Skims coincided with the soaring demand for loungewear. Skims evolved beyond the initial focus on core shapewear, helping to propel sales through the pandemic. What made the brand stand out for most people was its diversity in terms of sizes from XXS to XXXXXL and nine shades that match a wide range of skin tones. Launched in September 2019, Skims sold three million units by October – most of which were generated during the lockdown.
Kim was not the only one who made racks off the need for comfortable lounge and underwear, Rihanna’s lingerie line Savage x Fenty increased by 200% in sales in 2020 alone while its Amazon Prime fashion show grew by 150% in the audience. Although her high-end designer brand Fenty, launched with LVMH in 2019 came to a hiatus earlier this year, Rihanna had an exceptional year in 2020. LVMH is helping to pump 15 million dollars of funding into another Rihanna brand. Savage X Fenty announced the investment from L Catterton, a firm cofounded by LVMH and Bernard Arnault’s Groupe Arnault, and several other funds. Whilst scores of fashion retailers and design houses experienced a huge slump in sales in 2020, Skims & Savage x Fenty proved resilient In the Work-From-Home times with more people wanting comfortable loungewear and underwear for home.
The Houston Hottie, aka Megan Thee Stallion, had a less than a tumultuous year. That would culminate into two Grammys by March 2021. But before that Megan was riding her boat with a buzzy “Hot Girl Summer” into a year that would define her career. An insanely viral moment in March when she released the song “Savage,” boosted by a Tiktok challenge secured her a collaboration with megastar Beyonce. Ultimately becoming her 1st Billboard hit, but she was not done. The monster hit “WAP” with fellow rapper Cardi B solidified Megan’s place in the industry even more. Both tracks were lauded as one of the top songs of the year.
Musically Megan had an undeniably big year and laid a foundation for her becoming a brand ambassador for a global brand. In August 2020 beauty house Revlon named Megan Thee Stallion as its newest Revlon Global Brand Ambassador, joining globally renowned faces such Gal Gadot, Ashley Graham, and Adwoa Aboah. This became her first major beauty deal “I’ve always set the bar high for myself with everything I do, but to now be a brand ambassador for Revlon, it feels like a new level,” said Megan. Months earlier she had been featured in the summer campaign for Savage x Fenty. Megan also covered GQ magazine as the rapper of the year. There is no denying that this budding rapper is one to watch and she will be partnering with more brands soon.
Making local waves in spite of the uncertainty brought about by Covid-19 has been SA’s number 1 female DJ and business woman, Dj Zinhle. Last September saw the Umlilo hitmaker announce the launch of her Eravision eyewear line, a product extension of her Era By Dj Zinhle accessories brand. A month later, the mogul-in-the-making announced yet another power move, which would see acquire a stake at Boulevard, while taking over the reigns as CEO of the Sparkling Wine brand. Further entrenching her position as a formidable businesswoman, Dj Zinhle has since added Hairmajesty, a wig range that sees her venture into the beauty category. None of us can really predict her next money-making move, but we can all rest assured that Zinhle Jiyane will not let anything stand between her and getting the bag and we have no choice but to stan this hardworking Queen.