Industrious Gold Diggers: Women Who Made Their Own Money After Marrying Money

October 5, 2011  |  
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A simple search online will reveal the commonly held misconception that many black women are gold diggers. Gold Diggers of course come in many colors and temperaments, ranging from kind and coddling to bossy or even lazy. But we are not here today to judge whether being a gold digger itself is bad or good, or what a women should do once she snags that man with cash. We are hear to cast an eye on that rare breed of woman who binds her meal ticket in hold matrimony, then bleeds him dry in order to create her own empire. This rare species — the Industrious Gold Digger — does not sit idly by and get manicures once she has secured the ring. Nor does she nag her new husband to death in a grim attempt to hold on to her money bag. No. She takes that access to wealth and parlays it into a fortune of her own, so she can keep or leave the man at her bidding. Regardless of whether the relationship goes sour, The Industrious Gold Digger has used her mate as a stepping stone to her personally controlled economic power. Here are seven such women who have capitalized on marrying up.

 Shaunie O’Neal

When Shaunie O’Neal reached a divorce settlement with her ex-husband Shaquille, some thought the allegations of his cheating would lead this scorned woman to curl up in a corner and lick her wounds — lying on her hefty pile of alimony. But this was not the case. Shaunie very intelligently used knowledge of his affairs to secure a better settlement than would have been allowed by their existing pre-nuptial agreement. And of course she parlayed that fortune and the experience gained by being married to the NBA star into her “Basketball Wives” franchises. Now the executive producer of a few hit reality TV series, Shaunie is certainly an industrious gold digger who made good.

Kimora Lee Simmons

Kimora Lee Simmons got a juicy divorce and child support settlement from her former husband Russell Simmons, but she was using their relationship to upgrade her career way before they hit the skids. She was named president and creative director of Phat Fashions several months before officially filing for divorce from her ex-husband. Although at the time the firm was no longer owned by Russell, it was his connections that got her into the company at such a high level. She has also used the exposure gained through their marriage to launch fragrances, a series of books, and a reality TV series. Let’s face it — she likely married for money at least in part, but Kimora has worked hard to extend her brand through her own efforts. It was smart to utilize her husband as a starting mechanism.

Rachel Roy

Rachel Roy is now a well-respected designer who creates beautiful clothes that are sold in the most luxurious stores in the world. But she started her career as an intern at Rocawear, where she caught the eye of Damon Dash when he still had money. After several years of dating, Roy married Dash despite his documented history of cheating. Can you blame her for using his cash while she could to start her own clothing line? She certainly has the design chops, as her frocks are gorgeous. Good for Roy for using Dash’s connections and capital to launch a lucrative brand of her own, that far outshines Rocawear today.

Tracey Edmonds

This girl from Cali is now the Chief Operating Officer and President of Our Stories Films, a film production company that focuses on urban audiences, in addition to being the CEO of her own production firm, Edmonds Entertainment. That second title is interesting to us, because she started this enterprise with her then-husband Babyface, the cool crooner who knew a mix of beauty and brains when he saw it. Edmonds was certainly an accomplished woman way before she met Babyface, having earned a degree from Stanford in psychobiology. But it was not until her marriage to Babyface that her entertainment career blossomed. Rather than using her beauty in front of the camera, Tracey focused on the creative ideas that drove some of our community’s favorite movie and TV programming, such as the film and television versions of “Soul Food.” Now divorced from the pop star that provided her gateway into the entertainment field, Edmonds has a career that outshines his in terms of money-making power and cultural influence.  Well done!

Kim Kardashian

Kim Kardashian would be nobody today if she had not made her sex video with Ray-J. While she has was never married to Nick Cannon or Reggie Bush, or any of the other high profile black men she has been linked with, it is safe to say that she connected with them as a path towards fame from obscurity. It is certain that she never expected a sex video with a minor R&B star to be her ticket to fortune, but when her number came up, she ran with it. Millions of dollars later, it appears that dating all those rich black men was the perfect method of self-enrichment for Kim — and her entire family, which has been able to multiply her fame through their many endeavors.

Jennifer Williams

Jennifer Williams married her NBA baller hubby to gain access to the glamorous life, but she has plenty of positive personal attributes to fall back on. She graduated from college cum laude, and owns a fitness franchise in addition to being on the hit VH1 show “Basketball Wives.” Fame from the reality TV series has enabled her to launch her own lip gloss line, Lucid, in addition to extending her personal brand. She is certainly her own woman, but likely would never have made it this far were it not for her soon-to-be-former spouse. Kudos to her for cashing out on the position that her marriage afforded her, as Williams reaches out to explore even greener pastures — emotionally and financially.

Lisa Wu

Wu was once married to Keith Sweat, and went on to wed former NFL player Ed Hartwell before joining the cast of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.” Although no longer married to Ed or on the show, Lisa was able to stir the public’s interest in her through her marriage. Before her marriage granted her access to the show, no one had ever heard of her. It is as though she learned from her first failed marriage to a much more famous man that she had to make a name for herself rather than relying on her husband. Now that she is free and more famous, she has been exploring many options including acting. Maybe she didn’t make a fortune, but Wu did make something of herself.

Tory Burch

Tory Burch comes from a respectable middle class background, but her career really heated up after marrying the incredibly wealth financier Christopher Burch (who was her second millionaire match). During their union, Burch launched her eponymous line which has become a huge smash. Now that she is a runaway success, Burch has divorced her husband and has been linked to much more romantic figures like Lance Armstrong. If you are going to be an industrious gold digger, that’s the way to do it.

Georgina Chapman

Georgina Chapman is still married to her super-powerful husband, film producer extraordinaire Harvey Weinstein. The co-founder of the super-hot fashion line Marchesa unfortunately broke up Weinstein’s former marriage in order to snag him. In addition, it is a strange coincidence that she launched her high-end brand in the same year that he left his wife — 2004. Still, an industrious gold digger does what she has to do. Perhaps that is what attracts the powerful man to her side — the quest for power that they both share.

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