Getty Images
Getty Images

11 Surprising Celebrity Business Ventures

Getty Images
Getty Images

Actress-model. Writer-director. Singer-reality TV star. Hyphenates are standard business in the celebrity world. But not every boldface name-backed business venture is a natural extension of a star’s best-known talents. Here are 11 of the most surprising ones.


Today, the late Paul Newman’s animated mug is as well known to supermarket shoppers as Aunt Jemima’s. But when the Oscar-winning actor launched his not-for-profit food company in 1982, it was met with a great big “WTF?” Sure, Cool Hand Luke could eat 50 hardboiled eggs in an hour, but concoct a vinaigrette with which to dress them? In the 31 years since its founding, and the five years since his passing, Newman’s “Let’s give it all away!” philosophy has generated more than $370 million in charitable donations—and one hell of a tasty Cobb salad!


Anyone who can manage to make balloon pants look cool certainly has the power to take down Google ... right? In 2011, singer MC Hammer—he of “U Can’t Touch This” and “2 Legit 2 Quit” fame—announced his plans to launch WireDoo, an Internet search engine intended to compete with the likes of Google and Bing. Two years later, there’s still no WireDoo. You do the math (in technology years, of course).


Kim Basinger had big plans for little Braselton, Georgia when she bought the tiny town (population: 500) for $20 million back in 1989 with an eye toward turning it into a tourist attraction. It didn’t happen. Five years later she was filing for bankruptcy and forced to sell the town … for a measly $1 million.


Rock stars launching liquor brands isn’t a brand-new idea (Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo tequila has been thriving for years). But in the case of androgynous rocker Marilyn Manson, it’s the choice of spirit that is rather unusual: absinthe. In 2007, Manson partnered with Switzerland-based Lion Spirits to concoct a signature version of the green-colored, herb-based grain alcohol simply known as Mansinthe.


Before he was a two-time Oscar-nominated actor, Jeremy Renner was a struggling actor who needed to eke out a living away from the camera. So he turned to another passion: real estate. In the past decade, Renner and his business partner/fellow actor Kristoffer Winters have purchased, restored and resold more than a dozen homes with profits that dwarf some of the A-lister’s own paychecks. Like the $24.95 million Beverly Hills mansion that could net the duo a cool $18 million profit!


He may play a doctor on television, but in real life, Grey’s Anatomy star Patrick Dempsey is just a guy. One who spends his time racing expensive cars and taking on Starbucks to gain control of Tully’s, the 48-location Seattle-based coffee chain which declared bankruptcy last year. After six months of negotiations, the actor finally and officially took control of the company on July 1. No word yet on whether a McDreamy Macchiato is in the works.


Considering his tendency to direct two films per year, it’s amazing that filmmaker Steven Soderbergh even knows the meaning of “spare time.” But in May of this year, he launched Extension 765, a self-described “one-of-a-kind marketplace” where one can purchase art, booze, designer T-shirts and props in equal parts, all of which can be traced back to Soderbergh’s love of cinema in some way. (Even the site’s name is a reference to fellow moviemaker/entrepreneur Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation.)


In 2008, animal rights activist Natalie Portman proved that you don’t need to wear leather to look good when she launched a line of vegan footwear with New York City’s Te Casan boutique. Unfortunately, she also confirmed that a shoe doesn’t need to be made of leather to cost $325.


Forty years ago, Francis Ford Coppola’s name was synonymous with epic American cinema with movies like The Godfather, The Godfather: Part II, and Apocalypse Now (though definitely not The Godfather: Part III). While he’s still making movies today, Coppola is usually more likely to be found in a vineyard than on a film set. In 1975, the five-time Oscar winner used his paycheck from The Godfather to buy into the wine biz, where he’s been stomping up premium swill that pays tribute to his work (the Director’s Cut collection features a film strip label) and family (the Sofia collection is light and bubbly) for more than 35 years. His winery, in Geyersville, California, even features a Movie Gallery with props from his sets, including Don Corleone’s desk.


Donald Trump has put his name on a lot of things: buildings, Websites, menswear, cologne, bottled water, vodka, steaks, and board games among them. But even The Donald’s endorsement couldn’t save the short-lived United States Football League, a professional spring football league that counted Herschel Walker, Doug Flutie, Jim Kelly and Steve Young among its stars. Trump’s insistence that the season be moved from spring to fall to compete with the NFL is often cited as the reason for the USFL’s untimely demise.


Andrew Shue became a television star as resident good guy Billy Campbell on Melrose Place, but he has also had a career as a professional soccer player (as part of the Zimbabwe Premier Soccer League, no less) and in 1993 he co-founded Do Something, a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging youngsters to make a difference. In 2006 he ventured into totally foreign territory when he (and another dude) started CafeMom, a social networking site for, yep, moms. It caught on quickly, becoming one of the Web’s most popular sites for women in no time, and in 2011 it was deemed a Top 50 Website by Time. See what happens when you stop letting Amanda Woodward push you around!

20 States With the Highest Rates of Skin Cancer

They don’t call it the Sunshine State for nothing. Floridians get to soak up the sun year-round, but that exposure to harmful UV rays also comes with consequences. Prevention magazine reported that Florida has the highest rate of skin cancer in the U.S., according to a survey by Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS).

BCBS surveyed 9 million of its insured members who had been diagnosed with skin cancer between 2014 and 2016 and found that Florida had the highest rate of skin cancer at 7.1 percent. People living in eastern states tend to be more prone to skin cancer, and diagnoses are more common among women.

Here are the 20 states with the highest rates of skin cancer:

1. Florida: 7.1 percent
2. Washington, D.C.: 5.8 percent
3. Connecticut: 5.6 percent
4. Maryland: 5.3 percent
5. Rhode Island: 5.3 percent
6. Vermont: 5.3 percent
7. North Carolina: 5.2 percent
8. New York: 5 percent
9. Massachusetts: 5 percent
10. Colorado: 5 percent
11. Arizona: 5 percent
12. Virginia: 5 percent
13. Delaware: 4.8 percent
14. Kentucky: 4.7 percent
15. Alabama: 4.7 percent
16. New Jersey: 4.7 percent
17. Georgia: 4.7 percent
18. West Virginia: 4.5 percent
19. Tennessee: 4.5 percent
20. South Carolina: 4.4 percent

It may come as a surprise that sunny California doesn’t make the top 20, and Hawaii is the state with the lowest rate of skin cancer at 1.8 percent. Prevention magazine explains that this could be due to the large population of senior citizens in Florida and the fact that the risk of melanoma, a rare but deadly type of skin cancer, increases with age. People living in regions with higher altitudes also face a greater risk of skin cancer due to the thinner atmosphere and greater exposure to UV radiation, which explains why Colorado is in the top 10.

The good news is that the technology used to detect skin cancer is improving, and researchers hope that AI can soon be incorporated into more skin cancer screenings. To reduce your risk, be sure to wear SPF 30+ sunscreen when you know you’ll be spending time outside, and don’t forget to reapply it every two hours. 

[h/t Prevention]

9 Healthy Frozen Meals to Keep in Your Freezer

Frozen dinners don’t exactly have the best reputation when it comes to nutrition. Many of the pre-made meals you’ll find at your local supermarket are loaded with sodium, fat, and calories. But there are still a few nutritious (and tasty) options, as long as you know where to look. Here are a few frozen food brands to keep in your freezer for those times when you need something quick, painless, and yes, healthy.


Pescatarians rejoice: This Colorado-based company specializes in meals made from sustainable, farm-raised seafood. They have your traditional microwaveable meals—like the Baja-style fish taco bowl and the sweet and spicy Korean BBQ bowl—but they also offer oven-ready fish kits. Cooking is easy: Simply place the provided (heart-shaped!) parchment on a baking sheet with the filet on one side; put the frozen sauce cubes on top; wrap it up; and pop it in the oven to bake for 20 to 25 minutes. You can also throw in any veggies you might have in your freezer, and Love the Wild provides some tasty recipe ideas on its website. Even Leonardo DiCaprio is a fan: “LoveTheWild’s approach to sustainable, responsible aquaculture is promoting the development of a secure and environmentally-conscious solution to feeding our planet’s growing population," he said last year after investing in the company.


Who says pizza has to be bad for you? With Cappello’s naked pizza crusts, you can build your own healthy pie just the way you like it. The crusts are made from arrowroot and coconut flours and are gluten-free, grain-free, and paleo-friendly. The brand also makes pre-made pizzas, vegan cookie dough, and a few varieties of pasta, including lasagna sheets, fettuccine, and gnocchi. Cappello's recommends recipes on its website, and the summer pesto pizza with chicken breast, goat cheese, and arugula is a great, light dish to serve at outdoor parties this season.


Vegetarian burgers on the grill
Beyond Meat

The Beyond Meat team set out to create a vegan burger that looks, tastes, and even "bleeds" like a real beef patty (due to the beet juice used to make the patties red). Ethan Brown, the company's founder, insists that the patties aren't much different from meat burgers. "Our company observation has always been that you don’t need an animal to produce a piece of meat," he tells Forbes. "You can obtain all of the core parts of meat—the amino acids, the lipids, the trace minerals and of course water from non-animal sources. And you can assemble those in the same architecture as animal meat." Some of their products are sold in the meat section of grocery stores, but a few items are available frozen, including The Beast Burger 2.0. Bill Gates and DiCaprio are both investors, and the company just announced it will start selling its products on six continents this summer.


As the name suggests, you’ll find simple, wholesome ingredients here. Since it was founded in 2011, the brand has been on a mission to offer minimally processed meals that "add nothing unnecessary" by way of ingredients. The company abides by a long list of "unacceptable ingredients" [PDF], including a variety of hydrogenated oils as well as artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, and sweeteners. Although they originally dealt only in breakfast dishes for busy workers on the go—burritos, scrambled egg bowls, pancakes, steel cut oatmeal, and more—they later branched out and started offering ready-made entrées. Their egg white patties are perfect for making your own customizable breakfast sandwiches.


This subscription food service proudly wears the frozen food label. "For decades, the space has been dominated by unhealthy or pseudo-healthy products that are hyper-refined and preserved," Daily Harvest founder Rachel Drori told the Huffington Post. "We are working hard to tell a new story, about the potential in freezing unadulterated to solve the modern eating dilemma of wanting convenience without compromise." Daily Harvest points out that after three days, some frozen fruits and vegetables contain more antioxidants and vitamins than their fresh counterparts. Their produce is frozen on the farm within 24 hours of harvesting, and they offer everything from cauliflower rice and kimchi harvest bowls to chocolate protein and almond chia parfaits. The pre-portioned meals, which are delivered to customers’ homes, are backed by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Serena Williams, and chef Bobby Flay.


A burrito

Evol urges its customers to “think outside the microwave.” The brand’s burritos and quesadillas can be heated up in a panini press, on the stove top, or on the grill, allowing a level of customization that most frozen food brands don’t offer. A range of Asian, Italian, and Mexican dishes are available, all of which are free of antibiotics and preservatives. When asked by Dining Out why Evol has become so popular, the company's founder, Philip Anson, replied, "We built a brand rooted in love and farm-to-table values, but with some hipness to it in a category known as a cold and lonely place—legacy brands, uninspiring, mystery meat, sodium and fat." He said Evol's bowls—like truffle parmesan mac and cheese and butternut squash-sage ravioli—are their most popular dishes.


Luvo’s meals are based on what they call the 3-2-None policy. This involves balancing protein, whole grains, and veggies; limiting sodium and added sugar; and avoiding all artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and antibiotics. In addition to steam-in-pouch meals and pasta bowls, Luvo offers “power bowls” that are packed with at least two servings of vegetables. The company's emphasis on nutrition goes beyond its products, though: Luvo also partners with WhyHunger, an organization that's addressing the issue of hunger in America by tackling the root cause of the issue while recognizing "nutritious food as a human right." Luvo also partners with A Sense of Home, which helps foster children who have "aged out" of the system transition into a new home.


Organic frozen meals with simple ingredients are the name of the game for Beetnik. Their meals are free of preservatives, gluten, MSG, high fructose corn syrup, hormones, artificial colors and flavorings, and antibiotics. One of their most popular dishes is their Peruvian seasoned chicken stew, made with tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, and spices. The company's founder, David Perkins, is a chef; when asked by Paleo Foundation what his favorite Beetnik dish is, Perkins replied, "I love our flat iron steaks, our Peruvian chicken stew, and our sablefish, but tomorrow I might give you three different items. I eat our products regularly, which is how I got into the business. Start with great ingredients."


Like Daily Harvest, this subscription food service delivers frozen meals right to your door via UPS. Eatology meals combine aspects of both the paleo and zone (low-carb) diets, while also incorporating lots of lean proteins and healthy fats. In addition to being paleo-friendly, there are plenty of low-carb, Whole30, and vegetarian options available. Bad news for carb lovers, though: You won't find bread, potatoes, or pasta on the menu. Their dishes change daily, but past meals have included white chicken chili on a bed of yellow squash, ratatouille, cilantro jalapeno burgers, and chili cheese fries (using sweet potatoes and carrots).


More from mental floss studios