smart spending

6 celebs who gained cash by losing weight

Salary by the pound
Salary by the pound

Did you get $50 to hit the treadmill this morning? How much were you paid to choke down that bland rice cake instead of a candy bar? The answer, of course, is nada. We don't get paid to do what's right for our bodies. Luckily for many celebrities, they do.

According to Jo Piazza, author of "Celebrity Inc.: How Famous People Make Money," celebrities who sign on to endorse a weight-loss regimen can instead become bloated on cash -- an average of about $33,000 per pound.* In total, it can mean up to $3 million to do what they should have done anyway: Lay off the cake.

"Today in Hollywood, weight loss has become yet another revenue stream that agents and managers know how to monetize," Piazza says. "They will advise clients to get fat simply to lose the weight."

It's enough to make you a little angry -- perhaps angry enough to eat an entire carton of cookie dough ice cream before hearing a familiar voice on TV telling you to step away from the spoon.

*We used this estimated amount to approximate how much some of the celebs would be making using this formula.

Weight loss: 'The greatest scam'
Weight loss: 'The greatest scam'
  • Who: Charles Barkley
  • Weight-loss brand: Weight Watchers
  • Weight lost: 60 pounds
  • Money gained: Estimated $1.98 million*

If anyone is going to understand the absurdity of celebrity weight-loss endorsements, it will surely be the candid Charles Barkley.

"I thought this was the greatest scam going -- getting paid for watching sports," Barkley said on a hot mic during a basketball telecast earlier this year. "This Weight Watchers thing is a bigger scam."

He certainly wasn't biting the hand that feeds him, though he had to be hungry enough to -- he's said to have lost more than 60 pounds on the men's program. He was acknowledging being in the peculiar position of being paid for what most of us do anyway.

The price tag for such an arrangement is only rising, Piazza says. "Many of the celebrities who do these diet deals make more from them than they do from television, movies or music -- the things that make them famous."

Cheers to weight fluctuation
Cheers to weight fluctuation
  • Who: Kirstie Alley
  • Weight-loss brand: Jenny Craig
  • Weight lost: Up to 100 pounds
  • Money gained: Undisclosed

Perhaps in retrospect, it might have been a little foreboding that Kirstie Alley's career essentially began the way many waistlines begin their outward exploration: at a dive bar. The former star of " Cheers" has since become the veritable yo-yo of the celebrity diet world, swinging wildly from fit to, well, "relaxed."

In what would have been a demoralizing defeat for just about anyone, Alley was dumped by Jenny Craig as their spokeswoman in 2008 for bucking the system and gaining back nearly all the pounds she'd shed.

Undeterred, Alley launched her own weight-loss brand in 2010 that was rumored to be aligned with Scientology. Along with her new Xenu regimen, she signed on for " Dancing with the Stars" last year, which she says helped her lose 100 pounds. Seven hours of dancing and an intake of only about 1,400 calories per day sounds like it could only mean good business for Alley's weight-loss company and book, but perhaps she shouldn't cash those checks just yet. She's being sued for false advertising.

1 pound at a time
1 pound at a time
  • Who: Valerie Bertinelli
  • Weight-loss brand: Jenny Craig
  • Weight lost: 47 pounds
  • Money gained: Estimated $1.55 million*

One of the more successful stories is Valerie Bertinelli, who got her acting chops on the '70s sitcom "One Day at a Time" and then put her actual chops to work at the dinner table. Her relevance faded as she struggled with her weight, littering her resume with a smorgasbord of lesser-known acting gigs, mainly in made-for-TV movies.

She teamed with Jenny Craig in 2007 and dropped about 50 pounds. What's more, she has managed to keep the extra pounds off and even looked alarmingly attractive in a swimsuit photo shoot in 2009.

"She went from has-been to household name expressly because of her Jenny Craig endorsement," Piazza says.

In addition to her numerous Jenny Craig commercials and People magazine bikini shoot, the 52-year-old's notoriety and bank account have benefited from best-selling books on weight loss and a starring role on TV Land's "Hot in Cleveland."

Bundle of joyous cash
Bundle of joyous cash
  • Who: Jessica Simpson
  • Weight-loss brand: Weight Watchers
  • Weight lost: 50-pound goal
  • Money gained: $3 million, pending

Piazza says it's all too common for pregnant celebrities to be urged by their agents to turn their baby bump into a bulge of cash, adding extra weight for a lucrative post-baby deal.

Normally a pillar of respectability in Hollywood, Jessica Simpson had received some raised eyebrows and chortling over her junk-food binging that overlapped with normal pregnancy weight gain before and after her May 1 delivery.

Though no one quite reached the point of speculating paternity to Chester Cheetah, it was not for a lack of evidence. Friends disclosed to the media that Simpson was eating her way through pregnancy to a weight of more than 180 pounds, substantially more than the typical weight gain with a child.

After giving birth, she seized the opportunity to cash in and signed on with Weight Watchers for $3 million, a sum she would only be awarded if she could shed 50 pounds in the following five months. Simpson has supposedly complained about the difficulty and ineffectiveness of the program. In all fairness, the couch is pretty comfortable and they make candy wrappers with such bright, enticing colors these days.

Making those 'Paper' Roses
Making those 'Paper' Roses
  • Who: Marie Osmond
  • Weight-loss brand: Nutrisystem
  • Weight lost: 50 pounds
  • Money gained: Estimated $1.65 million*

Singer Marie Osmond struggled with her body image for much of her life, which might be one of the most relatable sentences ever written. Osmond's challenge was a bit more acute, however, having grown up in a performing family that was always in the spotlight. Things took a turn toward self-image implosion when, around age 14, producers of the show "Donny & Marie" took her aside. They urged her to drop more weight off of her 110-pound frame or her show would be canceled.

Continued weight fluctuation led her to sign on as spokeswoman for Nutrisystem in 2007, when she would drop about 45 pounds in her first four months.

In 2006, Nutrisystem signed former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino to remind men that their wives weren't the only ones growing love handles. He must have one of the best endorsement deals around, considering the 22 pounds he's lost on the program can't be too much more than how much his old gear used to weigh.

Tackling his weight problems
Tackling his weight problems
  • Who: Rex Ryan
  • Weight-loss brand: Lap-Band
  • Weight lost: About 105 pounds
  • Money gained: Undisclosed

In a close call that hasn't been seen since Willy Wonka had to juice the ever-expanding Violet Beauregarde, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan was putting on the pounds at an alarming rate. He would gorge as if preparing for hibernation, consuming 12 tacos or an entire pizza in one sitting.

When he decided to test the scales in 2009, he was shocked to see it read 348 pounds. He tried weight-loss programs and exercise to no permanent avail, instead opting for Lap-Band surgery to restrict his food intake. His weight has since plummeted more than 100 pounds, and he intends to shed another 20 pounds off his frame.

Ryan recently revealed that following the surgery, he is in fact being paid to endorse the Lap-Band procedure. Though the endorsement amount wasn't disclosed, he says he's now down to one taco per sitting, which is already a savings of at least $11 per meal.

 

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