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10 Ambitious Celebrities Who Work Hard to Stay in the Spotlight

McKenna is an educated professional and mother, who shares articles on a variety of her interests.

She doesn't sing, dance, or act. But she's one of the most recognizable faces in the world. Kim Kardashian never stops marketing herself.

She doesn't sing, dance, or act. But she's one of the most recognizable faces in the world. Kim Kardashian never stops marketing herself.

Hard Working Celebrities

To become famous and stay famous takes more than raw talent. Celebrities must have both drive and guile to relentlessly market themselves. They can't depend solely on TV shows and movies when the success or failure of those collaborative efforts falls largely out of their control. Between the highly-rated sitcom or blockbuster movie, they must stay in the limelight by putting themselves out there in the media – unabashedly like Miley Cyrus and Madonna or more subtly like Brad Pitt and Ryan Seacrest. Here are 10 celebrities who stayed on top by relentlessly marketing themselves:

10. Rock Hudson

Rock Hudson was a tall, dark, and handsome leading man of the 1950s and 60s, starring in hit films such as Giant with Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean and Pillow Talk with Doris Day. He extended his fame into the following two decades by successfully shifting into television, starring in McMillan and Wife during the 70s and Dynasty in the 80s. But more than his many movies and TV shows, Hudson is best remembered for becoming the first major celebrity to publicly acknowledge he had AIDS. After keeping his sexuality a secret for decades, he finally revealed he was gay shortly before his death in 1985 at age 59.

Long before celebrities were tweeting, hosting websites, and appearing on reality shows, Hudson and other young thespians of Hollywood's Golden Age relied on agents and Hollywood studios to make them famous and keep them famous. In his fervent quest to become a star, Hudson turned over control of his career (and life) to his agent, Henry Willson. Willson promptly changed the aspiring actor's name from Roy Harold Scherer, Jr., to Rock Hudson. To further promote and protect Hudson's reputation as a strong, virile ladies' man, Willson arranged a marriage between his secretary, Phyllis Gates, and his client. The marriage didn't last long and Hudson continued to lead an openly gay life in liberal Hollywood's orbit. To the world beyond Tinsel Town, however, Rock Hudson marketed himself as a straight leading man so his acting career could flourish.

9. Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt is a veteran actor, producer, humanitarian, ex-husband of Angelina Jolie, and father of 6. He's gone from a shirtless hunk in Thelma and Louise to an Oscar nominee for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Moneyball. Today, he's a globetrotter, seeking refuge from paparazzi and rarely giving interviews except to promote a movie or cause.

As a brash and ambitious newcomer, however, Brad Pitt worked and dated his way up the Hollywood ladder to fame. To enhance his desirability and stay in the headlines, he made it a practice to date high-profile women – some with weighty familial ties in show business. This proved beneficial to Pitt, an outsider from Missouri. His long string of famous girlfriends and wives include: Robin Givens (ex-wife of Mike Tyson), Christina Applegate, Juliette Lewis, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston (ex-wife), and Angelina Jolie. As he looks to find his next leading lady in romance, there's little doubt she'll be famous!

Brad Pitt -- like many celebrities -- keeps a high profile by dating and marrying other celebrities.

Brad Pitt -- like many celebrities -- keeps a high profile by dating and marrying other celebrities.

8. Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwyneth Paltrow, Brad Pitt's former fiancée, has strong family connections in show business. Her mother, Blythe Danner, is a long-time stage and screen actress while her deceased father, Bruce Paltrow, was a successful Hollywood writer and producer. Her brother, Jake, is a film director and screenwriter. Gwyneth has achieved renown herself as a leading lady, winning an Oscar as Best Actress for Shakespeare in Love.

Gwyneth is that new breed of celebrity, who refuses to limit her relentless pursuit of fame and wealth to acting alone. She extended her reach beyond the screen by launching Goop, an online lifestyle site that celebrates the food, clothes, skincare products, fitness routines, and vacation locales that she favors. While she garners a fair share of haters, criticizing her for hyping an over-the-top existence that few can afford, Gwyneth Paltrow knows that's the price to pay when turning yourself into a high-end brand.

7. Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus rocketed to fame in 2006 when she starred as Hannah Montana on the popular Disney Channel series. Powerhouse Disney – with its many media holdings – relentlessly promoted its young star. Miley reaped the rewards with TV and movie offers, music deals, and Hannah Montana merchandise. When the show ended after four years, though, she was left with the challenge many teen idols had faced before her – how to create a new grown-up image and build a more mature, less fickle fan base.

Miley, unwilling to accept that her best days in show business are over, has shamelessly pursued fame since escaping Disney's control. During the 2013 MTV awards, she put her new super-sexed persona on display to mixed reviews. She danced provocatively on stage with Robin Thicke, donning a nude bikini and pointing a huge foam finger at her crotch. While Walt Disney rolled over in his grave, she made it crystal clear that Hannah Montana was a thing of the past. With a famous father and Dolly Parton as her honorary godmother, Miley has grown up around the rich and famous and knows what it takes to stay on top.

6. Joan Rivers

The late Joan Rivers pursued fame doggedly for over six decades, experiencing the highest highs and the lowest lows until her death in 2014 at age 81. She became the first woman to host a late-night network talk show but got fired after only one year. She was famously banned from The Tonight Show (which she had regularly guest-hosted) for 23 years until Jimmy Fallon invited her back on in 2014.

Joan Rivers remained famous for three reasons: abundant talent, hard work, and single-minded determination. Although originally longing to act, she was always willing to go where the jobs took her. She authored 12 best-selling books, performed countless stand-up routines, directed a movie, hosted a daytime talk show, and sold a line of jewelry and apparel on QVC. When most folks her age had long retired, she had two TV shows on the air, both with her daughter: Fashion Police and Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best?

Ryan Seacrest

Ryan Seacrest has become ubiquitous on television and radio during the past 15 years. He has his own radio show, hosted American Idol, does the weekly countdown program, American Top 40, and has contributed regularly to E! News and The Today Show. With his white bread persona, he's bland but pleasant – an unobtrusive guest welcomed in our living rooms for multiple visits each week.

Seacrest has relentlessly pursued fame and money by building an empire both on-air and off. He's shaped the landscape of television by producing Keeping Up with the Kardashians and all its many spin-offs. His work ethic and good-guy reputation have helped him land the number 21 spot on the 2015 Forbes list of The World's Highest Paid Celebrities.

Working both in front of and behind the cameras helps celebrities maintain control of their projects.

Working both in front of and behind the cameras helps celebrities maintain control of their projects.

4. Jennifer Lopez

J. Lo has given relentless ambition a pretty face since grabbing our attention in 1991 as a Fly Girl dancer on In Living Color. Her endless drive and immense talent have taken her in many directions: actress, singer, dancer, American Idol judge, businesswoman, producer, and Las Vegas performer. She starred in the police drama, Shades of Blue, which she produces with Ryan Seacrest.

Time put Jennifer Lopez on its 2015 list of the 25 Most Influential Hispanics in America. Unlike many female stars before her, she's never downplayed her quest to get to the top and stay there. She dreams big, putting no limits on what she wants to accomplish.

3. Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise, born Thomas Cruise Mapother IV, is an actor with fierce intensity – both on and off the screen. Despite a challenging past – an abusive father, a vagabond childhood, and struggles in school with dyslexia – Cruise became determined to overcome and succeed. His tenacity, mixed with incredible charm and good looks, made him the blockbuster movie star of the 80s and 90s with Risky Business, Top Gun, and Jerry Maguire. His success continued into the new millennium with Vanilla Sky, The Last Samurai, and the Mission Impossible series. His flame burned even brighter with his much-publicized marriages to Nicole Kidman and Katie Holmes.

Cruise's aspirations, however, go far beyond his film career. He's a devout Scientologist and the religion's most famous face. David Miscavige, the leader of the church, counts on Cruise to bring in new recruits. With that goal in mind, the two friends built a new $50 million Hollywood movie studio, where they'll collaborate on spreading Scientology's message through film.

2. Madonna

Like other celebrities known by one moniker – Elvis, Cher, Prince – Madonna possesses an audacity that propelled her to stardom and kept her there. She became a dominant figure in the 80s pop scene – influencing not only music but fashion, dance, and music videos. During an early interview with Dick Clark on American Bandstand, she famously remarked that her goal was “to rule the world.”

Madonna has craftily entwined abundant talent and gratuitous sexuality to sell herself. In 1992 she even peddled a coffee table book, Sex, that featured erotic photos of herself and other celebrities. Now, well into her 50s, some feel it's time for the star to retire the leather bustier and fishnet stockings but that seems unlikely.

1. Kim Kardashian

Lacking Madonna's singing and dancing skills, Kim Kardashian made the bold and calculated move to rely solely on sex in her quest for fame. She came to prominence for a “leaked” sex video between her and then-boyfriend, Ray J. Her “momager,” Kris Jenner, brokered a deal for the video's release, netting between 10 and 15 million dollars. From that sordid start, a star was born and an empire created.

Kim Kardashian represents relentless and crass ambition unparalleled in show business. From the get-go, she's allowed unprecedented access into her life through reality shows, Snapchat, Instagram, and her video game, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. In this incredibly successful game, players get to experience Kim's life right along with her – planning her daughter's third birthday party, hanging with her inner circle, trying on new fashions, and interacting with the Kardashian crew. In her quest for fame, Kim Kardashian has blurred the lines between professional and personal lives like nobody else.

© 2016 McKenna Meyers


McKenna Meyers (author) on July 07, 2016:

You're not alone, Bill. I think her lack of talent is a big reason for her success. She represents the possibility that any one of us could reach her level of fame without putting in the years of study, years of struggle, years of disappointment, years of rejection. That's why she's hugely popular with young people; she represents their fantasy.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 06, 2016:

I'll never understand the appeal of Kardashian. Never! I'm sure she's a lovely human being, he said with tongue permanently forked, but as far as talent goes? Nada!