Few can deny the impact Dr. Bill Cosby has made in entertainment. From being the first African American to play a leading role in a TV show on NBC’s I Spy (1965-68) to making his self titled series The Cosby Show No. 1 on the same network almost 20 years later, he has withstood the test of time in Hollywood as a writer, producer, director, actor, composer and more. More than just an entertainer with over 2.3 million Twitter followers (@BillCosby), Cosby has managed to evolve his sphere of influence and remain relevant through his philanthropic efforts, advertising, public speaking, business acumen and involvement in academia. BlackEnterprise.com Decodes the iconic Dr. Bill Cosby. —Kevin Clark
Cosby has a net worth close to $450 million, mostly due to the syndication of his highly successful shows The Cosby Show and its later spin-off A Different World. He’s also authored several books, including the bestselling Fatherhood, which to date has sold over four million copies. Cosby’s whimsical tales about the adventures of being a parent have also led him to author additional bestsellers Childhood, Cosbyology, Love and Marriage, and Time Flies, which had the largest single first printing in publishing history with 1.75 million copies.
During the late 1980’s through the mid-90’s, Cosby was the ultimate product endorser. His face, voice or co-sign was linked to brands ranging from Coca-Cola and Mattel to Kodak and Jell-O. At the time Cosby’s combined endorsement deals were rumored to have earned him a whopping $125,000 per hour. After a 10-year hiatus, he reteamed with Jell-O last year for their multi-million dollar “Hello Jell-O” campaign as a executive producer behind the scenes.
PAID FOR TV:
Cosby is often credited with single handedly resurrecting a then-struggling NBC network in the 80’s by way of The Cosby Show. The show paralleled his life and made household names out of Phylicia Rashad, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Keisha Knight Pulliam, Lisa Bonet, Raven-Symone and introduced millions of primetime viewers to legendary musicians like Stevie Wonder, Lena Horne, and Miriam Makeba. In addition to several Grammy Awards, the PhD holder has taken home six Emmys and three Golden Globe Awards for his work on and behind screen.
In addition to being a service to the entertainment community, Cosby hosts numerous charity events and continues to contribute large donations in support of higher education at various colleges such as Texas A&M and Central State University. Earning his doctorate education from the University of Massachusetts in 1976, Cosby a strong advocate for schooling. In fact, he made his largest donation of $20 million to Spelman College in the 1988.
CHAMPION OF THE BLACK ARTS:
Spike Lee and Melvin Van Peebles both owe a sincere debt of gratitude to the performing legend. When no studio would finance Peebles’ 1971 independent film Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, Cosby contributed $50,000 of his own money to help him complete the project. Similarly, the comedic great has been there a few times for Lee, most notably contributing to 1992’s Malcolm X and 1996’s Get On The Bus. Although the specific amounts he contributed have been withheld, it has been reported that without Cosby’s assistance both films would not have had the funding to make it to the big screen.