Celebrities are wealthy, generally speaking. I got to thinking, though: how do they get that way? The answer is obvious for certain classes, for example, socialites. They inherit money.
Some other celebrities are well-paid for their work: think movie stars and Damien Hirst and certain other well-compensated artists. This makes sense. If Will Smith is an actor that America wants to pay to see, then the studios will pay him well.
Then there are the celebrities that initially stumped me, namely, recording artists. The music industry is famed for taking a huge bite out of record sales, so it seems unlikely that someone like Ashlee Simpson could accumulate wealth through that route alone. In fact, it seems clear that in many cases it is endorsements, magazine cover deals, and things like that that generate income. In other words, for certain celebrities their marketable skill is getting attention. (see image)
My provocative theory on this is that these people, whether through attractiveness, salacious appeal, or representation of a potent cultural myth, operate on people like attention grabbing headlines or spam email subjects–they turn heads.