Jennifer Lopez, who turns 43 in July, is at the point in her career where a lot of pop singers and actresses already are on a downward trajectory. Instead, the American Idol judge keeps expanding her horizons and growing in both popularity and wealth. That's evidenced by her top ranking in Forbes' latest list of the 100 most powerful celebrities on the planet.
Lopez, who displaced last year's No. 1, the much-younger Lady Gaga, earned an impressive $52 million over the past 12 months. In part, that's due to her $20 million salary as a judge on Idol, which heads to its season finale showdown on Wednesday.
Like fellow American Idol judge Steven Tyler, Lopez displays a surprising, previously unseen side of her personality on the show, morphing from a glamorous hiphop diva into an earnest, supportive mentor. Two seasons on Idol, coupled with a painful split with ex-husband Marc Anthony, may have humanized J-Lo and attracted the interest of a new generation of fans. Her CD Love?, released last May, reached No. 5 on the Billboard 200, and Lopez went on to score lucrative endorsement deals with L'Oreal and Gillette. She's also become a brand, marketing a line of affordable clothing for Kohl's and an eponymous fragrance line. With 6.6 million followers on Twitter and 12 million fans on Facebook, she's the envy of a lot of younger stars as a social media force.
Incidentally, J-Lo tweeted last night in response to reports that she is leaving the show: "There is no truth to reports that say I am definitely leaving Idol. All I said was I haven't decided what I am doing next year."
Other Forty- and Fifty-Something Celebs on Forbes' List: The No. 2 spot goes to talk-show host turned multimedia entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey, 58, who's been having a rough time with her new cable TV network, yet still managed to rake in $165 million over the past year, making her the highest earner on the list. Forty-nine-year-old Tom Cruise (No.9) may have the most impressive comeback on the list: He rebounded from his 2005 couch-jumping incident and other mishaps to score a huge hit with Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol, which earned $700 million worldwide. Former American Idol judge Simon Cowell, 52, has been struggling to duplicate his success with The X Factor, but he had more success as a record producer in his native England; he earned $90 million over the past year. Coming in at 20 is actor-director-producer Tyler Perry, 42, who's created an enduring franchise with his low-budget movie comedies and a string of successful TV shows. The latter includes the current TBS hit For Better or Worse, the top-rated sitcom on basic cable and the most popular show on TV among African-American viewers.
RIP, Donna Summer: Other pop culture news this week was a bit sadder. Donna Summer, the queen of the mid-1970s disco craze, with hits such as "Love to Love You, Baby," "Hot Stuff" and "Last Dance," died of cancer at 63. Los Angeles Times critic Randall Roberts observes that Summer and producer Giorgio Moroder created a formula that still rules the pop charts four decades later -- an explicitly sexy chanteuse, cooing music calculatingly redesigned in the studio to be played at extended length at high volume on dance floors. After a couple of decades away from the music business, Summer resurfaced in 2008 with a CD, Crayons, and performed that year as a guest star on American Idol.
Midlifers Are Bullish About Facebook Shares: Facebook, the social network with 900 million users around the world, was created by a bunch of guys under 35, who stand to make a lot of money as the company launches its initial public stock offering today. But middle-aged people are nearly as bullish on Facebook's financial prospects. According to a new Associated Press-CNBC poll, 55 percent of people between 44 and 65 think that Facebook shares are a good investment. That's nearly as much as the 59 percent of adults under 35 who have a positive view of Facebook's prospects. Only 39 percent of those over 65, in contrast, give the stock a "buy" rating. Slightly more than half of all Americans -- 56 percent -- have joined the social network.
Bono's Really Bullish on Facebook IPO: MTV reports that Bono, the frontman for Irish supergroup U2, stands to become the richest musician on the planet if Facebook's IPO performs as predicted. The 52-year-old singer privately purchased a 2.3 percent stake in the social network in 2009 for $90 million. On opening day, however, Facebook stock had its ups and downs, as The New York Times and Wall Street Journal explain.
Majority of Middle-Aged Americans Favor Legal Status for Same-Sex Relationships: There's been a lot of jaw-flapping on cable news channels about the political significance of President Obama's announcement that he now supports gay marriage. But a new Fox News poll shows that more than 70 percent of middle-aged Americans seem to be headed in the same direction. Among people ages 35 to 54, 32 percent now believe gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry legally, while 34 percent favor legally recognizing same-sex partnerships that are similar to marriage but go by a different name. Only 28 percent are opposed to legal recognition for same-sex couples. Some 63 percent believe that 20 years from now, most or all states will legally recognize gay marriages.
Coffee Drinkers Live Longer: Okay, so we finally can put to rest the notion that drinking coffee is somehow bad for your health. The Associated Press reports that a new study of 400,000 people -- the largest ever done on coffee and health -- finds that those who enjoy the bitter brew actually are slightly more likely to live longer. It doesn't matter whether you drink decaf or regular, either. "There may actually be a modest benefit of coffee drinking," lead researcher Neal Freedman of the National Cancer Institute explains.
Midlife Reinvention Story of the Week: Of all those Ivy League over-achievers who graduated from Columbia University this past Sunday, the most impressive academic accomplishment belongs to Gac Filipaj, 52. An ethnic Albanian refugee who was forced to flee the civil war in the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, Filipaj has been working for the past 20 years as a janitor at Columbia. With the help of a tuition-waiver program, in 2000 Filipaj also became a Columbia student, taking classes in the morning before his custodial shift and then studying late into the night. "I had some difficult moments," he tells the New York Daily News. "Some days, I was so tired." But he stuck with it, and after more than a decade of hard work, he earned a bachelor's degree in classics, and graduated with honors. Filipaj plans to keep his job while he earns a master's degree in Roman philosophy."I think I'm going to stay at Columbia. If I can get a job better than cleaning, good. If not, there is nothing shameful about that work." Filipaj says he hopes that his achievement will inspire others to think about getting an education.
Last Word: "I'm a baby boomer and a mom, and we invented technology." -- AARP tech blogger Suzie Mitchell, 57, in a recent post