The top female personalities in television ranked by their “StarPower” scores.
Though summertime isn’t the “in” season for TV, there are still plenty of female personalities attracting viewers. The favorites provided by Genius Insight’s latest StarPower USA report include hosts of talk shows and game shows, as well as news reporters — but no actresses. The majority of these leading ladies have some serious longevity in the biz. But the burning question on everyone’s mind: Where in the world is Katie Couric? The former “Today” show host didn’t make the Top 12 — she appears at number 16. “She’s quite popular, but not so much with the teenage viewing audience,” noted Marcus Young, director of marketing for Genius Insight. And there’s Rosie O’Donnell, at number 15. Her new gig, “The View,” is targeted at women 34 to 49. “This demographic group has remained steadfast,” said Young.
1. OPRAH WINFREY
StarPower score: 62.39
Oprah rules. Literally. Her name spans television, film, theater, magazines, books — even charities. “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” which made its debut in 1985 (and entered national syndication in 1986), catapulted Winfrey to the top of the talk-show circuit, which, at the time, was quite competitive (think Phil, Geraldo, Sally Jesse and countless others since gone by the wayside). The daytime show has remained the epicenter of her brand (watched by an estimated 49 million viewers a week in the U.S.), and she’s branched out with her book club and with “O” magazine, which was launched in April 2000.
2. ELLEN DEGENERES
StarPower score: 60.65
DeGeneres has earned nine Daytime Emmys since the debut of her talk show, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” in 2003. Prior to her comeback, DeGeneres easily could have faded into obscurity following the controversial cancellation of her sitcom, “Ellen,” and a public breakup from then-girlfriend Anne Heche. Yet she stayed in the spotlight, churning out books and performing countless one-woman shows on stages across the U.S. DeGeneres is dating Portia de Rossi, who starred in “Arrested Development” and “Ally McBeal.”
3. PAULA ABDUL
StarPower score: 56.85
Does anyone even remember Abdul’s days as a pop singer/choreographer, when she generated tunes such as “Coldhearted Snake” and “Straight Up”? After disappearing off the radar for several years, she signed on as a judge with “American Idol,” the highest-rated reality show on TV. (May’s two-hour, fifth-season season finale drew 36.4 million viewers.) Despite tabloid reports that question her fashion style, published rumors of public intoxication and allegations of an affair with a former “Idol” contestant, she continues to gain fans everywhere.
4. JUDGE JUDY Sheindlin
StarPower score: 53.77
It’s hard to believe Judge Judy Sheindlin’s show, “Judge Judy,” has been on the air for a decade, but it’s a testament to the fan base she’s acquired. The show itself — whose tag line is, “The people are real. The cases are real. The rulings are final.” — focuses on real-life cases in small-claims courts across the U.S. Sheindlin’s brassy personality and no-nonsense decisions have prompted parodies on “Saturday Night Live,” “The Amanda Show” and even “The Simpsons.” Last January, it was announced that “Judge Judy,” which also airs in the U.K. and the Middle East, has been renewed through at least the 2009-2010 season.
5. VANNA WHITE
StarPower score: 53.50
For 24 years, the “Wheel of Fortune” letter-turner (now letter-toucher) has been a steady gig for Vanna White. Prior to “Wheel,” White attended the Atlanta School of Fashion Design and became a top model. But she soon settled into her job in L.A. with “Wheel.” According to the show’s Web site: “Surveys have shown that her presence has contributed greatly to Wheel of Fortune’s phenomenal ratings. White launched her official “Vanna Style” pages on the show’s site, which features fashions she has worn on the show from designers such as Luca Luca, Versace and Escada.
6. DIANE SAWYER
StarPower score: 53.10
Sawyer has interviewed everyone from Tonya Harding to Boris Yeltsin, from Michael Jackson to President Bush. Prior to ABC and “Good Morning America,” Sawyer spent nine years with the “CBS Morning News” and “60 Minutes.” She joined ABC on “Primetime Live” in 1989, then took on the additional role as Charlie Gibson’s co-anchor on “GMA” in 1999. She’s been married to director Mike Nichols (of “Closer” and “Working Girl” fame) since 1988.
7. KELLY RIPA
StarPower score: 52.86
Ripa is one of the perkiest faces on TV today — and one of the most familiar. Her career has skyrocketed in the past few years, thanks to her regular morning gig on “Live With Regis and Kelly.” But there have been hiccups: Her Friday night sitcom, “Hope and Faith,” which costarred Faith Ford, recently was canceled by ABC. Ripa will keep busy, however. In addition to her TV time, she is raising three youngsters, Michael, Lola and Joaquin, with husband Mark Consuelos, whom she met on the set of “All My Children” in 1995.
8. TYRA BANKS
StarPower score: 51.96
The ultraglam talk show host has donned a fat suit and gone undercover as a stripper on her recently renewed show, “Tyra.” But she’s also a businesswoman, producing “America’s Next Top Model,” the UPN reality show that features the transformation of everyday young women into potential models. Banks, a former supermodel, has appeared in ad campaigns for Victoria’s Secret and Cover Girl.
9. BARBARA WALTERS
StarPower score: 51.91
Walters, creator of “The View,” has been all over television lately. She recently ejected an angry Star Jones (who isn’t ranked here) from her hit show after Jones made a surprise announcement that she would no longer be cohosting in the fall. Jones should have heeded Walter’s motto: “Don’t complain, don’t whine, don’t blame anybody. Just work as hard as you can.” Her amiable yet incisive interviewing style has garnered her a number of exclusives, such as first co-host of the “Today” show and co-host of the highest-rated news broadcast on ABC’s “20/20,” when she interviewed Monica Lewinsky.
10. CONNIE CHUNG
StarPower score: 50.35
After warbling an off-key, satirical version of “Thanks for the Memories” during her final show on MSNBC with husband Maury Povich, Chung has become an Internet legend. Chung has had some ups and downs in her long broadcasting career — but she’s always resurfaced. She was booted from her co-anchor spot with Dan Rather at CBS in 1995, and her show “Connie Chung Tonight” was canceled by CNN in 2003. Chung has been quoted as saying, “I don’t know when network executives will get out of the Dark Ages.”
11. HEIDI KLUM
StarPower score: 49.97
Klum’s successful reality show, “Project Runway,” will begin its third season on July 12 on the Bravo network. Besides redesigning the famously clunky Birkenstock shoes in gold and hot pinks, the German supermodel has created clothing, jewelry and perfume lines. And what other blonde goddess would be a villain in the 2004 James Bond video game “Everything or Nothing?” Klum is expecting a second baby with soul-singer husband Seal.
12. RICKI LAKE
StarPower score: 48.88
After the plug was pulled on her talk show in May 2004, Lake has resurfaced as host of the celeb-studded CBS series “Gameshow Marathon.” During her hiatus, Lake spent time raising sons Milo and Owen in their Brentwood, Calif., home. She’s also hooked up with beau Apollo Yiamouyiannis, a personal trainer. The effervescent Lake began her career as an overweight actress who appeared in John Waters’ kitschy movie “Hairspray” and as Holly the Donut Dolly in TV’s “China Beach.”
Source: genius insight, a New York marketing and research firm; The Starpower USA Report covers about 2,000 celebrities, RATED BY 3,132 RESPONDENTS, AGES 13 to 49, IN THE U.S. BETWEEN JAN. 1 and JUNE 1; THE “STARPOWER SCORE” USED TO DETERMINE THE FAVORITES IS A STRAIGHT MULTIPLICATION OF ratings: HOW well-KNOWN A CELEBRITY IS TIMES HOW LIKED she is; GENIUS INSIGHT CONSIDERS RANKINGS 5-7, 8-9 AND 10-11 TO BE STATISTICALLY TIED