How Kathy Ireland Built Her Net Worth And What She’s Recently Been Up To

If you are one of those who subscribe to the dumb blonde or beautiful-but-brainless stereotypes, then Kathy Ireland is here to prove you wrong. The American powerhouse first rose to fame as a supermodel in the 80s and early 90s. She subsequently diverted her interest to the business world in the late 90s. Ireland now sits atop a thriving business empire that has its tentacles in several lucrative sectors.

She has been able to build up a formidable legacy and her entrepreneurial strides have been profiled by several magazines including Forbes which dubbed her supermodel, super mogul! Ireland is one of the wealthiest self-made persons in the world and her fortune did not come about by accident. It can be traced back to a childhood marked by several enterprising pursuits.

Laying The Foundation In Her Childhood

Born on the 20th of March, 1963, to American parents John Ireland and Barbara Ireland, Kathy was raised in Santa Barbara, California. While growing up, she did several odd jobs including selling painted rocks and designing handbags and jewelry. She also worked as a newspaper delivery girl not knowing that this would serve as the foundation of her later exploits.

While attending the San Marcos High School in Santa Barbara, the naturally-exquisite Kathy Ireland was scouted by a renowned modeling agency, Elite Modelling Agency. She signed up with them at the age of 16 and subsequently embarked on a modeling career that spanned much of the 80s and 90s. During this period, Kathy appeared on the cover of several magazines including Cosmopolitan and Mademoiselle.

Kathy Ireland
Kate’s iconic Sports Illustrated cover: Image Source

She also featured in Sports Illustrated Magazine for 13 consecutive issues. One of those issues was the 1989 edition which she covered in an iconic yellow bikini. That particular issue sold numerous copies and is now the all-time bestselling issue of the magazine. It has also been voted the greatest Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover of all times by the publishers themselves.

Whilst making waves as a professional model, the multitalented Kathy Ireland also tried her hands at acting with much success. She appeared in several movies and TV series including The Incredible Hulk, Duckman, Suddenly Susan, Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, The Fantastic Four, Melrose Place, Boy Meets World, Down The Shore, Tales from the Crypt, Alien From L.A., Journey to the Centre of the World, Worth Winning, Necessary Roughness, Beauty And The Bandit, Once Upon A Christmas, Charles In Charge, and Deadly Games.

Here’s How She Established A Billion-Dollar Empire

Kathy Ireland now has a fortune running into hundreds of millions of dollars and a tiny portion of this comes from her earnings as a model and actress. The lion share of her net worth, however, is from her remarkable strides as a businesswoman. Ireland’s transformation from model to businesswoman started in the year 1993 when retailer, Kmart, contacted her to model a pair of socks for them. The perceptive lady, who had grown wary of modeling at that point, instead suggested to the company that they should sell socks branded with her name.

Kmart realized that such branding would lead to increased sales and they bought the idea. Kathy, on her path, immediately incorporated a company known as Kathy ireland WorldWide (KiWW) to handle this licensing deal. This marked the humble beginnings of KiWW and Ireland has never looked back since then. She has grown her company into a premium licensing, marketing, and designing firm worth billions of dollars.

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KiWW now lends Kathy’s name, taste, and marketing prowess to about 17,000 products including handbags, sunglasses, lingerie, luggage, men’s suits, women and children sleepwear, flooring, denim, furniture, lighting, rugs, pet accessories, acne treatments, diamond jewelry, wall art, and STI home test kits. Estimates show that Ireland now sells more licensed goods than other well-known licensors such as Martha Stewart and Ralph Lauren. Products bearing her name have recorded sales worth nearly $3 billion since she went into business.

How Much is Kathy Ireland Worth And How Does She Spend Her Money?

Through it all, Kathy Ireland has been smiling to the bank and now has a net worth of $500 million. She utilizes the same to live a good life with her family (husband – Dr. Gregory Olsen and three children Erik, Lily, and Chloe). She has also put her money where her mouth is by supporting the several causes close to her heart. Ireland donated $100,000 to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation in 2017. She then upped the tempo in March 2020 by donating $1 million to the same organization.

Other organizations that have benefited from Ireland’s financial support are the Alliance for Christian Education, Safe Surfing (which trains parents and children on how to avoid predators on the internet), and Help1Up (furniture bank). Ireland’s biggest single donation, however, remains a $10 million gift to the Toys for Tot drive in 2013. This is an annual drive that collects toys and Christmas gifts and then distributes the same to at-risk youths.

Consolidating Her Legacy

Since her emergence as a formidable businesswoman in the 90s, Kathy Ireland has never looked back. She has continued to diversify her business empire with good results. KiWW ventured into shipping container business in July 2018. The venture is a joint partnership with SG blocks and will see the company manufacture and sell containers used for shipping goods.

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Ireland is also spreading her influence to the dotcom arena. In November 2019, she became the chief editor and brand strategist for an innovative tech start-up, Padlist. Padlist is an online real estate database that helps landlords and renters alike to find and list apartments, condos, and houses for rent throughout the United States.

Kathy Ireland
Ireland and Van Dyken unveiling their new book: Image Source

Away from the business world, Ireland has also continued her philanthropic and advocacy efforts and this has fetched her several recognitions. In November 2019, she was appointed the international youth chair of the National Paediatric Cancer Foundation. She would compliment the foundation’s efforts in critical cancer research in the quest for fast-tracking a cure.

Whilst doing all this, the indomitable Kathy has also found time to pen a book. She launched her first novel titled, Fashion Jungle, in May 2020. Fashion Jungle tells the captivating story of four women caught up in the cutthroat world of fashion. The exciting and honest text explores several ills in the industry, including sex trafficking, recreational drug/alcohol use, anorexia, and is a joint effort with NYT bestselling author Racheal Van Dyken.


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