Susan Lucci is known by millions of television viewers as Erica Kane, the leading lady of ABC’s “All My Children” that she played for 41 years from 1969 to 2011 (and for which she finally won an Emmy in 1999 after 18 failed nominations).
As early as 1991, Lucci’s salary was reported to break the $1 million mark annually (keep in mind, this was before Jennifer Aniston broke the Guinness Book of World Records with her $1 million per episode salary for the tenth season of Friends in 2004).
Lucci’s net worth is now estimated at $45 million, helped in large part by a string of successful endorsement deals and product lines.
Lucci has had huge success on the Home Shopping Network (HSN), where she sells her beauty products, perfume, fitness equipment, and clothing and accessories — including a record appearance in 2005 in which she sold 60,000 pieces of lingerie in less than 20 hours. She also sells her products via infomercials and in Wal-Mart stores.
“The most important thing to realize is that over 40-plus years of being on All My Children Susan Lucci built a brand,” said Dan J. Kroll, founder of soapcentral.com, the leading online resource for soap opera news and information. “From day one she was the everywoman character, the one everyone could identify with.”
“There are women all over the world who want to know what she does and what her routine is, and how that can be attainable for them at a lower price point,” Kroll said.
And Lucci’s fans are fiercely loyal: when ABC announced plans to cancel “All My Children” last year after almost 11,000 episodes, many fans boycotted the network.
Despite being a renowned star for a dying genre (the current highest-rated soap opera, The Young and the Restless, now averages less than 5 million daily viewers), Lucci’s long tenure has kept her fans hooked. “Soaps might go away — but when you’ve had a run for 40+ years your audience doesn’t go away overnight,” said David Schwab, celebrity endorsement expert at Octagon Entertainment.
Kroll said that ABC’s decision to cancel All My Children last year was actually a blessing in disguise for Lucci, and that we can expect more risks and ventures — like her stint on Dancing With the Stars — from her in the future.
“Now that she’s broken out of that role, she has the opportunity to do things that she could never do while on the show, things that are fun for her fans to see and that have nothing to do with Erica Kane,” he said.
Lucci had a recent spot on Army Wives and is rumored to be in development talks with Lifetime. And according to Schwab, it doesn’t look like she’s slowing down anytime soon.
“Lucci is in a great position from a marketing perspective for the remainder of her professional career,” he said.
He put her in the same category as Jane Seymour, who was also on Dancing With the Stars and has a successful line for Kay Jewelers. However, unlike most other stars who have gone on Dancing With the Stars, Schwab said that Lucci didn’t need the show to fatten her wallet or raise her profile.
“Look at Brooke Burke, Joey Fatone, Jenny Garth,” he said. “They all did Dancing With the Stars to resurrect their careers, or for financial gain. Susan doesn’t need that.”
According to Schwab, Lucci’s future endorsement deals could include six-figure annual contracts for pharmaceutical work, life insurance commercials, or working with AARP-type advertisers. And perhaps the best part? “She can dictate how much she wants to work and when,” he said.
“Nothing Lucci has done has detracted from that ‘girl next door’ image,” Kroll said. “It’s like ‘McDonald’s,’ ‘Coca-Cola,’ ‘Susan Lucci’ – she’s an American brand, an American icon. You can argue whether or not she’s still as powerful as when All My Children was at its peak, but obviously she’s still relevant.”