What does it take to be a pop culture phenomenon? It’s a hard honor to describe. Most who make an indelible mark have a certain ubiquity, a large fan base and a laundry list of celebrated achievements. They define an era. We chose workingmother.com’s Most Powerful Moms in Pop Culture with specific criteria. First, the women chosen each have pushed popular culture forward in some way. Some are so famous they are recognizable by their first names alone. Others are working behind the scenes to bring your favorite television shows or movies to the screen—whatever size that may be. Regardless of the level of their personal fame they have each made an impact. Each woman has at least one child in her household who is 18 years old or younger. Finally, we have tried to represent a variety of top working mothers—from authors, to entertainment tycoons to comedians.
Several of our Most Powerful Moms in Pop Culture are record breakers. Madonna has sold more than 300 million albums worldwide and is recognized as the world’s top-selling female recording artist of all time. Her impact on pop culture hardly needs to be explained—she is a chameleon who has survived for over three-decades in the media glare. Stephenie Meyer, the author of Twilight, has sold over 100 million books, and was the bestselling author of 2008 and 2009. Her fan base is so dedicated, those followers have garnered their own nickname, ‘Twi-hards."
Other moms on our list are working behind the scenes at the highest levels. Lauren Zalaznick, the Chairman of the Entertainment and Digital Networks and Integrated Media at NBC Universal is responsible for some of your favorite guilty pleasure TV shows—The Real Housewives and Top Chef among them, which air on the NBC’s Bravo. Her reign at the network has been so successful that many predict she will be the next head of NBC. Amy Pascal is Chairman of one of the most important movie studios in Hollywood, Sony, and is responsible for bringing Spiderman, Pride & Prejudice and The DaVinci Code (among countless other movies) to the big screen. Visits to the movie theater would likely be very different without Pascal’s guiding hand. Maria Jacquemetton, co-executive producer and writer on AMC network’s Mad Men, is to thank for bringing Don Draper and one of the most terrifying moms to ever grace the small screen, Betty, to life. The writing on Mad Men has sparked national debates on parenting and sexual harassment and is to thank for one of the most pitch perfect shows on television today.
While there are entertainment veterans on our list like Jennifer Lopez and Tina Fey, there are also women like Kris Jenner, who are redefining what it means to make it in entertainment today. Like pop-music moms before her, she has turned family into a business. She catapulted the Kardashian/Jenner brood to fame with the hit E! reality show Keeping Up With the Kardashians, and has built a family empire of best-selling books, products, endorsements deals and retail stores around the idea of access (her family for instance counts 13 million Twitter followers among them). In 2010 alone the family brought in $65 million according to the Hollywood Reporter.
While it’s questionable whether all these pop culture moms can be seen as true role models (do we all really love the Kardashian phemomenon?), their daily juggle, commitment to family and making a living do set a bar—both fascinating and exacting—for anyone contemplating life in the spotlight.