Cameo shows even celebrity women value their labor less than men

Featured personalities making cameos.
Featured personalities making cameos.
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On Cameo, if not in life, everyone has a price. For women celebrities on the site, however, that price is far lower compared to men.

That’s the depressing truth about the platform that allows celebrities of varying degrees of fame to charge fans for short videos with personalized birthday wishes, anniversary messages, and pep talks. Since it launched in 2017, Cameo has attracted more than 30,000 personalities, including actors, comedians, musicians, and “creators,” a.k.a. stars of social media sites like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.

But the site that has become a source of easy money for personal brands seems to have a pricing problem. Quartz recently noticed that men appeared to be charging more per cameo. To be sure, we ran the numbers.

We discovered that among actors and musicians, the gender pay gap was striking. Looking at the top 20 highest-priced actors who had more than 10 reviews (proving that they are active on the site), we found that women were charging an average of $326, while men were charging an average of $626 per cameo.

Asking $1,500 per piece, Kevin O’Leary of Shark Tank fame charged the most for his messages among all actors. Chaka Khan, who is admittedly better known as a musician, charged the steepest price among women: a mere $650. Our analysis relied on Cameo’s categorization of performers on the platform.

The data told a similar story when we applied the same parameters to musicians. The average cameo by a top-20 man cost $590, whereas a shoutout from a top-20 woman averaged $362. The most a woman requested per video was $650 (Chaka Khan again), while the most expensive cameo from a male musician would set you back $999, as of when we collected the data on May 27.

How does Cameo work?

Although Cameo allows performers to set their own prices, the company provides fee guidance based on the site’s history, its founder explained to Marker. Overall, the average Cameo video costs about $50, although the best-known stars tend to charge far more than that. Caitlyn Jenner has asked for $2,500 a pop; her cut went to charity after Cameo’s 25% fee. Snoop Dogg’s personalized messages were most recently priced at $1,200.

For our analysis, we first looked at the site’s actor, musician, comedian, athlete, and political commentator categories and zeroed in on the talent who charge $200 or more, which left us with more than 1,000 personalities. Because gender is not included in the platform’s profiles, we assigned a gender to each person based on their public personas and official websites. We excluded animated characters, animals, and groups of people with multiple genders and immediately found that men dominated the high-price bracket.

Our analysis didn’t look at whether men or women adjusted their pay according to how many requests they received from Cameo customers

Why pay gaps persist in the workplace

Across US industries, the gender pay gap has remained fairly constant for 15 years, according to Pew Research. Its most recent report found that women earn 84 cents for every dollar a man makes. Studies have shown that the gap is even wider for women of color. The gender pay gap is remarkably consistent and even more pronounced when you measure global data.

Several factors contribute to these salary inequities. For example, whether because of socialization, discrimination, or both, women tend to choose occupations that pay less. High-paying jobs in science and tech are still male-dominated. Women who become mothers will also pay a motherhood penalty.

Some studies have also found that women ask for pay raises less often than men. However, a recent paper suggests men and women ask for increases at about the same rate, but women simply aren’t granted them as often as men. Non-famous women have also been known to ask for less when negotiating their starting salaries, if they negotiate at all.

Such factors do not directly impact Cameo pricing, of course. (The company says that men and women are given the same price guidance.) However, it’s easy to imagine that women are influenced by the pay disparity that’s been rampant in the wider world, including within entertainment and professional sports.