Rachael Ray

Rachael Ray is the relentlessly perky TV personality with her own cloying lexicon who turned a show on the Food Network into a sprawling media empire.

Ray's food career took off when she became a buyer at a gourmet market called Cowan & Lobel. She started teaching a series of cooking classes at the store in order to move more product off the shelves; fatefully, one of those classes was "30-Minute Meals," which soon landed her a weekly gig on the local news and, eventually, a cookbook. Ray's big break came in 2001, when she was invited to appear on the Today Show at the last minute. The brief segment made such an impression on executives at the Food Network that they called her the next day to set up a meeting. Ray's first show debuted on the network in 2002.

The small-town girl is busy assembling an empire and she ain't stopping for nobody. Ray now has over a dozen books, a magazine, and in 2006, she moved from cable to the more lucrative world of syndication when her daytime talk show, Rachael Ray, debuted with Oprah Winfrey as co-producer. And if all that wasn't enough, she's also been busy capitalizing on her trustworthy, girl-next-door image as the spokesperson for a long list of brands, including her own line.

Rachael Rayisms, little words or phrases she's invented on her show, are either endearing or revolting, depending on your take. They include "yum-o," (which even became the name of her charity) "stoup" (a cross between a stew and soup), "sammies" (sandwiches), and "EVOO" (extra-virgin olive oil), which actually made it into the Oxford dictionary in 2007. Naturally, Ray's detractors are legion. [Image via Getty]