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Beauty’s Box-Office Bonanza

The consumer products industry is hitching its wagon to the stars — and in no category is this more evident than in beauty. <BR><BR>While actresses and models have long starred in TV and print campaigns touting the latest makeup or scent, the...

The consumer products industry is hitching its wagon to the stars — and in no category is this more evident than in beauty.

While actresses and models have long starred in TV and print campaigns touting the latest makeup or scent, the roster of faces to have joined the fray lately rivals an Academy Awards ceremony. After A-lister Nicole Kidman began appearing as the face of Chanel No.5, her contemporaries obviously decided to join her, with deals ranging from straight representation to co-creator gigs.

The do-it-yourself flood in the prestige beauty market began this past spring, as Beyoncé Knowles and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs each signed scent deals with the Estée Lauder Cos., Britney Spears made a deal to do fragrance, color and skin care with Elizabeth Arden and Paris Hilton signed on for a fragrance project with Parlux. The trend continued throughout the year, with Donald Trump’s scent deal with the Estée Lauder Cos., Kimora Lee Simmons’ with Coty, Alan Cumming’s with Christopher Brosius’ new indie perfume firm and Michelle Branch’s limited-edition cosmetics deal with Lauder’s BeautyBank division. Models Niki Taylor and Cindy Crawford are also in the process of producing beauty lines. In mass, Iman inked a multiyear licensing and distribution deal with Procter & Gamble in October, giving it an entrée into the ethnic market and setting the stage for a showdown with archrival L’Oréal.

And that’s just the creators. Spokeswoman gigs, particularly in prestige, have flowed in at an even greater rate — Charlize Theron agreed in August to be the face of Dior’s J’adore; Scarlett Johansson in February became the face of Calvin Klein’s Eternity Moment; Kim Cattrall in August teamed with Liz Claiborne Cosmetics’ Spark Seduction, and Ashley Judd made a pact in June to front American Beauty, a new BeautyBank/Kohl’s brand.

They join stars filling the prestige world’s galaxy, including Jennifer Lopez for Coty’s Lancaster division, who has been widely credited with reviving the celebrity fragrance genre; Liv Tyler, the face of Givenchy’s Very Irresistible Givenchy and the house’s new makeup line; Catherine Zeta-Jones, the spokeswoman for Elizabeth Arden’s eponymous products — and beauty’s elder stateswoman, Elizabeth Taylor, who has created fragrances under her name with Elizabeth Arden since the Eighties.

Why now, though? Reasons range from the strategy being a way to lift the prestige fragrance category from the doldrums to the public’s increasing appetite for all things celebrity-related — not to mention the stars’ increasing willingness to be wooed. While once the top stars would only tout products overseas — Madonna plugging Max Factor in Europe in the Nineties, for instance — they seem to have collectively decided that the deals don’t tarnish their standing with fans Stateside.

As Pamela Baxter, president and ceo of the Perfumes and Cosmetics Group of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton in the U.S., said in August as her brand signed Theron, “Celebrities, to younger consumers, are role models — and if you find one that fits your brand, it’s an automatic communicator of the lifestyle. But you have to be careful when you make that match, because today’s consumer is very marketing- and media-savvy.”

While time will tell if the stars have long-term wattage at retail, a number of beauty companies don’t appear to care. For instance, NPD BeautyTrends numbers show that one of the most successful celeb scents in history — Jennifer Lopez’s first scent, Glow by JLo — hit global sales of $100 million; her second, Still Jennifer Lopez, didn’t reach that, nor is her upcoming third, Miami Glow, expected to. But executives at fragrance licensee Lancaster have said they’re with J.Lo for the long haul.

Another industry observer perhaps summed up the celebrity scent trend best: “It’s quick money, and even if it isn’t for the long term, at least there’s the short term.”