By  on September 16, 2005

NEW YORK — The Queen has spoken — and she wants quality, affordable cosmetics for women of all colors.

Queen Latifah held court at BB King's on Manhattan's 42nd Street Tuesday evening to announce the Cover Girl Queen Collection, a color cosmetics line targeted to women of color.

Latifah has been a spokeswoman for Cover Girl since 2001 and in that time she's heard women of all ethnic backgrounds beg for more beauty choices. "When I first started in the business, there was one color to pick from [for African-American women] and that sometimes turned you green and ashy," recalled Latifah, who is known not only as a rapper, but as an actress, producer and pitchwoman for various products. "I'm out with the people and they want what's on the cutting edge, but what's affordable and accessible."

Joking that she wanted to get on the endorsement bandwagon like many celebrities, Latifah turned serious about her relationship with Procter & Gamble's Cover Girl. "You don't need me to promote the newest electronic product. It was a no-brainer to partner with Cover Girl," added Latifah, who serves as a spokeswoman for Pizza Hut and Curvation intimate apparel. She said her relationship with Cover Girl is a "long-term deal that will expand."

Marc Pritchard, president, global retail hair color, cosmetics and personal care for P&G, pointed out that Cover Girl was the first beauty company to feature an African-American model, Lana Ogilvie, and that the company has worked in tandem with many notable black women over the years, including Brandy. P&G also has the license for Iman cosmetics fronted by the famed black model.

The Queen Collection includes foundation, lip color, lip gloss, lip pencil, eye shadow quads, mascara, eyeliner and nail color. Prices range from $3.49 to $6.49 — in line with general market Cover Girl products. Although there is a current rush to add celebrity fragrances, Cover Girl does not plan a Queen scent at this time, although a company spokeswoman didn't rule it out for the future.

The Cover Girl Queen Collection will launch in 18 cities in January 2006: Baltimore, Washington, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Detroit, Houston, Dallas, Miami, Los Angeles, New York, Memphis, San Francisco, Cleveland, St. Louis, Sacramento, Calif., Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. The line will also be available for purchase on the Cover Girl Web site this fall. Latifah said she hopes to make store appearances to support the line. Industry sources said the Queen collection could easily hit sales exceeding $10 million within the first two years.Retailers said Cover Girl executives used zip codes to determine which stores within a chain were suitable for the line. Pritchard, however, said the process is going much deeper. "We are working with many factors to determine the right stores and meeting with all our retail partners. We want to do this right — we think this is the best way to start," he told WWD.

Getting it right will be crucial for Cover Girl since many of its manufacturing competitors have tried with mixed success in marketing to women of color. The mass market has long struggled with finding the right formula for offering multicultural brands. Shoppers sometimes tune out brands that are just focused on black or Hispanic women, yet are also in need of special formulations traditional Caucasian labels lack. Revlon launched and subsequently eliminated two brands for black women — ColorStyle and Polished Ambers. Maybelline also failed with a line called Shades of You. Many manufacturers, including Cover Girl, claimed the conventional shade assortment was broad enough for women of all colors.

Currently, the main lines available in food, drug and mass market stores for women of color include Black Radiance, Black Opal, Posner, Milani, Tropez, Uptown Girl, Zuri and Prestige (which recently adopted a multicultural positioning). There are also few choices in department stores, leaving many women with darker skin tones to gravitate to lines with a wide array of shades such as MAC.

Pritchard believes the Queen products will bring new shoppers to Cover Girl's department. "This is incremental business and retailers have been willing to give us two more feet," he said. The products will be merchandised as part of the existing Cover Girl wall. Although packaging will not bear her image, Latifah will appear on in-store promotional materials and will star in a national print campaign specifically for the Queen Collection.

Retailers who have seen the line said they applaud Cover Girl's efforts and are especially excited about Queen Latifah's endorsement. "Celebrities certainly sell things right now and Queen Latifah has enormously loyal fans," said one major mass merchant. She cautioned that getting the merchandise into the right stores will be the major challenge.

***Walgreen Co. also recognizes the importance of offering products for women of color. The nation's largest drugstore by sales tapped Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeon Jan Adams to launch an exclusive skin care line for women with medium to dark skin tones. Called the Dr. Jan Adams Women of Color Total Skin Care System, the line includes a facial cleanser, microdermabrasion treatment, face and body SPF 30 moisturizer, skin lightener and night replenishing cream.

Adams is recognized as one of the world's leading experts on skin care for ethnic women. "People with darker complexions age differently from Caucasians and often experience hyperpigmentation, scarring and blotchiness if special care is not taken to use the appropriate products," he said.

Research shows that women of African, Latin, Asian, Arab and Mediterranean and Native American descent often have difficulty finding skin care products that address their specific needs. "Our customers are as diverse as the communities we serve," said Catherine Lindner, Walgreens divisional vice president and general merchandise manager for beauty and fashion. "With the addition of the Women of Color line, Walgreens offers customers a more tailored approach to their quest for flawless skin."

Walgreens already offers an exclusive cosmetics line, IsaDora, and joins other mass marketers such as CVS as they seek to sell upscale lines only found at their doors. CVS has an exclusive antiaging skin line backed by a dermatologist called Skin Effects, as well as its proprietary Lumene line. Rite Aid has a limited exclusive on Mod Spa, a collection of skin and bath items.

***

Several retailers remembered Bonne Bell's Jesse A. Bell Sr. as a major fixture in the Seventies and Eighties at chain drugstore meetings. "He attended most NACDS [National Association of Chain Drug Stores meetings] and was very tuned into the industry," said one buyer. Jeanette Solomon, a former K&B buyer for more than 30 years, added, "He was really someone who helped create many of the ideas that are still used today in cosmetics." Buyers who recall him said he had lively discussions about the mass market beauty business and often was seen browsing stores looking for ideas.Bell, 80, died on Sept. 4 in his hometown of Lakewood, Ohio, from complications of a heart condition. He took over as president of the family-owned business founded by his father in 1959 and oversaw the meteoric rise of the youth-oriented brand until his son assumed the role of chief executive officer in 1999. Recently, the company brought back an item made popular during his leadership — a jumbo Lip Smacker.

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