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Queen Latifah Rejoins CoverGirl, as Owner Coty Rounds Corner in Turnaround

"Reactivating memories, reactivating this love factor, is one of the key elements of success."

Queen Latifah is a CoverGirl, again. 

Latifah is officially rejoining CoverGirl, with plans “to bring inclusivity to the forefront every step of the way, from product creation to ad development to product dissemination,” she said in a statement. 

In 2006, Latifah joined CoverGirl for more than a decade as the face of the Queen Collection, the brand’s foray into deeper skin tones, as well as Clean Foundation and Outlast Lipcolor. 

Latifah rejoins CoverGirl as its owner, Coty Inc., pivots to growth mode, said chief executive officer Sue Nabi in an interview with WWD. 

Nabi describes CoverGirl as “the most beloved makeup brand in America.”

“The emotional side and connection with American consumers is super, super strong. And therefore reactivating memories, reactivating this love factor, is one of the key elements of success,” Nabi said. 

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Previously, CoverGirl brought back another former spokesmodel — Nikki Taylor — as the face for the brand’s Simply Ageless line. Now that segment is “gaining market share consistently,” Nabi said. 

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“[Queen Latifah is] going to represent products such as TruBlend, our line that’s going to demonstrate our ability to be one of the most inclusive brands in the U.S. in terms of shades,” Nabi said. TruBlend has more than 50 shades of foundation. 

“She’s been an icon, and my gut feeling and the gut feeling of Stefano [Curti, Coty’s chief brands officer] and the teams in the U.S. is that Queen Latifah is going to bring to the brand all these generations of consumers who have been in love with the brand in the past,” Nabi said. 

The CEO said bringing back Latifah and Taylor is also meant to send a message about age inclusivity: “You do exist after 40 years old,” Nabi said.

CoverGirl’s turnaround has been years in the making, but it wasn’t until after Nabi joined Coty in 2020 that the brand’s direction solidified. Now CoverGirl is gaining steam again. 

The brand is situated in Coty’s Consumer Division, which for the quarter ended March 31 posted 8 percent year-over-year growth, to about $460 million. 

Nabi said that segment is now out of turnaround mode and in growth mode. 

All the mass makeup brand’s in Coty’s portfolio have undergone a CoverGirl-style makeover, including Rimmel, Max Factor and Bourjois — but phase two will bring the brands into “niche, cool beauty,” Nabi said. 

“The recipe of CoverGirl applied to Rimmel, Max Factor and Bourgois is working,” Nabi said. Sally Hansen also remains strong. “What we are going to focus on today is to grow these brands to levels that they deserve, in the U.S. or Europe or elsewhere,” she said. 

Coty’s Luxury Division posted $726.4 million in sales for the most recent quarter, up 21 percent year-over-year. Total company sales were nearly $1.2 billion in the quarter, with net income of $50.3 million.

Both of the company’s divisions have been propelled by media spend, Nabi noted, which is now available to Coty because the company’s leverage is down to 4.7 times. “We are able to keep high levels of media investment behind our brands,” she said. “Thirty percent last quarter, 27 percent this quarter, probably in the same area for the upcoming quarter, which is super important to continue to fuel the huge momentum we are seeing on both divisions.” 

In luxury, Coty has seen continued success with Gucci, Burberry and Chloé fragrances, Nabi noted. 

“We were mainly a male successful prestige company and we are now adding, thanks to Gucci Floral Gorgeous Gardenia, a strong muscle in this area,” Nabi said, speaking about Coty’s efforts in the feminine fragrance market.

The fashion repositioning of Hugo Boss is having a “very strong” impact on the fragrance brand, which has been bringing in Gen Z shoppers, Nabi said. Hugo Boss is “back to growth in a very strong way,” she said.

Coty Luxury’s increased distribution in travel retail is also positively impacting the business, Nabi said. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Coty had sold fragrances in travel retail, but now sells fragrance, makeup and skin care.

“Travel retail is clearly strongly back, specifically travel retail in Europe,” Nabi said. 

And while mass market fragrances have been dormant for a while, Coty is starting to see success with less expensive brands, especially Nautica, Nabi said. 

“The momentum and the love that we are seeing among consumers for the fragrances category will be across all retail,” Nabi said. “When you listen to what people are talking about on social media, etc., they are not only looking for the best selling…if they don’t have the means to shop in prestige, they will look for something that will give them more of less equivalent quality…but at an affordable price point,” Nabi said.

“This mass market fragrance category…everything is driven by the love for scents rather than the love for brands. I think there is something there. People are willing, specifically Gen Z, are willing to explore,” Nabi said. 

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