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A Royal Affair: Queen Latifah Unveils Fragrance

Queen Latifah is getting ready to brave the turbulent waters of the celebrity fragrance market.

Queen Latifah is getting ready to brave the turbulent waters of the celebrity fragrance market.

The award-winning rapper, actress and singer has teamed up with Parlux Fragrances Inc. to launch for fall Queen by Queen Latifah, a signature women’s scent, and the latest addition to the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based company’s growing stable of celebrity scents.

“I love fragrance and the idea of having one of my own, that was tailor-made for me and my own sensibilities, I thought it was a fantastic idea — ego aside,” joked the songstress in a phone interview from Los Angeles, where she was trying to pick photos for the cover of her new album, “Persona.”

While Latifah is no stranger to the beauty world — she’s served as a Cover Girl for Procter & Gamble Beauty since 2001 — creating a fragrance proved a new challenge for Hip-Hop’s First Lady, as she is commonly called.

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“Initially a lot of the ingredients smelled nice, but they weren’t how I wanted to be represented for my first fragrance — they were a little too mature or a little too sweet,” said Latifah, who smelled about 50 different scents before coming up with the final formulation, which she described as “warm and sexy.”

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Developed in partnership with Steven DeMercado of Fragrance Resources, Queen opens with Italian bergamot, Mediterranean mandarin and golden tequila. The heart is of Baie rose, jasmine noir, cognac and Moroccan coriander. Base notes are of Indonesian patchouli, sandalwood, vanilla and Tonka Absolutes as well as Egyptian incense and musk.

The Queen by Queen Latifah collection will include eau de parfum spray in two sizes, 3.4 oz. for $59 and 1.7 oz. for $49. A body lotion will be available for $35 as well as a body butter for $40. The ruby-red bottle, “the color of sexiness and love,” according to Latifah, boasts a square shape “to represent the strength of a woman,” while a raised heart on the bottle’s facade is meant to represent beauty from within.

Of her first fragrance, Latifah noted: “Queen doesn’t smell like anything else. That’s what you’re setting out to do — to create something unique. People tend to want to borrow from what’s popular, and me, I try to be a pioneer, a trendsetter.”

That unquestionable star appeal, which has helped Latifah go from hip-hop star to Academy Award-nominated actress to film producer, made her equally attractive to fragrance licensee Parlux, which recently inked deals with Rihanna, Kanye West and Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, and whose portfolio includes celebrity scents from Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson.

“She’s an unbelievable talent, and there’s really no putting her in a box,” said Neil Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Parlux Fragrances Inc. “She’s a huge celebrity in that she moves from one area to another with great comfort. She’s different from the rest in that she’s middle-aged. She’s both urban and not urban. She really crosses lines.”

And that cross appeal is expected to help Queen by Queen Latifah generate $25 million in first-year retail sales, according to estimates by industry sources.

Despite the recession — and an increasingly overcrowded celebrity fragrance market, in which new scents seem to come and go with blinding speed — Katz remained optimistic about the Queen launch. “Our support of the launch of Queen Latifah hasn’t changed,” he explained. “It’s a major launch and we are a company that quickly adapts and changes to where we spend our money, and we spend it where the most opportunity is — but we’ve always had that approach.”

Due out in about 2,000 total doors including Macy’s, Dillard’s and Bon-Ton in August, Queen is expected to find its soft spot with women 25 to 45.

Advertising, shot in February by Timothy White in Miami, features a regal-looking Queen Latifah standing in a grand parlor room, donning a red dress by Ramona Keveza. The print campaign will bow in September books and while there is no television spot, Katz said Latifah is scheduled to appear in Macy’s holiday commercial. While Latifah and Katz declined to discuss advertising budget, industry sources estimated it at $20 million.

Queen Latifah, who helped create and is the spokesmodel for Cover Girl’s Queen Collection of makeup for women of color, said she hasn’t ruled out her creating own beauty empire one day. “It could happen. We’ve definitely been talking about how to increase brands specifically created by me that would encompass makeup and beauty products,” she said.

For now, Latifah is looking forward to a busy summer. In July, she’ll be in New York to begin shooting a film called “Just Wright,” starring Paula Patton and rapper Common. The multitalented artist will also begin promoting her new album, also due out in July, before heading out on tour in late August or early September.