OF FAME AND BEAUTY
FOR SOME IMAGE-CONSCIOUS CELEBRITIES, PUTTING ONE’S NAME ON A PERFUME BOTTLE IS ALMOST LIKE SEEING IT IN LIGHTS.
Byline: Chantal Tode
When actress Uma Thurman signed on as the new face of Lancome last year, it made WWD’s front page. It was a major coup, but certainly not a big surprise. Thurman, after all, is hardly the first celebrity to wind up on the cover for cozying up to the beauty industry.
Beauty manufacturers have always embraced celebrity associations, but those links got stronger in the Seventies when models and stars began making multimillion-dollar deals. And as it covered those deals, WWD sometimes found a side to celebrities not often reported elsewhere.
Lauren Hutton and Charles Revson were interviewed soon after Hutton signed a groundbreaking exclusive agreement in 1973 to appear in Ultima II advertising.
“You’re saying I’m not a perfect beauty, and that is the way I am,” Hutton told the paper. “I started modeling that way.” The model said her nose and eyes were less than balanced, and she refused to cap her teeth.
“Anyway,” she added, “perfect beauties have a pitfall because things are handed to them too early and too easily.”
Cary Grant had been a director at Faberge for seven years when he met with WWD columnist Samuel Feinberg in 1975. At the outset of a 2 1/2-hour interview, businessman Grant peered intently at Feinberg, explaining: “I wanted to see if your eyebrows show any white. They do. There’s nothing that ages a man more than white eyebrows.’ Faberge’s principals have assigned a chemist to investigate the possibilities of a permanent dye.”
“During his Faberge connection,” Feinberg wrote, “Grant has generally adhered to a personal policy of never visiting a store to the accompaniment of advanced publicity.”
“I don’t like to do it because it stops department business and it’s lost revenue for the store,” Grant told Feinberg.
In 1980, Sophia Loren put her name on a Coty fragrance bottle. During an interview that June, when asked why she did not pick a trendier, more upscale brand to work with, the legendary actress replied, “If I give my name, it’s for something very popular, not just for a few people.”
Several bona fide blockbusters, such as Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds, have even been produced by a celebrity tie-in. Launched by Parfums International in 1987 with a $10 million marketing budget, it was reported in WWD that the fragrance generated that much in sales within several months. Taylor, clearly the most successful of the fragrance endorsers, became the queen of fragrance licensing in the Nineties. She was the hit of the Fragrance Foundation’s annual FiFi awards in June 1992, striding off with two statuettes for best women’s fragrance launch and best advertising.
Isabella Rossellini signed a modeling contract with Lancome in 1982, became a vice president of product development at Lancaster in 1995 and, through its parent Coty, recently introduced a line of cosmetics called Isabella Rossellini’s Manifesto. Talking with the paper soon after the 1982 deal was announced, she said she did not expect the annual fee of $350,000 to change her life.
“I was born spoiled,” said Rossellini, the daughter of Ingrid Bergman and director Roberto Rossellini. “This was an obvious way of making a living. My parents were involved in image making. I don’t know how to be a biologist; I don’t even know how to start.”
Michael Jordan, on the other hand, was a pro by the time his first scent, done under an agreement with Bijan, came out in October 1996. That month, he told WWD: “The fragrance testing and choosing the different accords was a lot of fun. I’m into light scents.” Jordan obviously had a good instinct: In 1997, sales of Jordan’s fragrance and body products hit $100 million.