If the beauty industry’s obsession with celebrities has netted anything, it’s a new wave of partners on a personal quest to boost their fame as well as their fortune.

Today’s young star isn’t interested in simply lending her pretty face to pitch a product. She wants to own a part of the program, whether it’s naming nail lacquer colors, as singer Michelle Branch did for Estée Lauder’s BeautyBank line, Flirt, or taking a more vested interest by collaborating on everything from the scent to the packaging, as Britney Spears has for her wildly successful Curious launch for Elizabeth Arden.

And why not? According to NPDBeauty, sales of celebrity-endorsed fragrances at U.S. department stores rose from 26 percent in 2003 to 31 percent only a year later, and show no signs of abating. In this age of the multihyphenate, when stars are out to show that they’re able to sing, dance, design and, well, do anything they put their minds to, beauty is just one more glamorous — and potentially lucrative — arena to conquer.

“Star power has always been a big focus for the beauty industry and, historically, we’ve seen the top names endorsing products,” observes NPDBeauty president Timra Carlson. “But increasingly, they’re not only lending their name to the product but actually being involved in design and development. This seems to be a trend we don’t expect to end anytime soon.”

What’s more, the beauty industry is realizing the power of youth dollars. Teenage Research Unlimited reports that teens spent $170 billion in 2004. To tap some of that enormous discretionary income takes a connection with these consumers. “Doing this means using a star who can speak to that group,” says Carlson. “No teenager wants to use her mom’s brand. So using an idol from that consumer group is a great way for companies to really speak to them. NPDBeauty has seen a concerted effort by beauty makers across the globe to target younger consumers.”

Last year saw an unprecedented number of licensed products affiliated with young stars rush to an already celebrity-crazed marketplace. And although Scarlett Johansson signed on to pitch Calvin Klein’s Eternity Moment, Mischa Barton did Neutrogena, and Beyoncé Knowles is mugging, and singing, for Tommy Hilfiger’s True Star, those deals fit the classic poster-girl formula.

This story first appeared in the February 22, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The real news was the handful of superstars who took it one step further:

  • Jessica Simpson released the bath and body line Dessert, based on her own favorite flavors.
  • Paris Hilton had a successful release of her signature fragrance in the fall.
  • Teen pop singer-actress Hilary Duff rolled out her licensed Stuff by Hilary Duff cosmetic and hair care lines (along with apparel and accessories) in Target stores in the U.S. and, in Canada, Hudson’s Bay Co.’s Zellers division.

BeautyBank followed up Branch’s term as guest creator with a color cosmetics program launched this month with actress Mila Kunis of the Fox hit “That 70s Show.” The line shows two sides of the actress, with complementary colors based on her as a blonde or brunette. The brand’s strategy is to name a new guest creator each season to headline one of its products.

“Pop culture influences fashion and beauty,” says Jane Lauder, BeautyBank vice president of marketing. “Consumers love to see what actresses and musicians are wearing, and the guest creator is a great way to bring it all together. It’s really interesting to see what they come back with in terms of color choices and names.”

But Lauder stresses that it’s not only a younger demographic that BeautyBank is after. “Flirt is not necessarily a teen line. It’s young in attitude. [The star] resonates with a consumer that’s young at heart.”

In fact, success for Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s color cosmetics line is, in part, due to a customer base beyond its core target, says Judy Swartz, executive vice president and chief designer for the twins’ brand. “We designed it so the five-year-old can pick it up, but we also know there are women 40 and up to 60 who buy the line,” continues Swartz. “The brand was designed to aspire up, because kids aspire up. Cosmetics are far less age-sensitive than other product categories.”

With the retail expansion of their newest Coty fragrances, Mary-Kate and Ashley Coast to Coast — one designated for Los Angeles, another for New York — the strategy, says Swartz, is to ultimately take the color cosmetics line beyond Wal-Mart, too. The Olsens recently acquired the outstanding shares of their company, Dualstar, and now own 100 percent of it. On their to-do list: prestige beauty categories.

Although Coty is no stranger to the overall celebrity fragrance market — having signed Jennifer Lopez, Celine Dion, Isabella Rossellini, Kimora Lee Simmons and, just this month, Sarah Jessica Parker — tying the prestige market to young celebrities remains a relatively untested strategy, according to industry executives. But the potential is great, as Spears’ Curious launch proved last fall, when it made history as one of the most successful fragrance launches ever. In only four months at the counter, Curious generated $36 million, according to NPDBeauty. First-year sales in the U.S. alone are expected to reach $40 million to $50 million.

With Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds program and Catherine Zeta-Jones flogging the signature brand, Elizabeth Arden sought a star who would resonate with the 15-to-30-year-old set.

“There hasn’t been a prestige product aimed at this demographic before,” says Arden chief executive Scott Beattie. “It’s a demographic that has an incredible appetite for shopping, and they’re focusing their spending on the higher-end retailers.”

Pricing for Curious is at the moderate end of the prestige spectrum to give access to as many Spears fans as possible. But youthful offerings in prestige is something retailers have been demanding.

Industry execs such as Robert Hollander, president of Brand Sense Marketing, note that this trend is not driven by beauty brands so much as “department stores looking to attract a younger consumer.”

For the star, it can prove a lucrative sideline. Although Arden executives declined to comment on the details of Spears’ contract, industry sources speculate that it is a royalty-based deal that could net Spears a minimum of $10 million and as much as $30 million over the next five years. The contract requires Spears’ collaboration in the development and marketing of a fragrance, skin care and color cosmetics line — the latter two slated for a 2006 release — backed by the singer’s exclusive endorsement. Curious generated $36 million in only four months at the counter, according to NPDBeauty.

Still, simply slapping a well-known personality onto a product isn’t going to guarantee success, cautions Hollander, whose firm brokered the Spears deal. “The star has to be part of a much broader product and marketing campaign where you have great product that can stand on its own. Having someone who’s attractive in a variety of ways is an enhancement.”

Where companies and stars need to be careful, Hollander adds, is in the execution. “Once it seems like a celebrity is hawking a product just to hawk it, it loses its luster. It involves a lot of planning, so in one to three years, a good celebrity beauty program can be an overnight success,” he jokes. “The great thing about celebrity is that it’s very aspirational. Not everybody can be in the same room with Britney Spears, but they can own something with her name on it.”

 Spears’ success is prompting other beauty brands to sign their own young stars, and with supernovas like Mandy Moore, Eve and Lindsay Lohan up for grabs, there are plenty of famous faces to go around.