Pretty Young Things Sell Beauty and Business Better.
A publicist from a major European fashion house once called with a telling request: Could we please run a red-carpet image of a teen star draped in its gown rather than the middle-aged celebrity who’d also appeared at the awards show in one of its dresses?
It seems the head of the venerable house, who is up there in years, figured the association with this pretty, young actress would do more for his brand’s image than a legion of thirty- and fortysomething superstars ever could.
Such a request isn’t unusual. In this second annual issue of WWDYoung Hollywood, Women’s Wear Daily editors in Los Angeles and New York go inside the worlds of film, TV and music to report how its youthful denizens are using image to influence their opportunities, both in terms of screen roles and business ventures — especially in fashion and beauty. And just as enthusiastically, fashion and beauty brands are increasingly vying for very public associations with young Hollywood. Like it or not, youth, or the effort to retain it, remains a powerful concern and — maybe even more than fame and fortune — an aspirational goal for the consuming public.
Cashing in on that power are the multifariously talented teens and twentysomethings — Hilary Duff, Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears — who aren’t waiting for their careers to wane before tapping every possibility. Studying the tremendous success of an icon such as Elizabeth Taylor — not to mention their peers Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen — they and their handlers are brokering deals with beauty brands at an unprecedented
rate. But it’s not just about flogging fragrances in print ads. These barely legal entrepreneurs also want a piece of the process, making key decisions in everything from product development to marketing campaigns.
And many are learning a lesson or two from their predecessors — or inventing new rules of their own — in the image game of playing bad girl-good girl. In “Quick-Change Artists,” guest reporter Leslie Gornstein explores how more and more young celebrities are going from virgin to vixen and back again in a snap, banking on the media exposure and subsequent public awareness they get from just changing their look.
Although Hollywood can be a scary place for many a young star, in horror films some have found their first break (Renée Zellweger, Jamie Lee Curtis) or even a boost to their career (Sarah Michelle Gellar). As New York-based Eye editor Marshal Heyman reports, box-office takes in recent years have made horror flicks a respectable career step, particularly as the genre has been reimagined from B-level to blockbuster.
One actress-singer-designer who has managed to launch herself without a slasher flick is Taryn Manning. She talks of her starring role in the Sundance darling, “Hustle & Flow,” as well as the rest of her vida loca, in a first-person account illustrated with personal photographs taken by her buddy Caroline “Cline” Mayo. Despite an endless string of too-short cameos in major films, Manning has used her edgy, trendsetting style and cult band to sustain her “It” girl status — and sanity — in fickle Hollywood.
This issue’s cover girl, Evan Rachel Wood, may not spring to mind as a style icon the way our first cover girl, Mischa Barton, now does. But we chose Wood because she’s clearly a star on a rapid rise. The 17-year-old is a
first-rate talent, with a résumé of past, present and future A-list films as long as her gangly arm. And last year’s best-actress nominations from the Hollywood Foreign Press and Screen Actor’s Guild for “Thirteen” have already made her more than a token PYT on the red carpet.
That said, Wood allowed our Los Angeles fashion editor, Monica Schweiger, to dress her at the dreamy and legendary Pink Hotel in Sun Valley, which looks just like it did when the owners opened it in 1946, and where many a movie and TV show have been filmed.
Keeping up with the next hot thing is no easy task. WWD’s star is associate entertainment editor Marcy Medina, who not only keeps year-round tabs on the young and famous featured in these pages, but also secured our cover girl one blustery afternoon at the Sundance Film Festival last month in Park City, Utah.
Hollywood, after all, is not just a place, but a state of business that can exist anywhere the young and talented are found.