Scent of Fame: Celebrity Fragrance Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Jennifer Lopez and others

Curious_2

Walking through the fragrance aisles of Sephora makes me feel as if I am browsing through a Hello magazine with the names like Britney Spears, J.Lo, Paris Hilton, and Kimora Lee Simmons popping before my eyes. However, I am selecting the fragrances labeled with names famous for things that are only tangentially related to fashion and fragrance on purpose. Currently, there is a strong trend for celebrity fragrances, with new offerings coming up what seems like every week. From Celine Dion to Nicole Richie and Maria Sharapova, celebrity status and perfume come hand in hand. From a perfume industry perspective, any brand capable of selling fragrance is welcomed, given the changes in its business model and the high rate of competition. The number of releases is increasing each year, with the consumers exhibiting less and less loyalty to a single scent. While the number of new fragrances in the 1950s were around 10-20 per year, with the average market life of a product around 15-20 years, in the recent decade, there are close to 150-200 launches each year, with the market life averaging 3!

I cannot help but feel a bit of reticence, especially in light of the fact that I have no particularly strong desire for any specific celebrity perfume, simply because it bears a famous name. Should I happen to dislike the celebrity in question, then I might be less eager to try their perfume. However, are such pre-conceived notions justified? In order to answer this question, I stand in front of fragrance shelves in Sephora resolutely glancing past Annick Goutal and Bvlgari to try Alan Cumming The Fragrance and Britney Spears Fantasy. I briefly contemplate a blind testing, however for the sake of preserving a sane appearance, I decide that an open mind shall do. …

Lopez To say that I have never liked celebrity fragrances is not quite true, because I enjoyed the orange blossom and musk redolent softness of J.Lo Glow, which debuted in 2003. Jennifer Lopez Live is what I reach for first. It is warm and pretty, with a sheer fruity note that is between pineapple and rose. I wear my sample over the next couple of days and discover it to be a rather well-composed fragrance that does pretty without saccharine preciousness and vanilla without pastry associations.

Britney Spears Fantasy poses a little bit of trouble, as my serenity is assaulted by its fuschia bottle encrusted with rhinestones. Bottle design is not an afterthought in the fragrance development process, therefore I wonder what juice it might contain. Yet, one does not wear the bottle, and my goal is to sample with an open mind. The fragrance opens up on a fruit salad note touched by sheer florals and dries down to a creamy vanilla with an overlay of woods. It is a nicely done gourmand fragrance, and even if I find it too sweet for my tastes, the result is fairly sophisticated, especially once the strawberry syrup element retreats into the background. I also revisit Curious, which is far less complex by comparison, even though it is a very wearable floral fragrance, with a pretty magnolia note.

Paris_hilton By the time I reach Paris Hilton, I feel quite pleased with myself. The entire process feels neutral and scientific, even though complete neutrality is impossible in the matters as subjective as fragrance. For the purposes of my task, I would borrow a phrase from the anthropologist Clifford Geertz’s The Interpretation of Cultures, “Just because a perfectly aseptic environment is impossible does not mean we might as well conduct surgery in a sewer.” Thus, I try Paris Hilton. I revisit it again later for a proper impression, which is of peaches and musk. It is sweet and girly, with a sugary fruit accord. Again, the level of sweetness is higher than what I can tolerate, but for someone who likes sweet fruity fragrances, it is a decent choice. For $39 (1.7oz), I find it to be a far more interesting option than the newest Vanille Peach from Comptoir Sud Pacifique.

Alan_cumming I proceed further and reach for actor Alan Cumming’s fragrance, which reminds me of an overcast fall day, with the scents of damp earth and decaying leaves filling the air.  There is something chilly about the composition despite the warmth of woods and tobacco.  Despite its lack of staying power on my skin, I like a touch of smokiness that persists elegantly in the base notes. In fact, I do not mind reapplying, just to get the effect again and again.

I return home with Paris Hilton and Britney Spears on one arm and Alan Cumming and Jennifer Lopez on another. This fact is a little eerie, if I think about it too much, however I do not. Over the next few days I revisit my samples and make two discoveries. First, the fragrances are often well-composed, which is not surprising as many are done by famous noses. By way of example, Dominique Ropion who created Jennifer Lopez Live is also responsible for such fragrances as Givenchy Ysatis, Caron Aimez Moi, Frédéric Malle Une Fleur de Cassie, Vétiver Extraordinaire, and soon to be released Carnal Flower, among many others. Steven Demercado, who along with Loc Dong worked on a dewy gardenia that is Marc Jacobs Perfume, created Paris Hilton’s eponymous fragrance (in collaboration with James Krivda, who is the nose behind Britney Spears Fantasy).

Celeb_frags Second, my original assumption that the fragrance style would be developed in order target a particular group with a following for the celebrity in question is only partially true. On the one hand, the fragrances bearing Britney Spears’ and Paris Hilton’s names are certainly sweet and girly, however, the gourmand fragrances with fruity notes tend to be popular in general as demonstrated by Lolita Lempicka (1997) and Christian Dior Miss Dior Cherie (2005). Yet, Jennifer Lopez Glow as well as Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely seem to avoid obvious clichés. On the other hand, the packaging is definitely a targeting device, and it is the only aspect of certain celebrity fragrances that I find off-putting, given my personal lack of interest in anything pink hued and bedecked in rhinestones. The Britney Spears Curious bottle looks better only in comparison to Fantasy, however it is purely a question of tastes.

Few more days go by… As I arrange things in the chaos that is my perfume cabinet, I discover a sample of long vanished Deneuve. Introduced in 1986, Deneuve was a fragrance launched by Catherine Deneuve. She selected the packaging and the advertising, as well as made extensive inputs in the creation of the fragrance itself.  Deneuve is a green chypre like of Miss Dior and Cabochard, with sheer vibrant notes layered with earthy accords.  It is elegant and slightly aloof, befitting the woman who inspired it. In an interview to Elle in 1994, Catherine Deneuve said, “I’ve liked working on this fragrance. But today I don’t feel it. Actors and perfume is an impossible match.”

Advertisement: Curious from psine.net. Deneuve is available as a reproduced version from Longlostperfume, however I have not tried. If you have, I would love to hear how close it is to the original.

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37 Comments

  • Laura: Absolutely fascinating, dear V! You’ve opened my mind to trying some of these. It was pretty resolutely closed before ( a closed mind is nearly always foolish, no matter what the topic at hand) so you’ve done a good thing ;D. November 2, 2005 at 5:23am Reply

  • annieytown: Deneuve is the best celebrity fragrance to this day. This is Patti’s(cavewomans) signature scent. It smells so magnificent on her and it is the perfect fragrance fit. It captures P personality.
    She has tried the dupe so I will let her know that you are interested in knowing what it is like.

    I thought the cummings fragrance was interesting too. I kept sniffing the card. Patti and Leah leapt away from the card when I handed it to them. It produces a slightly violent reaction.

    What did you think of the baby phat fragrance? That one produced no reaction for me. I did not like it nor did I hate it. It was just there.

    Do not laugh: But I have hopes for the Marilyn Manson fragrance. It might be interesting. November 2, 2005 at 5:37am Reply

  • Marcello: The very first perfume mini I ever got (age 15?) was a celebrity fragrance: AD by Alain Delon. I remember they sold them at the cash register in a small supermarket, somewhere in Sicily. It was a woody/spicy fragrance with warm amber and cedarwood in the base, not bad at all. November 2, 2005 at 7:35am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Laura, I am smiling over your comment, because I would have imagined you to be the first person to be willing to try anything, at least once. Celebrity fragrances are not bad at all. The only thing I do not like about them is the packaging. Well, and the marketing blurbs. Good thing I did not even bother reading those before my forays. November 2, 2005 at 9:52am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Annie, I swear I was about to end my article with a note on how I would be excited about Marilyn Manson’s fragrance (that is liable to be anything but sweet and girly), but then I found Deneuve and got sidetracked.

    I would definitely be curioius to find out whether the dupe is close to the original. It is a beautiful fragrance, and I can only imagine how lovely it is on P.

    I did not manage to get to Baby Phat fragrance that day, although I smelled it on a card just recently. It was pink and girly. Did not inspire me one way or another. November 2, 2005 at 9:58am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Marcello, I agree that Alain Delon fragrances are not bad at all. Many are done by famous noses. For instance, Lyra was created by Maurice Roucel, while Alain Delon Pour Homme by Mark Buxton. Some are more interesting than others, of course. November 2, 2005 at 10:00am Reply

  • Marina: What an incredible overview, V! I am actually lemming Live now…I am not sure I can look past that headachy pink Fantasy bottle…Of all those scents you tried, is there anything you would actually buy for yourself? November 2, 2005 at 10:07am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, Live is worth trying, as it is rather well-done. Tania tried it too, and she described it as dominated by lychee, which I certainly agree with. The bottle is only slightly better than Fantasy, but it reminds me of Soviet vases from the 1980s–well-built, virtually indestructible, and not exactly pretty. When you pick the bottle, you realize how well it is made, but its solid feel seems off given the contents.

    I would gladly wear Live and Alan Cumming The Fragrance. November 2, 2005 at 10:37am Reply

  • lachezanne: This was so much fun to read! I am also very curious about Deneuve and its dupe, even though I’ve never smelled the original. Miss Deneuve herself made an appearance at a local department store here when it was launched, but that was before my perfume-obsessed days, and although I’ve always admired her as an actress, I didn’t go. Now I wish I had, of course, since Miss Dior and Cabochard are two of my favorites. November 2, 2005 at 10:38am Reply

  • julien: There is a MADONNA perfume for christmas…i hope it will be great,because i have read about her tastes,which are rather good…Please,not a poor fragance for MADONNA!lol
    😉
    Thanks for the post,as always,it was only pleasure to read about it. November 2, 2005 at 10:52am Reply

  • Tania: By “not exactly pretty” in reference to the Live bottle, V means “an assault on all seeing persons.” But the fragrance is quite nice, a fresh, pretty, sheer lychee-esque fruit note bolstered by a subtle warmth of woods and soft sweetness. Lopez seems to be a celeb who seems to have genuinely good taste in terms of fashion and fragrance. She and Gwen Stefani, really, do it best. I’m surprised there’s no Gwen fragrance yet! November 2, 2005 at 11:07am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: A, thank you! I would have loved to see Deneuve in any context. She is one of my favourite actresses, and I recently watched La Chamade again. She is just stunning.

    Hope that someone who tried both the dupe and the original will chime in. November 2, 2005 at 11:18am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Julien, thank you! I am very curious about Madonna perfume. Somehow, whatever one may think of Madonna, I have a feeling that if she is going to do a fragrance, it might be quite interesting. November 2, 2005 at 11:19am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, laughing over this… Yes, this is sort of what I meant. Well, at least, it is not pink! I still hold that J.Lo’s are some of my favourite celebrity fragrances. November 2, 2005 at 11:21am Reply

  • Tania: True, it’s not pink! But is teal-rotting-into-violet really so much better?

    I think what I said initially about the bottle was that it looked completely hideous, but you pick it up and spray it to discover that it is really sturdy, solid, well made. They’ve gone to all the trouble to craft a balanced, high quality bottle, and then for some reason they made the decision to make it appear horrendously ugly and cheap. November 2, 2005 at 11:24am Reply

  • kristen: V, this was such a great review. I must agree with you about J. Lo Glow – though I scoffed at it, I liked it! I’ve found that the J. Lo fragrances have fared better in the court of my nose than the other celeb scents. Live is nice.

    But Britney…oh, Britney. The “cupcake accord” in Fantasy gave me a blasting headache immediately. I could see my little girl cousins lemming this!

    As for Cumming, I just love scents with tobacco in them. Versace The Dreamer comes to mind. I would not wear this, I just think I would like having the bottle around so I can sniff it every once in a while…LOL. November 2, 2005 at 11:26am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, no, not that much better! Oh well, I can put up with the bottle, as long as the fragrance is nice. Which it is. November 2, 2005 at 11:37am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Kristen, thank you! I am also not sure if I would wear Alan Cumming the Fragrance that often, but it definitely is very interesting. I kept going back to my sample to experience those peat-y notes again and again. November 2, 2005 at 11:39am Reply

  • mreenymo: V, what you have written about these celebrity fragrances is thoughtful and well-balanced.

    Whenever I test these mass-marketed fragrances, I call it “downmarket” testing.

    Anyway, my observations about some of these fragrances are as follows:

    1. I like the JLo Live bottle. It is very pretty. Well, to be honest, green and purple are my favorite colors, so any bottle with those colors will appeal to me. Hey, maybe JLo and I have the same favorite colors! LOL!

    The juice was a bit of a mush on me, however. I could not distinguish the notes, and ended up smelling like any other overly sweet fragrance that is popular these days. I prefer her first fragrance, Glow.

    2. I did not like Curious. But I like the bottle. It is cute.

    The Fantasy bottle is a bit tacky, but I tend to like warm colors, so there! Ha, ha!

    I rather liked this fragrance. Cupcake accords are always appealing to me, but they also tend to make me want to eat a big hulking piece of iced cake. :):)

    3. Paris Hilton. Why is this girl everywhere? She has become famous because she is rich, fashionable and retains a great PR firm, not because she has an amazing talent. But I digress.

    I actually liked this fragrance, but it smells exactly, and I mean exactly, like the discontinued B&BW’s sparkling green apple fragrance. I love that fragrance! It may be the best fragrance that they ever created. I guess Ms. Hilton felt the same way. LOL!

    4. I have a sample of Cumming the Fragrance, but the sample smells sort of scary, like burning rubber or something. I think I’ll pass.

    Hugs! November 2, 2005 at 12:00pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, yes, the bottles are purely a matter of taste, and I do not mean it in a judgemental way either. None of them are my thing though, but perhaps growing up wearing black and brown (school uniforms) makes me a bit afraid of vibrant pink. 🙂

    Do not care one bit about Paris Hilton either, but her fragrance was very nice. If I were in the market for a pretty fruity scent, I would go for that one.

    Do try Cumming The Fragrance, as it does not end up as burning rubber at all. I do not think if you might like wearing it, but it is very interesting. November 2, 2005 at 12:12pm Reply

  • Robin: Fabulous post, V!! Now you have to run over to Walmart and try Shania & Ashanti Precious Jewel 🙂

    Drat, I wish everyone would stop mentioning the unobtainable Deneuve!! November 2, 2005 at 12:14pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, thank you! Yes, that is the next step. I can deal with only so many celebrities in one go. 🙂

    I wish Longlostperfume would do a sample package, because even though the fragrances are not particularly expensive, I am reticent about purchasing without trying them first. November 2, 2005 at 12:23pm Reply

  • Liz: I’m a snob, unfortunately, and I won’t try certain celeb perfumes as a matter of principle. I hate that there are neurons in my brain encoded to know who Paris Hilton is. I’m not going to encourage those neurons any more than I have to.

    On the other hand, I feel almost a personal stake in the forthcoming Madonna perfume. In my mind, for some reason, I imagine a kind of dark vanillic/animalic fragrance, maybe a leathery Tabac Blond-esque perfume but with vanilla instead of amber, something terribly chic, initially off-putting, and ultimately comforting. I suspect a chypre would be too much to ask for, but if it is a floral I will cry. November 2, 2005 at 1:51pm Reply

  • Tania: About the Madonna fragrance:

    If there is any reference to Kabbalah ANYWHERE in the packaging or marketing of this fragrance, I will be incapable of testing it, and may have to avert my eyes from it in the store.

    If not, I’ll be so excited I won’t know what to do. Madonna! November 2, 2005 at 2:51pm Reply

  • Katie: Oh I am so very very glad you liked Cumming. I bought a decant off ebay, and it hardly got touched because I had to buy a bottle right away. It’s very Pacific Northwesty isn’t it? Loved it this summer, so cooling.

    Sigh. Of COURSE there’s going to be a Madonna fragrance. I wonder if it will be like her wandering accent? Made here in the U.S., and then shipped to age for a couple weeks in England, so that even though it’s American, it will suddenly SMELL English. Of course, I will die laughing if the packaging includes a red string tied around it. November 2, 2005 at 4:08pm Reply

  • Liz smellslikeleaves: V, your horror regarding the Britney Spears Fantasy bottle made me laugh and laugh. I had a similar reaction–I could not believe that anything so hideous and tacky, from that eye-searing magenta pink color to those awful rhinestones, could have possibly survived any sort of marketing panel review. It seriously looked like it should come with a Barbie doll, it was so cheap and tacky-looking. I haven’t seen the Jennifer Lopez Live bottle yet, but it doesn’t look too promising in pictures either.

    I actually liked the smell of Fantasy, and in a moment of insanity, considered purchasing it, despite the terrible bottle. But then I re-tried my Burberry Brit and realized that they smelled too alike for me to purchase Fantasy as well. *phew* I’m glad to have dodged that one! As for the other celebrity fragrances, if nothing else it puts more of a spotlight on perfume, which I think is a good thing for the industry. And some of them–particularly SJP Lovely and Cumming–manage to deviate from the typical girly fruity floral. I haven’t actually purchased a celebrity fragrance yet, but I am intrigued to see what Madonna’s smells like.

    Glad to see that you’re daring enough to brave the world of Sephora and celebrity fragrances! Might a review of drugstore perfumes be far behind? November 2, 2005 at 4:46pm Reply

  • julien: Well,i have read that madonna loved YOUTH DEW,FRACAS but also sweet fragances from GOUTAL and even Hypnotic POISON,a vanilla fragance.
    Very difficult to know then what perfume she is going to make.
    Let’s hope it won’t be a poour fruity floral.

    And it is true,her image since she enters KABBALAH is not the provocative sexy diva anymore..

    Let’s smell and see my friends!:) November 2, 2005 at 5:14pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Liz, that is fine! I can try these fragrances for you. I can say that you would not like any of them anyway, so trouble of seeking out is saved. 🙂

    Very curious about this Madonna fragrance. I think that I might be very disappointed if it is going to be floral and tame. November 2, 2005 at 6:20pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, Kabbalah reference would just crack me up! It would be too much, but I do not think that I would care. I would have to try the fragrance nomatter what! November 2, 2005 at 6:26pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Katie, I would start laughing too if the packaging includes a red string. Oh well… let’s wait where there are going to be more concrete news about the fragrance itself.

    I really liked Cumming, and I can completely understand why you would wear it in the summer–it has such a cool, wintery feel. November 2, 2005 at 6:28pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Liz, does Kroger have a fragrance section? 🙂 I have no qualms about exploring any area of the fragrance market. I contend that gems can be found anywhere. Basically, I agree with you–the more attention fragrance gets, the better.

    On the other hand, I worry a bit about the fragrance becoming just an accessory to bolster image, fame, etc. Today it is here, a season later it is gone. There are so many releases, too many in fact. It is kind of a vicious circle for the industry–the more releases there are, the more marketing pressure exists for consumers to try the newest things, the less market life fragrances have. People just do not stay loyal to the fragrances anymore. November 2, 2005 at 6:42pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Julien, interesting observation about her fragrances and her changed image. I wonder if all of these factors will be reflected in the new fragrance. I suppose, we shall see soon enough. November 2, 2005 at 6:43pm Reply

  • Victoria O: I too find the JLo scents to be the best of the celebrity crop. The rest fall into a fruity floral melange of sameness, with slightly higher marks to Britney’s Curious. Which seemed well constructed but didn’t appreal to me personally.

    I do adore a certain amount of gliz and sparkle so the new bottles are eye candy to me.

    :O)
    Victoria O November 3, 2005 at 5:34pm Reply

  • Campaspe: Dear V., I loved this witty, balanced and utterly un-snobbish look at the redheaded stepchildren of the fragrance world, celebrity scents! when I tried JLo Glow ages ago I liked the top just fine … but the drydown, my God, was atrocious to me, flat, loud and unsubtle. And strong! It took several scrubbings to get it off. I can’t stand JLo’s taste in fashion, to me she is always a near miss at best, and so was her fragrance. But since Ropion is behind it, and I am a fan, I will give Live a shot.

    Curious was pleasant. I like the bottle, but then I am a sucker for those retro bulb atomizers. The others I haven’t sampled, but soon, soon. November 3, 2005 at 6:38pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: V, they are playing upon the same theme, that is true. Nevertheless, when I compare these fragrances with some other (far more expensive) offerings, they win out. November 3, 2005 at 8:28pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear F, thank you. I suppose, in the end I do not care under what name and packaging it comes, I just want to smell it. I still remember our forays into searching for Coty fragrances. Where else can they be found but the drugstore? November 3, 2005 at 8:33pm Reply

  • Karen: I’ve tried “Cannes” the “Deneuve” dupe. It’s as close to the original fragrance as you’ll fine anywhere. The fragrance just doesn’t seem to last as long as the original. May 30, 2006 at 10:44pm Reply

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