Last week I was wondering what fragrance genre has escaped my spleen by remaining unbashed thus far. And then I read that Paris Hilton had launched two new fragrances, modestly named Heiress Limited Edition and Limited Anniversary Edition, with the latter being launched to commemorate the ten years of her "stellar" trajectory in the fragrance universe. That was it! Celebrity fragrances had made it unscathed by my polemics hitherto.
I'll overlook the fact that what she actually launched are probably two posh cheese graters and I'll thank her for kickstarting the spiteful me yet another time. And I believe this is the only case I would ever thank her, unless she grants me lifetime free stay in her bequest.
The word "celebrity" has a rather negative appeal to my commoner self. I don't know if Greek is a grandiloquent or redundant language, but it has two distinct words to describe popularity or notoriety, based on the achievements that any given celebrity has...achieved. They are "διάσημος/thee-a-see-mos" for men and "διάσημη/thee-a-see-mee" for women, since adjectives have a gender in Greek, and "διασημότητα/thee-a-see-mo-tee-ta" for both. To avoid imposing some boring linguistics lesson I'll just say that Hilary Swank is "διάσημη", while Kim Kardashian is "διασημότητα" and I'm sure you'll understand the difference by yourselves.
I'd never taunt someone because of her/his body type mind you, but I reserve the right not to like it. I just don't understand how some hyperbolic curves are a ticket to fame nowadays. I happen to like normal female figures the most, but this seems to sound aggravatingly abnormal with each passing day.
And by the way, is it just me or all of Kim's fragrances have a certain steatopygic orientation concerning their bottle design. Could it be some subconscious hint to Kim's main asset to stardom perhaps?
The concept of celebrity fragrances is much older than most of us might think. It goes as back as in 1933 when Mae West had her signature fragrance launched by Gabilla. The next entry was made by The King and his Teddy Bear in 1957. And then it was Finnish socialite, model, publisher, race driver, reporter and photographer Tabe Slioor who launched a short-lived perfume called Tabe in 1963 and Zsa Zsa Gabor with Zig Zag in 1969. And then all hell broke loose starting at the early '90s.
But before delving any deeper into the world of scented fame, let's clarify what I consider a celebrity fragrance by showing you what I don't consider as such.
Although Alain Delon, Catherine Deneuve and Omar Sharif were not just famous but legendary, thus they could be selling vialled brine and get away with it, their fragrances were very serious, well-made and successful attempts and not just an easy way to get some extra cash. Moreover that they never became mega-hits selling by the millions. I would also classify Elizabeth Taylor, Cher and Paloma Picasso under the same label and if I forget someone I hope (s)he'll excuse me. One could ask what's the difference between Alain Delon and David Beckham having their own fragrance line, but if I have to explain it then I don't think (s)he'd understand.
There were also a couple of perfumes semi-endorsed/semi-launched by celebrities, like Givenchy's L'Interdit and Coty's Sophia, which were straightly connected to Audrey Hepburn and Sophia Loren respectively, but they were not launched under their names.
I also don't consider any fragrance endorsed by a celebrity as a celebrity fragrance. Despite having their own fragrances, Alain Delon and Catherine Deneuve were also used by Christian Dior and Chanel as the faces of some of their campaigns. But in any case, using a famous person in a fragrance campaign does not ascribe the fragrance to this person.
Apologies if my presentation makes Isabella Rossellini look like making eyes at the hybrid El Paso/Las Vegas macho version of Harry Potter to her left (you see the wand, don't you?) Damn, I find Tom Selleck a very handsome and masculine man. How on earth did he get himself into this tragic travesty?
On the other hand there's always the case of some prestigious perfume houses constantly praying not to be endorsed this way.
(Farewell Lemmy. I'll miss you something fierce bro...)
In the documentary from where the picture on the right is taken, this fine English gentleman (and I mean it 100%) uses the sprayer in the most devious way imagined. He sprays half a dozen sprtitzes on his palm and then splashes and spreads them all over his face and neck. Thrice! Why do I find it way more endorsing than this?
Although a person's character is very closely related with the way (s)he acts in public, I'm not judging any celebrity on some personal level here. However my measurement could be made in no other way than the one directly connected to the conspicuous height of their blatant vainglory which is the rule. They could very well be delightful people if I ever met them personally, but their usual behaviour tells me otherwise.
The problem starts when any given celebrity "distinguishes" herself/himself in fields not even slightly connected with the ones they're paid for. There was a time when we used to love singers for their voices, thespians for their acting and athletes for their performances, right? So what has happened and we suddenly found ourselves being dragged deep into the Realms of Trifle? Is it the overwhelming overexposure to media? Is it the dwindling of ethics? Is it that the standards of becoming a living legend have taken a sharp turn towards triviality?
Does someone need a good voice to become a luminary in the music industry anymore? Perhaps the problem lies exactly in the very same fact of the presence of "music" and "industry" lying next to each other in a sentence, let alone they have conglomerated a standard term. The word "industry" should be strictly applied to something producing stuff like cars, appliances, perfumes even. An industry cannot produce soul, guts or dreams. It's the millions of personal stories which attribute the above to any consumer product. And don't tell me that "music industry" is just a case of figurative speech, cause we all know it isn't.
According to my rather bizarre beauty standards, Yma Sumac was a ravishingly beautiful woman. But I wouldn't care a bit if she looked like a hag coming from some Hans Christian Andersen tale. For it was her out-of-this-world voice I fell in love with. And the same goes for Nina Hagen.
And speaking of Nina Hagen and celebrity fragrances, does this ring a bell Miss Ciccone?
Well, truth or dare?...
The vast majority of celebrity fragrances till the mid '90s were launched or endorsed by stars of the silver screen, before the whole thing turned way more musical and sporty. Celine Dion, Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé, Shakira, Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, Madonna, Christina Aguilera, Kylie Minogue, Lady Gaga, Carlos Santana, Enrique Inglesias, KISS, Luciano Pavarotti, Peter Andre, Prince, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Christiano Ronaldo and the list goes on.
Now, concerning the last two names on the previous list, I'm not a footbal/soccer guy by any means. I usually watch a handful of games annualy with the exception of World Cup, when I watch a good deal of matches, savouring the multifariousness of the motley fans in the tiers and some good laughs provided by the coverage.
There was no athlete's signature scent until 1989 and sports were not any less popular before that. As far as I'm concerned, the first ones were launched by Gabriella Sabatini and Muhammad Ali, both in 1989. If ballet dancers are somehow considered athletes too, then also add Mikhail Baryshnikov's Misha to this year. And then it was Michael Jordan's turn in 1996. And then...
I did mention David Beckham a few lines before, didn't I? Well David, does your version of English NOT include "enough"?
The Beckhams have launched 27 fragrances thus far, having started in 2005. The chances that a handful of them might be of some excellence? I'll quote Ryan Giggs, Manchester United's iconic exemplar and David Beckham's co-player for 10 years, when he was asked whether Beckham was the best player in the world. "Best player in the world? He's not even the best player in his own goddamn team."
Let's see. There's Signature for Her and Him, Signature Story for Her and Him and Signature Summer for Her and Him thus far. That means there's still room for Signature Autumn/Winter/Spring for Her and Him and the Story of each season for Her and Him too. Why do I think of something resembling a weekly pulp magazine?
However I really wish there was something launched under the name of Diego Maradona out there, for I'm sure I'd love it since there would be a 99% chance it would smell like an '80s powerhouse with some serious machismo overkill. And I'm also sure it would terrify most celebrity fragrances in the selfsame way Diego and his 5'5" terrified more than half of the six-feet-average Belgian national football team in this picture from 1982.
Football/soccer aside, the time between achieving real stardom and launching a fragrance seems to have been reduced to a few months. How else can I explain the downpour of new launches even by 20 year olds the likes of Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez? Is it just a matter of milking a very specific target group on which the big guns of marketing are zeroed in? When Alain Delon launched his first fragrance in 1980 you could smell it on high-school lads and grown-up gentlemen alike, for juveniles wanted to be like him and adults wanted to feel like him. Any age between 15 and 55 was in the game. Some of you might argue that fragrances of such potency might smell ludicrous on an adolescent, but could they smell any more ludicrous than an imaginary Justin Bieber male fragrance would smell on a middle-aged man?
And how could I possibly cope with smelling all these sugary silliness around every single time I dare to exit my front door? Would it be over the top if I spray a dozen blasts of vintage Kouros on me and let the beast deal with it? Today's stars have become involuntarily(?) invasive to say the least, since the cataclysmic media expansion decided to focus on matter over mind. Just like the way they're exploiting my thirst for information, and after monitoring my online search history, they bombard me with intruding ads that are sometimes so ridiculous that redefine ridicule.
I couldn't decide whether I should laugh or cry upon seeing this page on my screen. I'm sure if there was any fragrance called "Lift Me Up" or "Ascenseur" it would also appear on my screen.
Bashing the vast majority of celebrity fragrances doesn't mean that I don't fall for some of them. Enter Tilda Swinton. Yet another case of my bizarre beauty standards. I have not tested "Tilda Swinton-Like This" by Etat Libre d'Orange. However, I take it that "like this" is not an indication showing me how something is done but an imperative order to like it. And when Queen Tilda commands me to like something, then I'll like it, period.
Especially when she's looking such pointed daggers at me and there's a fire (or is it a pyre?) burning behind her...
Because this article started like an inquiry of the celebrity fragrance phenomenon but it's looking dangerously like a "philosophical" tirade for some paragraphs now, I'll fare thee well with the latest supernova burning bright in the celebrity fragrance cosmos. I'm not sure if this guy qualifies as a celebrity at all in the first place, but I don't think that anyone would dare to speak out loud such a profanity in his presence. Ladies and gentlemen I give you...
The "Leaders NUMBER ONE" stuff is not exactly the epitome of subtlety and modesty, right? Truth be told I'd think of him as the least expected guy to have a fragrance launched under his name. If I had to relate him with a product, then some gold coin would be the ideal background for his awesomeness, just like the emperors of yore...But I guess this would be absurd since no country leader is depicted in coins while alive, right? Wait what?
Not exactly pocket change, huh?
With precious metals being already covered, I think that some common metal would be the next most appropriate material to portray his iron will. What harm could some humble iron do after all?
OK, I'm done and I rest my case!...
To be honest, I feel slightly offended every time someone labels any of these as celebrity fragrances, cause by doing it (s)he puts them in the same category with the celebrity fragrances of our days. And this is not fair at all.
OK, I'll admit that Antonio Banderas is the acting equivalent of David Beckham with the gazillion of fragrances that followed his Diavolo after 1997. But this doesn't nullify his firstborns which were very good fragrances. I'll also admit that I was quite sceptic towards celebrity fragrances even during the '80s. But my scepticism was usually rinsed away with first splash. Nowadays my scepticism is multiplied every time I test the latest fad in celebrity stuff on the rare cases when it doesn't transmogrify to abhorrence.
I'll close with the most missed (for it was never launched) celebrity fragrance that could possibly exist. I could never imagine that my reference to him in my last entry would be the very last thing I'd write about him while he was still amongst us. Well, I dare you to guess how a fragrance launched by the man who fell to earth and sold the world would smell like.
In Greece, leap years are considered to be ill-starred ones, and 2016 has already lived up to its fame despite being just two weeks old. First David Bowie and then Alan Rickman. I hope it ends here.
At least the fact that Ziggy Stardust's favourite scent was a celebrity one, Paloma Picasso's Minotaure, is the perfect way to close this entry. Could it be how he imagined his Labyrinth to smell like back in 1986?
Godspeed Goblin King and thanks for everything...