If Only Celebrity Perfumes Weren’t Such Crap – yes, you, Paris Hilton and Rihanna

NSFW WARNING – Rihanna pictures aren’t showing anything, but they could look bad if someone just walked by and glanced at your computer monitor!

Over the holiday weekend, I had to work, and I actually read a news article about a celebuscent release, Paris Hilton Dazzle.  I could care less normally, but I was bored.  Until…

I read this —

She has sold $1.5 BILLION worth of perfume

If I could figure out how to make that flash and do a kaleidoscope whirl, I would! Because that would be my reaction as my mind slowly digested that number into a flicker of caring.

I posted the article on the Surrender to Chance Facebook page, along with a news article about Rihanna posing in only a gold necklace for her newest perfume release, and we got into a great discussion about celebrity and licensing and how much money they make and for such utter, horrible, cheap crap.  Most perfumistas will agree on the celebrity scents that have been good/great/interesting – Sarah Jessica Parker‘s Lovely, Kate Walsh’s Boyfriend, Alan Cumming’s Cumming, Tilda Swinton’s collaboration with Etat Libre for Like This (or is it Like That?).

Let’s study the photo of Rihanna on the right, taken during her performance on American Idol, I believe.  Sexy and Fierce. I don’t really like her music, but I don’t hate it either.  And she’s got her own unique style, and I’d be thinking maybe something leathery and musky, slightly shocking. Her first scent?  Plum, strawberry, vanilla, cotton candy.  Huh.

The nude shoot for her perfume?  Really?  Babe, this is your branding, which I thought was more like the right.  Or is it naked and sorta sick-vulnerable like the left?  You sold your brand to Parlux (now owned by Perfumania) under a licensing agreement for, what three or four perfumes?  And this is what they want to make next?  I couldn’t find an article listing the notes in the new perfume. 

But they don’t have to for us all to assume it will be fruit, cotton candy, vanilla.

Fruity floral cheap celebdreck that bares (yeah, on purpose) no relationship at all to your brand.

Paris, you have no brand, but you have sold $1.5 billion more perfume with your name on it than I have, as well as a waning in popularity sex tape, so I should probably just shut up and say congratulations. You know, I think I will!  Seriously, I am impressed beyond belief at that.

Then I went wandering into YouTube to see a great, funny Katie Puckrik video review. She does such a nice visual presentation, full of humor and charm, you should go watch them, and she gets betweek 10-20k views for each of her videos.  I know Kerosene used to do perfume reviews there, before he started creating great scents, and he’d get 2-5k views.  EauMG also does makeup and perfume reviews.  All of these are well done, interesting, and cover mainstream and some niche scents. Masochist that I am, I meandered around outside the bounds of safety – and that included the guy that almost puked smelling Xerjoff Gao for the first time –  clickety-clicking on perfume reviews in YouTube, wanting to find what video with perfume review in it had the most views. The winner, after I got past the perfume commercials?   A young girl, high school age, talking about her favorite perfume, Brittney Spears’ perfume, Midnight Fantasy, 577,000 views. 

Katie gets about 10-20k views per video, and she stays pretty mainstream on the fragrances she reviews.  Oh, do not leave that video I linked to running in  while you read this, the sound of that voice at 350 wpm will take 5 IQ points from you in 15 minutes and make you consider taking an awl to your eardrums if you can’t find the mute button. Not her fault, she’s young, has a high-pitched voice and talks fast.  Further searching found hundreds of thousand of views for reviews of crap and laser-sharp insights like “it smells so sweet!” vs. thoughtful, charming reviews from Katie getting 10-20k.

But why shouldn’t celebrities license their name and get that sweet, sweet perfume cash?   A part of me does, and I’d like to think I wouldn’t sell out for much under a million, but am pretty sure I’d peddle straight-up sugar water as perfume and strip nude on the corner of Colfax and Broadway for $1.5 BILLION.  But that’s me, upper middle class person trying to pay a mortgage and one day do a kitchen and bathroom remodel.  If I were already famous and financially set?  No way.  I think. I hope. Maybe.  Probably.

The other part of me wishes for something better for them – not the celebrities, I’m pretty sure they buy their Amouages and Chanel Les Exclusifs, etc., just like we do, and would never let the stuff that has their name on it touch their skin.  The young consumer, I wish for them some experience when they are young of what perfume really is, not be stuck in some fluffy sweet syrup smell as their reference point for scent at the beginning, not to mention how invasive it is to everyone around them.  I loves my gourmands too, but they are a small part of what I wear on a regular basis. They are a bon mot I get hooked on every now and then for comfort, and none of them – except the once a year indulgence in Pink Sugar – are made with harsh ingredients that smell as cheap as they are. i don’t have a judgment on what people buy, and I’m sure they like it or wouldn’t buy it. But!  Yeah, exactly, something you just have to let go of and go for a long walk.

Do these celebrities dilute their brand with selling their name on a perfume license?  Once you have sold your brand on a license at a low price point like Paris has, your perceived value as a brand/career gets set at that low discount value.  Brittney and J. Lo sold their brand at a price point aimed at the audience they had when they were licensing it and are now doing time on The X Factor and American Idol trying to drum up some interest in their musical career.  Can a stint on Celebrity Apprentice or Dancing With the Stars be far off?  They both have plenty of riches, I can’t imagine they need the perfume cash, especially if it dilutes their brand.  They are stuck in branding that is geared for an audience they are leaving behind or have left behind or have left them because they grew up and found the Dior of Chanel counter.  Kate Walsh, Sarah Jessica Parker, Tilda Swinton, Alan Cumming, what they did smells like they cared and wanted to create something they liked and reflected who they are as a brand and as a finished adult.  Their careers and brand?  All fine, the perfume extended the reach of their brand.

But what do I know? Would you sell out? I’m going to remove the middle ground that says you can do both.  You have to choose one perfume path over another as a newly minted celebrity. Which?

Here’s something more fun!  I gathered up all the images you guys submitted for sex toy perfume bottle entries, splashed them all together in a collage.

One word – pornographic

Vote in the comments for your most egregious example of oversexed perfume bottles or most awe-inspiring potential dual use of a perfume bottle. The top four vote-getters in comments will  go to a poll vote next week!  The commenter who submitted the winner will get, um, something!  I haven’t figured that out yet, probably something good like some samples of new releases like the Amouage and Grand Bal and those new UAE Guerlain things.

  • Michael says:

    Maybe Rhianna and Britney are marketing smart – the girls that loved them them yesterday are the young mothers of today buying for their daughters “this is what I used to wear, dear, it’s totes awesome!”

    And Pierre Cardin, for sure.

  • AubreyZ says:

    I emptied 2 bottles of SJP Lovely before getting into niche perfumes, and I still think it’s very pretty. In fact, I need a back up bottle. That’s the only celeb perfume I’ve worn, though I like “Like This” and think that the bodycream for KW Boyfriend smells fantastic on other people. I even liked how a Brittney Spears perfume smelled on my sister once (that’s hard to admit!).

    But lately I’ve noticed that the celeb perfumes have become so much worse!

    I wonder if they do it for the money, or if they truly want to put their aesthetic out there (the equivalent of ordering a bespoke perfume) and simply have the power to do so.

    Wouldn’t we perfumistas do that, if we had the power? I’d certainly commission a PdN, if I was famous. Maybe they just aren’t as exposed to niche noses as we are, and they are led astray by their management team?

    I’m going to vote for Pierre Cardin as the most suggestive (or the DevilleBliss bottle that was posted on the Olfactarama blog— though does this count? It’s not a branded bottle, right?). Can you imagine if the Cumming cologne had been marketed in that??

  • unseencenser says:

    What’s the famous story about the blues singer being congratulated that he never sold out and he responded “Kid, nobody ever asked me.” Money is a great thing in the world and few pass up offers of it. Especially when it hurts no one to peddle fruity cotton candy musk-water that consumers feel give them a taste of the life, or preferences, or prestige of the celebrity in question.

    I didn’t vote for my favorite sex toy fragrance because I figured someone else would but now I don’t see it in there? (Rochas Man) SO I’ll vote for that T-shaped thing – that thing looks like it could hurt someone. Which I somehow find amusing. Erm.

  • Sam says:

    Ack, I don’t like fruity sweet in perfume, so it would be hard to sell out without upchucking. Still…you know what? Annick Goutal should license the formulation for Petite Cherie to some giganda celebrity, who could sell it under her own name/brand. Petite Cherie is fruity/sweet enough to please the adolescent masses–but so so so (so!) much better and therefore so so so much more tolerable for the rest of us to have to smell at every mall, movie theater, etc. Of course, it might have to cost more than the usual celebrity dreck–I imagine the ingredients could be costly.

  • Frankly, I don’t understand why people fall for this celebrity crap: “If I wear Rihanna’s [or Sean Combs or whoever’s] perfume, it will make me sexy and desirable even though Rihanna [or Sean Combs or whoever] probably had little to do with its genesis other than adding her name.” Do people really think that way?

  • tammy says:

    With the younger celebs, I wonder if they just really do like fruity stuff? I cut my eye teeth, literally, on Joy, but I can definitely remember liking the fruity lotions at BBW or maybe it was Victoria’s Secret? One called Pear Glace in particular, and every guy in the office loved it, too. I don’t like fruity things now, but I did when I was younger…..not so much in perfume, but I seriously had tons of those lotions.

    As far as it not matching their images…I dunno, maybe fruity is hot now. I am always staggered when I read the ad copy of just about every dang thing touted as sexy and the notes are almost all fruit. Conversely, I am about as hot and sexy as a house shoe, yet I love heavy perfumes that most of us would probably consider come-hither stuff. It’s not that I an trying to project a come-hither vibe, I just like the way the stuff smells, you know?

    Selling out….yea, for a billion, I’d probably sell out to the extent that if I found something that sold well, I’d put my name on it, but only if I did like it. I wouldn’t have to love it, but I’d have to like it. I’d pimp that Pear Glace now for a billion, though it’d never be the first thing I reached for.

    I would NOT market it in a vulgar way for any amount of money, however. I am beyond sick of that sort of thing.

    Oh, and I think the prize should go to the bottle with the hand reaching towards it..can’t make out the name on my monitor, I think noz above says its Smalto? And the two flanking it are first runner up!

  • nozknoz says:

    I don’t know what they’re called – the ones that truly look like expensive pleasure objects – I think you have two of them in your pictures – the white one next to the Smalto – you can only read N on the box, and the clear one that almost appears to be the forearm of the hand about to touch the Smalto. Yeah, the Smalto is pretty egregious, but too obvious, don’t you think?

  • Elevation says:

    I stay away from celeb perfumes. I don’t want someones face on my body, but I do like Dior sport. I think thats Jude law, but that’s just a really good summer cologne. I had a sales lady try to sell me “success” by trump. This woman actually told me it smelled like success. I started laughing my ass off. It was just some genric woody cologne. I just buy niche now. I go to sephora and everything just smells uninteresting. I still love my ysl though!

  • Musette says:

    I find that photo of Rihanna so….sad. She’s not ‘big’ enough, yet, to go that route and that photo basically looks like something a friend took to document some abuse R wasn’t willing to press charges for. Seriously. Or maybe a frenemy took it to sell to a tabloid after R took too many shots and started getting skeevy. Whatever. If she was looking for sexy, this is WAY off the mark, imo.

    I worked in the film industry for yonks and I can tell you, it’s not the money, it’s the attention. Well, it’s the money, too, but man….they really, REALLY need the attention. Even A-listers. Once folks have it, they can’t bear to let it go. JLo would sell her toenails to keep the focus : Idol, Kohls – whatever works. I think she’s done a great job, keeping that focus – she (and her people) know she has a limited range so she’s sticking to what she does best, in the demographic that adores her. Smart gal.

    I’m with you, honey. I would personally decant rhino pee into a bottle and sell it for $1.5 billion. (consider…we’re talking RHINO. I gotta get the pee out of the RHINO. I think that’s worth a billion dollars, don’t you?)


  • Kay says:

    Well, I knew Paris Hilton’s fragrances were (unfortunately) very popular, but $1.5 billion? My head just spun right off my neck.

  • FragrantWitch says:

    I really hope that I wouldn’t sell out but I know the temptation would be there to just be set for mortgage, private school fees etc. I think that the strength to hold out for what really represented me would stem from my daughters. I take such care in what I feed them, in what choose to allow them to wear and what I allow them to be exposed to that it would be hypocritial to throw that all away for the sake of a buck. Especially, as they are going to be exposed to Rihanna and her ilk soon enough and be bombarded with the message that sex is good. And that their bodies matter more than their souls and their minds. So a celeb scent that could help educate them about being a woman would hopefully help a bit.
    Also, on a practical note, what DO you say to your child once they have seen you straddling a rocket in hot pants with your star-shaped perfume bottle tucked in the top of your bustier while saluting a man dressed in leather chaps or whatever?

    • Also, on a practical note, what DO you say to your child once they have seen you straddling a rocket in hot pants with your star-shaped perfume bottle tucked in the top of your bustier while saluting a man dressed in leather chaps or whatever?

      “Mommy’s home, darling!”

  • Joanna Ravlin says:

    If only that Faberge bottle came with batteries…

  • Mals86 says:

    I don’t even want to talk about celebuscents. I admit to a fondness for Taylor Swift, who at least presents a polished exterior (no nude photos, no slutty clothes, and I love her red lipstick) for teen girls to aspire to – but her fragrance is froot-loop laundry musk, and that annoys me.

    I always think that the Halston bottle is vaguely obscene but can’t say why. You don’t have it pictured, so I might be alone in thinking naughty thoughts about it.

  • Poodle says:

    I think most of these celebrities who are putting their brand out there in the fragrance market are just trying to make a buck. I would try and do the same I suppose. I need a new bathroom and kitchen too. When you think about it though the scents they are spewing out that are selling are geared towards their target audience. Not many grown women have any interest in those nasty fruity florals but not many grown women are huge fans of Britney, Paris, etc. Teens and Tweens are buying those scents. I wonder whether the sexy, brash musical Rihanna is the real deal or is that just a marketing ploy too. Maybe she really is cotton candy fruity. I don’t see stars like Tilda Swinton or Alan Cumming getting a lot of fans in that younger demographic so the scents they put out there are not geared towards them. Unfortunately for them the older group probably tends to buy based on whether they actually like a scent or not as opposed to the younger who will buy because they want to do whatever they can to be just like their idols. Rihanna is hot. Rihanna says she wears this fragrance. Therefore if I wear this fragrance I too will be hot like Rihanna.

    As far as those porno perfume bottles go, I’ll cast my vote for the Love’s Baby Soft one. Once I was old enough to know what it resembled it’s impossible not to see it any other way.

  • Rihanna’s perfumes are horrible. I am also disappointed in Beyonce, who I think is a bonafide star, selling absolute dreck.

    I will say that I think there is at least some redeeming value in the first couple Britney Spears perfumes (after that, less so). J. Lo also has a couple good ones. But, the lines have definitely degenerated quite a bit since then. Even Sarah Jessica’s last release, SJP NYC, was pretty wretched. There seems to be a tendency for the brands to get lower and lower end and more and more market-tested over time.

    I felt that Dita von Teese’s recent perfume was pretty good, particularly given the pricepoint, I think she tried hard. I also liked both of Kate Walsh’s. I feel more celebrities should be doing what she’s doing, curating their own mini line that really does represent them.