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Saturday October 18, 2003

Stars in our eyes

By TRISH LESSLIE

Nicole Kidman is rumoured to be the new face of Chanel. The Aussie superstar is the latest in a long line of celebrities to be paid huge sums of money to help sell cosmetics. And, let’s face it, it seems to work.  

While we may never get the celebrity boyfriend and Hollywood lifestyle of J. Lo or Gywneth, at least we can wear the same eyeshadow. And, if we use a lipgloss designed for Cameron Diaz, surely our lips will look just as luscious as hers. Cosmetics companies know this, which is why they sign up celebrities to endorse their products – although it remains to be seen whether Catherine Zeta-Jones’ deal as spokesperson for Elizabeth Arden will restore its ailing fortunes. 

If Nicole Kidman's deal to front Chanel goes through, her fee will reflect the fact that she's the hottest female star on planet Hollywood.
While it may be more common now than ever before, the use of famous people to sell cosmetics is nothing new, as consumer psychologist Sue Keane points out. “Soap company Lux was using actresses such as Liz Taylor and Audrey Hepburn in its ads as far back as the 50s,” she says. “Having the life of a star was beyond reach, but using the same soap was an affordable way to buy into the lifestyle and the idea that you could look as glamorous.” 

These days, it’s not only actresses who are deployed in the battle for our make-up budget. Joining the likes of Jennifer Aniston, who fronted L’Oreal’s “Because I’m worth it” campaign, are celebs from other fields. Pop star Beyonce Knowles has followed in Jen’s footsteps at L’Oreal, for example, and sporting heroines Venus and Serena Williams have been drafted in by Avon. 

But what do cosmetics companies look for when choosing their “face”. As with all endorsements, the celebrity has to match the image of the brand they’re advertising. “The Williams sisters are wonderful role models for young women,” said Janice Spector, vice-president of Avon, when their contract was announced in 2000. “‘Their winning spirit and dedication to being the best is a perfect fit with Avon’s heritage of empowering women to strive for their own goals.” 

Kate Moss, who has a contract with Rimmel, has a combination of street cred and the ability to be “oh-so-chic”.  

“The Rimmel London girl has an irreverent, laid-back attitude – in the way she lives her life and the way she wears her Rimmel make-up. Kate captures this perfectly as she’s the quintessential London girl,” says Emmanuelle Bonte, global marketing director at Rimmel. It also helps that Moss says she’s always used Rimmel products – the fact that celebrities actually use what they endorse is a vital element of any contract. 

So, while the cosmetics houses get a face that fits – and sells – their image, and we get the chance to buy into a dream, the celebrities get a big, fat pay cheque. They also get regular high-profile exposure on billboard ads, in magazines and sometimes, as in the case of Moss, Halle Berry (Revlon) and Andie McDowell (L’Oreal), on prime-time television, too. 

Bond girl Halle Berry is a high-profile Revlon girl too.
The financial value of the contracts depends on the kudos of the celebrity. For example, Atomic Kitten’s deal to promote Avon’s Colour Trend range is rumoured to be in the region of £250,000 (RM1.56mil), while Catherine Zeta-Jones’ four-year deal with Elizabeth Arden is said to be nearer £4mil (RM25mil). Tamzin Outhwaite’s recent signing to Avon is likely to be more Kitten than Catherine, but if Nicole Kidman’s deal to front Chanel goes through, her fee will reflect the fact that she’s the hottest star on the planet.  

Yet, like A-list celebrity status itself, contracts rarely last forever. Cindy Crawford was the face of Revlon during the 90s, but when she hit 34, her US$6mil (RM22.8mil) deal wasn’t renewed. Lancôme caused a storm when it dropped Isabella Rossellini after 14 years for being “too old” at 41, even though it was universally accepted that she still looked fantastic. Even 36-year-old Liz Hurley, has been dropped from Estée Lauder’s cosmetics line, although she still advertises the perfume.  

Along with the passing of time, a tarnished image can also put an end to the pay cheques, since celebs are as carefully chosen for their image as they are for their looks. The risk that the hallowed individuals who represent their companies may fall from grace seems an expensive one to take, but, if Avon experience is anything to go by, it’s worth it. “Since (formerly in British TV series EastEnders) Tamzin Outhwaite’s signing in January, press cuttings have reached the hundreds and we expect these figures to continue to grow,” says Abi Redecen, consumer PR executive at Avon Cosmetics, UK. 

If Outhwaite can cause such a stir in the UK, the signing of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Halle Berry – both Oscar winners with worldwide appeal – will have sent global media exposure through the roof for Elizabeth Arden and L’Oreal, respectively. They may cost millions, but it seems that they are worth it after all. -- UPS 


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