Your dream life—in a perfume bottle

The scented interpretation of an ideal life by celebrities

Is this the scent of a perfect life?
Is this the scent of a perfect life?

The fashion world fascinates me. Everything—clothes, hair, accessories—is so carefully crafted and measured to perfection to achieve the oh-so-perfect image.

While flipping through the latest issue of Fashion magazine—which I secretly enjoy once in awhile—I came across another example of this craftsmanship in a beauty product everybody seems to be launching lately. “Women are goddesses. We micromanage everything with class, grace and elegance. [It] is designed to celebrate women, luxury and the vitality of life,” declared Kimora Lee Simmons with the launch of her new product.

What was this product that celebrated women in such a grand scale? None other than a small bottle of her new perfume, Baby Phat Goddess. To expand on the goddess theme even further, the bottle shape is a tribute to Simmons’ Asscher-cut diamond ring.

Simmons is not the first one to lay hands on this trend. The mania of celebrity perfume launch has been going on for years. Elizabeth Taylor did it in the ’80s with White Diamonds.

But the recent initiator was Jennifer Lopez—the mogul of celebrity branding—who came up with her first fragrance, Glow, in 2001. She described the perfume as “fresh-sexy-clean … what I want for myself.” The curvy shape of the bottle supposedly represents the curvaceous female figure, something Lopez is notorious for.

By presenting the illusion of capturing J. Lo into a bottle of scented chemicals, Glow hit all the right notes with the audiences and became a huge hit. It was the number one perfume in at least nine countries in 2001. Following this success, J. Lo has released a sister version, Miami Glow, shortly afterwards, and is working on a new perfume called Live.

What makes the celebrity perfumes so successful? The elusive concept of image, of course. As Fashion magazine aptly points out, celebrity perfumes are “a 50-millilitre representation of all that is J. Lo or Sarah Jessica Parker (who, in her Sex and the City afterlife, enters the world of perfume with the fragrance Lovely).” It’s not just a mixture of “fresh apple martini, orchid and white amber.” It’s Carrie Bradshaw, or the elite social debutante you ogle as you flip over the latest issue of Vogue— it’s the embodiment of everything rich and fabulous.

This is what manufacturers are pushing for these days—not just a pleasant scent, but an aggressive marketing plan that connects the shape of a glass bottle to personal beliefs, and carefully mixed scents to a desired lifestyle.

Image sells, and who better embodies an ideal image of desirable lifestyle but celebrities? And because the olfactory sensors can be easily connected to imagination (the way the smell of freshly baked muffins concocts an image of a cozy home), advertisers have worked hard left, right and center to make sure a consumer doesn’t just perceive Sarah Jessica’s Lovely merely as a fragrance, but as a link to it to her lovely wealthy life—with many pairs of Manolo Blahniks in her closet.

Just how far are celebrities and advertisers taking this image juggernaut? The possibilities are endless. It’s also proof that the focus on celebrity is shifting to the hype and glory surrounding what these seemingly immortal beings do with their free time—how they dress, how they relax, and how they live their lives.

And every realm of their lives can be contained in a bottle and sold for a steep price. In exchange, fans feel like they are somehow a part of that glorious, idle lifestyle with the purchase of the fragrant reconstructions of their images.

Britney Spears’ new perfume Fantasy is said to represent the “evolution of Britney,” as “she’s in love and starting a family. She lives a modern fairy tale, and the scent is like a magic love potion,” says Tamara Steele, the vice-president of a global marketing company. So, what does Britney’s evolution smell like, exactly? Apparently, it’s “yummy,” with some “cupcake accords” in it too.

I’m not sure who defines marrying a greasy backup dancer and having a baby at 22 as a modern-day fantasy, but who’s to argue with Mrs. Spears-Federline? The bottle itself looks like Cinderella hallucinating big time—an explosion of hot pink, with green zit-like spots floating around.

When we are at a point that a marketing ploy of smelling like somebody else’s life is successful, one can’t help but become curious: what’s next?

—With files from Fashion magazine (Oct. 2005),,

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