Friday, February 13, 2009

Excerpts from my new book The Cult of Celebrity, Part 3

Recently I was shopping at a cosmetics counter at a local high end department store. Makeup artist Carmindy from TLC’s What Not To Wear had been a guest on my radio show again and had suggested a particular eye pencil; I was there to see if I needed it (I did). I noticed a woman shopping next to me who had brought with her a page she had ripped out of a magazine, a Revlon ad featuring Halle Berry. Now, I don’t need to remind you that Revlon isn’t sold at high-end department stores, and as far as I know they do not have makeup counters, so I think this woman missed the point of the ad. Yet there she was rubbing each tester of eyeshadow on the back of her hand and holding it up to the picture, trying to match Berry’s color with the higher-end cosmetic. I could see the thought balloon over her head saying: “Revlon can’t have better colors than this expensive brand, it must be here.” She looked pensively at Berry, as if it were her fault.

Is it so surprising that she didn’t trust the ad? As carried away as you might get by her alluring image, you know that a team of professionals put Halle together for that ad. Presumably they used Revlon products, but they also had the benefit of the best studio lighting, an army of makeup artists and stylists, an art director, one of the finest professional photographers in the business, and every celebrity’s friend—someone skilled in the art of Photoshop to smooth out even the tiniest blemish or imperfection. And let’s not forget, they had Berry’s amazing face to use as a canvas. When you stop and think about it, you know that you aren’t really going to look like Halle Berry if you buy that particular brand of eye shadow.

Perhaps there is no better illustration of the truth behind the celebrity-ad facade than Penelope Cruz’s 2007 advertisements for a L’Oreal mascara that claimed to make eyelashes look 60 percent longer. The ad zoomed in on her batting the kind of beautiful long,glossy eyelashes we’ve all stood in front of the mirror and wished for at some point in our lives. But before you rush out and buy yourself this magical cosmetic hoping to be transformed into a Cruz look-alike, literally with the wave of mini wand, you might be interested to know that in Britain the Advertising Standards Authority found that the ads were misleading because no where did they state that Cruz was wearing . . . false eyelashes. In response to the complaints, L’Oreal said that using fake eyelashes in ads was “common industry practice.” Oh, well, that makes me feel so much better.