A Brief History Of The Most Successful Celebrity Perfumes

In a particularly memorable, extremely validating moment for celebrity fragrances, a New York Times perfume reviewer once gave Britney Spears’ Midnight Fantasy a “four stars; excellent” review. “The result is both a perfect olfactory incarnation of Spears (on the screen, not behind the wheel of a car) and a chef-d’oeuvre of the new neon sweets/ultra-gourmand category,” Chandler Burr wrote.


It says something about the status of the celebrity perfume that it’s surprising Midnight Fantasy received such a high review. At Soho’s Perfumarie, a shop that specializes in blind perfume shopping, one of the perfume taps was filled with Pitbull Man—anonymously labeled so people didn’t know where the fragrance was from—and it turned out to be one of the most popular scents in the store. In other words, mass-market, sold-at-Walmart status or not, perfumes from famous people occupy a unique place in the perfume world. At once scorned and iconic, celebrity perfumes don’t do the business they used to.


A 2017 Washington Post article said that celebrity scent sales had dropped by half since 2000, with shoppers choosing higher-end, more individualized and subtle fragrances. But Britney Spears built a billion-dollar business on her perfumes, and while Le Labo Santal 33 is now the ubiquitous perfume, the instantly understandable, saccharine appeal of a bottle shaped like J.Lo will always be there. Below, a brief history of the top-selling celebrity fragrances (*not ranked in order of sales)

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White Diamonds by Elizabeth Taylor, 1991–With over $1.5 billion dollars in sales, Taylor’s White Diamonds fragrance, a chic, powdery grandma smell in liquid form, is the consummate celebrity fragrance. Though it was Sophia Loren who actually had the first celebrity fragrance with Sophia in 1981, it was White Diamonds that set the stage for the perfectly marketed juggernaut of desire by way of smell.


“Not so fast Von Ryan, these have always brought me luck” Taylor famously says in the perfume’s commercial, before casually tossing her diamond earrings to an eager man. With that, an iconic, four-bottles-sold-a-minute perfume was born.

A Brief History of the Most Successful Celebrity Perfumes

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Curious by Britney Spears, 2004—Celebrity fragrances saw a boom in the early 2000s, with two major celeb fragrances launching in 2004: Britney Spears’ Curious and Jennifer Lopez’s Glow. Rachel Syme set the scene for the launch party of Curious, held at Macy’s. A 22-year-old Britney, four days away from her second marriage that year, snapping chewing bubble gum took the stage.


“It smells amazing, and it is in department stores, so I seriously suggest to be sexy and go out and get it. Seriously,” Spears instructed the crowd. Curious ended up being a finalist at the Fragrance Foundation Awards in 2005 and a report stated that, in five years, the singer’s perfume partner Elizabeth Arden had sold over 500 million bottles of Curious.

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Glow by Jennifer Lopez, 2004—Oh, to experience the excess of a celebrity’s life in 2004! Before there was Kim K’s perfume bottle in the shape of her body, there was J.Lo’s sensual Glow, a bottle with curves and a rhinestone logo. Debuting with a Trump Tower launch party and a fireworks display over the Hudson that spelled out “GLOW”, the singer had significant input in the fragrance’s scent. In a 2003 interview with Inc, she described having a “very clear concept and direction…all about being fresh, sexy, and clean.”

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Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker, 2005—In 2005, Sarah Jessica Parker released Lovely, a bottle that looks like champagne and smells like “mandarin, rosewood, lavender, and apple martini”. SJP, a longtime fragrance aficionado had “unusual input” in the creation of Lovely, which was inspired by a combination of Bonne Bell’s Skin Musk, an Egyptian oil she bought on the street in New York, and  Comme des Garçons Incense Avignon.


The Financial Times noted that the fragrance is considered by connoisseurs to be the best celebrity fragrance.

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Heat by Beyoncé, 2010—Heat’s scintillating packaging with a Beyoncé cover of “Fever” and a commercial involving sweat, a red dress, and a very enjoyable bath made it the top-selling fragrance of 2013 and an all-time bestseller. With over $400 million in sales, Heat was apparently inspired by Beyoncé’s love of using fire in performances. While reviews were mixed—one particularly ruthless review described it as an “offensive mix of car fumes and that vanilla body spray Victoria’s Secret used to sell to 12-year-olds”—it did garner some best-fragrance-of-the-year awards.


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