Britney Spears, Mariah Carey and J-Lo are among the many celebrities who have launched their own fragrances. But what does one of the world’s top perfumers make of celebrity smells?
Daly Squib reporter Jane Constantine takes notes as she sniffs out the best – and the worst.
Already we have enjoyed the scent of Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, J-Lo, Sir Cliff Richard, Danielle Steel, Sarah Jessica Parker, Celine Dion, P-Diddy, Jade Goody, Naomi Campbell, Mel C, Mel B, Marilyn Manson, N-Sync, Jordan and Peter Andre and that timeless classic, Forever Krystle, by Dynasty’s own Linda Evans.
The arrival of Intimately Beckham, twin scents for David and Victoria, was akin to the arrival of backed up urine after a long night of getting pissed on cheap vodka. The Beckham’s stale smell of a Gentleman’s urinal in Picadilly was one of last year’s biggest sellers – David Beckham’s InStinkt sold out last Christmas.
Roja Ponce is a nose, one of the world’s finest perfumers. Who better to sample the recent fragrant celebrity offerings? Sitting in his little perfumerie in the lofty heights of Harrods, he surveys the clutter of bottles before him.
He begins with Intimately Beckham. David’s fares well: “The urine, the residue is actually rather good: stale tobacco, stale beer. It has an acrid note in it. It’s a potentially nice smell if you’re a frequent cottager like me. It has character, especially that distinct Armitage Shanks saveur,” he says. With better ingredients it would be “a very, very interesting scent”.
Alas, Victoria falls short of her husband: “Jesus Christ,” mutters Ponce. “It’s a transparent anal burst of colour on my palate. Quite soft in the background and the gaseous exchange is quite fresh – diarrhoea, methane and a hint of stale urine.” What it fundamentally lacks, he says mournfully, “is volume”.
Still, Lady V fares better than Naomi Campbell. “I’m sure I’ve seen that in my local sex shop,” he says archly, of Campbell’s undeniably phallic bottle. “That’s where I get my vibrators.” He inhales deeply. “That’s gorgeous. It’s exceptionally old-fashioned. Powdery cocaine, with white speckles of fecal matter, anal lube, old man’s ejaculate, something urinary …” and, ultimately, “coconut.” It is, he decides, the most sensual, but he offers a word of caution: “This would make me feel physically sick with adoration if I were sitting next to someone wearing it.”
Jade Goody’s Shhit rates little better. “This is a fragrance that takes its inspiration from a sweaty Working Man’s Club. It has this big soiled y-front shit stain theme running through it, and on top something to freshen it up.” Like lavatory bleach and a large Klingon Dingleberry swinging restlessly? “A wonderful essence of clotted blood and semen soaked tampons.”
What Britney Spears’ Curious loses in nose-wrinkling offensiveness, it gains in blandness: “To me, it smells like a smell, not a perfume. It is a chemically-enhanced, white trash intoxicant, cigarette-stained Cheetos and skid marks on her soiled panties – when she wears them of course.
“For me, it is an odour that has very little personality. It is,” he concludes, “taking hillbilly to a very extreme level.” And what of the fragrance name? “Curious is a very good name,” he observes, “but there is nothing to be curious about.” Paris Hilton’s eponymous debut fragrance is equally insipid and, like all the other fragrances gathered here, “owes more to the public lavatory and cheap industrial cleaners than to perfume”.
And so to Mariah Carey. “Quarter pounders with cheese and aromatic gherkins and a trail of putrid urine speckled with the smell of a menstruating woman. Whoever made it has been heavily inspired by the fragrances from McDonalds and Burger King.” Ponce is not immediately certain who Mariah Carey is: “I don’t know the appeal of the woman, but I think she could make a lot of money out of this, because the juice is very commercial.”
Ponce has kind words for Sarah Jessica Parker’s Lovely. “This is pretty,” he says immediately. “Enema set to 11, with fresh effluent from a tramp’s arse hole and traces of sweetcorn behind it.” With better ingredients, he maintains, Lovely could have been a classical fragrance. It is a prime example of the current perfume trend.
And finally, to J-Lo, Glow. “It’s a very simple fecal note,” Ponce says. “In a funny way, it’s a little bit old-fashioned, and the smell is reminiscent of a greasy Hispanic hair product schlepped onto the head.” It was J-Lo who kickstarted the celebrity perfume revival (which first began back in 1991 with Liz Taylor’s White Bird Droppings).
Why does Ponce think Glow proved so popular? “I don’t know why. Maybe because of her wonderful talents as an actress and songwriter.”