Janet Jackson: Becoming a Legend

My article below, about the impact of Janet Jackson being the global face of Blackglama, was printed in the inaugural issue of Ombré Magazine.

Ombré Magazine

View the entire magazine here: http://issuu.com/ireneojo/docs

Becoming A Legend

Janet Jackson Blackglama
Janet Jackson is the biggest selling brand face for global company Blackglama

Ombré takes a look at a superstar’s rise to global spokeswoman.

Words Selina Ditta

“What becomes a legend most?” is the question that has been adorning ad campaigns for luxury mink house Blackglama since its inception in 1968.

For the last three years, African American triple-threat beauty, Janet Jackson has been one of Blackglama’s “legendary” faces, joining a roster of icons including Judy Garland and Barbara Streisand. She is by no means the first person of color to represent Blackglama, which has had representation from Lena Horne, Diana Ross, Naomi Campbell and Ray Charles, but has led the most successful ad-campaign for the brand since its start.

Blackglama is world-renowned for providing exclusive ranch-raised natural black mink and has always featured a celebrity in its black-and-white print ads posing behind its famous slogan. Given that Jackson is one of the best-selling female artists of all time, selling over 100 million albums worldwide and being the only recording artist whose Grammy nominations span the categories of Dance, Pop, Rap, Rock and R&B, her universal and multi-dimensional appeal was a no-brainer to the Blackglama company.

Joe Morelli, CEO of Blackglama said: “Janet is an icon in the world of music and entertainment, a true legend. She embodies glamour, luxury and sophistication, everything that Blackglama stands for.” Jackson’s ad campaign for the brand was unveiled with a billboard in Manhattan’s Times Square, seen by hundreds of thousands of people. Charles DeCaro, co-creative director of Laspata DeCaro, who shoots Blackglama’s “WBALM”campaigns, said of the ad:  “It visually communicates Janet’s legend – her approachability, her sparkle, her smile, her magic.”

After her start with the brand in September 2010, not only was she was the first announced Blackglama “legend” to be featured for a consecutive year running, her own line for Blackglama debuted in Fur Salons at select Bloomingdales and Saks Fifth Avenue. Jackson, who is often seen at the front rows during Fashion Week has said: “The art of fashion is one of my great passions. “I’ve worked for years to bring a collection into the world.” The Janet Jackson Blackglama collection was released in 2011 and consists of 15 pieces ranging from contemporary coats, vests, scarves, gloves and other accessories.

Jackson once sang, “Because of my gender, I’ve heard no too many times. Because of my race I’ve heard no too many times”, on a track demanding respect, with Chuck D called “A New Agenda” from her 1993 multi-platinum album “Janet”. When Jackson was born in 1966, other African American women were fighting to be seen as more than just their color or gender. She grew up idolizing Dorothy Dandridge, also a triple threat talent, who fought to not play roles of slaves in film. Dandridge represented black glamour in the days of Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly.  During Jackson’s childhood, the most glamorous, black leading ladies were Diahann Carroll and Nichellee Nichols. Dorothea Church Towels who was the first successful black fashion model in Paris at the time, similarly struggled with racism at home. Towels used her model discount to buy material from top designers like Dior, who she modeled for and created her own couture line to raise funds for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.

Finding black spokespeople for luxury products back then were few and far between and some may argue that it still is like that today. However, the  evidence of African-American women’s beauty strengthening couture brand recognition worldwide has been historically recognized. Kimberly D. Brown, Association of Black Women Historians Website member and Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of History at Howard University said: “During the first half of the 20th century, most African-Americans suffered racist and socioeconomic ills that harmed with even greater devastation during the Great Depression, World War II, and the Post War eras. Even then, several brands knew the mass appeal and selling potential of darker beauty and sought out Black models to bring lustre to their products.”

During the 1930s and 40s, Josephine Baker captivated audiences in Europe with her comedic theatrics and show stopping dance routines. She was the highest paid entertainer in Europe as well as one of the most photographed women in the world of her time. Baker’s infamous banana dress is an iconic fashion statement that has been imitated throughout the decades and worn by entertainers and models alike including most recently Beyoncé.  Her beauty and star appeal, much like Jackson’s meant designers flocked to dress her. Baker was a friend and muse to French couture designers Balmain and Dior themselves. She has even been credited with saving the French fashion industry post-war. Jackson, who Mattel immortalized  into a Barbie doll two years ago, has likewise created statement outfits. The Rhythm Nation attire has dressed Mickey Mouse and Keri Hilson among others and her Rolling Stone cover in 1993 has been replicated countless times.

Today, Janet Jackson’s affiliation with Blackglama echoes Josephine Baker’s attachment to Dior. Both international multi-talented women, were sought to revitalize classic brands using celebrity to sell their desirability.  Jackson’s Blackglama ads run in international issues of magazines such as Vogue, Tatler and Marie Claireand her inclusion in the long-running campaign, which has also featured Elizabeth Taylor, Liza Minnelli, Liz Hurley and Cindy Crawford, implies the line’s acknowledgement of a black woman as a timeless attraction and also suggests the same to its consumers, according to Kimberly D. Brown.Brown said: “Much like Dorothea Towel’s employment with Dior and Balmain proved that a Negro model can sell a $1,500 gown in Europe, Jackson’s endorsement deal with Blackglama says a Black girl from Gary, Indiana can sell a $10,000 mink anywhere. In a universe where beauty culture and race ideology in general is still informed by European inclinations, that’s a big deal.” Being one of very few persons of color representing a luxury brand in 2012, Jackson is seen as an iconic woman worldwide.

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