Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Celebs push models aside

Fashion turns to more actors, singers for marketing cachet

By Erin Hanafy
The Associated Press

Flip through a fashion magazine, and you're more likely than ever to see the same faces you see on television and in movies.

There's a mod, fierce-looking Jennifer Lopez wielding a Louis Vuitton handbag. There's a ghostly, unadorned Christina Aguilera in Versace. Turn the page, and Cate Blanchett glares intensely at you with smoky black eyes that match her Donna Karan dress. Keep going and you'll see more celebrities putting their considerable charms to use selling clothing: Victoria Beckham for Roc-a-Wear, Angie Harmon for Jones New York and Oscar winner Adrien Brody for Ermenegildo Zegna.

They're not the first famous faces to hawk clothes - Madonna was doing it eight years ago for Versace - but the number of celebrities infringing on models' turf is increasing.

"It's just part of the cycle," says Barbara Lippert, ad critic for AdWeek magazine.

Lippert says the public's appetite for Hollywood glamour wasn't being satisfied in the early 1990s as actresses embraced a dressed-down, grunge look. The top models earned their "super" stripes by being in the right place at the right time - putting us all on a first-name basis with Cindy, Christy, Naomi, Claudia, Linda, Kate and Stephanie and the rest of the gorgeous gang.

Not to say that the supermodels have gone away. In a business that traditionally sees models retire by their late 20s, the now-thirtysomethings are still working.

Stephanie Seymour is featured in ads for the Gap, Linda Evangelista can be seen in new Fendi ads and Naomi Campbell recently walked the runways during fashion week in New York. W magazine devoted 40 pages in its September issue to Kate Moss.

The younger models, however, are not following in their super footsteps and are losing some jobs to celebrities. The public's appetite for celebrity news gives them publicity power models can't match.

The power of celebrity is on full display at newsstands as well, with familiar faces emblazoned on the covers of fashion magazines who just a few years ago only used models for covers. The October cover of Vogue features a smiling Gwyneth Paltrow, while W touts "La Lopez" on its cover. Halle Berry is Elle's cover girl, Catherine Zeta-Jones is on Harper's Bazaar, Penelope Cruz is featured on Allure and Shania Twain is on Glamour.

"More and more what's happened over the last couple of years is that women have become disenchanted with models," says Cindy Leive, Glamour's editor in chief. "They think that they're all 6 feet tall, 100 pounds with sharp cheekbones, and they don't think that they're real."

Eight of Glamour's 10 covers this year have featured celebrities, compared to just five in 2002.

"They might see Drew Barrymore and say, 'She's had troubles in love just like me,' " Leive says. "Or they see Jennifer Lopez and say, 'Wow she made herself a superstar out of nothing. And she has curves.' "

Good or bad, a celebrity cover will generate publicity in a marketplace that supports endless Entertainment Tonight, Extra and E! knockoffs.

"It's just become a common language," Leive says. "The fact is that my Glamour reader can be on a bus anywhere and turn to the person next to her and say, 'Man, isn't it crazy how skinny Lara Flynn Boyle has gotten?' "

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