Inside the Mysterious World of Celebrity Beauty Brands

This happens via a few different arrangements. Anyone with money can go to a contract manufacturer and ask them to make products. But some celebrities work with so-called incubators to develop their brands, relying on them for everything from ideation to manufacturing and marketing so that the celebrities themselves can simply offer creative input and then demo the products to their built-in, enormous fan bases. Then there are some who opt to build their brands from scratch, relying on savvy management teams and beauty industry veterans.

It’s hard to suss out details, though, about how exactly individual brands are structured and which ones fall into which of these buckets. These are private companies and, like all private companies, they’re under no obligation to publicly disclose their financial structures. We know, for example, that Gomez’s team built Rare Beauty from the ground up, hiring former executives from Nyx and Hourglass, but we don’t know if there are investors involved or how much of the company is owned by Gomez. We do know that Lady Gaga’s Haus Laboratories has investors because venture-capital firm Lightspeed (which also has The Honest Company in its portfolio) has discussed its involvement with the press. We also know, from market data company PitchBook, that Haus received Series A funding of about $10 million.

And then there are the celebrity beauty brands that are born from parents. Fenty Beauty, for example, emerged from luxury conglomerate (and Sephora parent company) LVMH and its beauty-incubator arm, Kendo, which also produces Marc Jacobs Beauty, KVD Vegan Beauty, and Ole Henriksen. The New York Times has reported that Fenty is the result of a licensing deal with Rihanna in which she also has a minority ownership stake. Kristen Bell’s new CBD personal-care line, Happy Dance, is actually part of Cronos Group, a publicly traded cannabinoid company that also produces the high-end CBD brand Lord Jones. The partnership was announced via press release in May 2020, but the brand declined to offer details on its specifics.

Maesa is a leader in the incubator space that’s been around for almost 25 years, with roots as a contract manufacturer that go back to the celebrity fragrance boom of the 2000s. (Glow by JLo, one of the pioneering successes in the celebrity fragrance universe, helped ignite that trend in 2002.) Maesa had a hand in making Kim Kardashian’s original, pre-KKW fragrances, but it dove deeper into doing partnered, full lines when it found success with Drew Barrymore and Flower Beauty in 2013. Barrymore, coming off a seven-year contract as a face and cocreative director of CoverGirl and the cofounder of a production company, seemed like a good bet. Maesa approached her with the idea of working on something together and eventually Flower bloomed. In an inverse case, the actor (and amateur hairstylist) Taraji P. Henson was already mixing hair products herself and sent her team out in search of partners, landing with Maesa. Today, Maesa produces Henson’s TPH, Priyanka Chopra Jonas’s Anomaly, and Jada Pinkett Smith’s Hey Humans.

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