Dancer on pointe as Estee Lauder's spokesmodel

Ballerina Misty Copeland has been on the cover of Time magazine and had a Barbie doll made in her likeness.
Ballerina Misty Copeland has been on the cover of Time magazine and had a Barbie doll made in her likeness.PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK • The mist is clearing for someone other than a supermodel or sultry-looking actress to land a high-profile, lucrative modelling contract to promote products from major cosmetics companies.

Enter the ballerina.

The ballet world took notice on Monday when Estee Lauder announced that the public face of one of its fragrances would be Misty Copeland, the American Ballet Theatre star.

The news that she would promote the fragrance, Modern Muse, was seen in the industry as a commercial vote of confidence in the popular appeal of ballet - and especially of Copeland, the first African-American woman to become a principal dancer at the Ballet Theatre.

Her personal story has been told in books and a documentary film.

She made the cover of Time magazine in 2015; endorsement deals with companies including Under Armour have helped spread her fame beyond the dance world; and there was even a Barbie doll made in her likeness.

Her selection underscores the extent to which, even at a moment when many ballet companies have struggled to sell tickets, individual dancers are still seen as bankable.

Since ballet careers tend to be short, dangerous and not particularly well paid compared with other fields of entertainment, many dancers have worked hard to build their own brands.

It does not hurt that they tend to be young, extremely fit and attractive - which puts them in line for endorsement deals that might otherwise go to athletes or models.

Just last week, luxury jeweller and speciality retailer Tiffany & Co. announced that it would feature another Ballet Theatre star, David Hallberg, in its autumn advertising campaign.

In recent years, other dancers have been in advertisements for fast-fashion houses Uniqlo and Gap, various jewellers and even other scents.

The dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied has appeared in advertisements for an Yves Saint Laurent cologne.

But the news that Copeland would be taking a role with Estee Lauder was seen as a step further in the recent world of ballet endorsements.

Estee Lauder officials said the 34-year-old would be the first ballet dancer to serve as what it called a "spokesmodel" for one of its products. They added that the company was planning a multi-year engagement with her that would include TV commercials as well as print and digital campaigns.

"We see Misty as having the ability to connect with women," said Ms Geri Schachner, a senior vice-president for global communications at Estee Lauder.

"It's really about the fact that she is an inspiration, particularly to young girls. We want to connect with people who really see her as a role model - not just as a dancer, but as a woman."

Copeland has become a force on social media. When she announced the campaign on Twitter, one of the first people to congratulate her was Ms Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former United States presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The campaign, which is only just beginning, also offered fans a hint of what a Copeland performance might smell like.

"Usually when I put on fragrance," she said on the company's website, "it's before I step onto the stage."

Pointe taken.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2017, with the headline 'Dancer on pointe as Estee Lauder's spokesmodel'. Print Edition | Subscribe