Monday, July 25, 2011


Beyoncé Heat: Yes, I see there is no coconut note listed, and that's fine, even if "macaroon" sounds suspect. Fragrance industry, you think you're slick! I dearly wish the fragrance industry would stop assigning coconuts to black celebrities. From Naomi Campbell to Kimona to Rihanna, sure, I love coconut, and it seems a perfect note to include in a perfume for a Barbadian beauty, like magnolias for a Southern belle, but enough is enough. Historically, we've seen the semiotically racist language behind marketing black people with jungle images, but it's also done through flavor and fragrance, specifically through creating a systematic hierarchy of taste and through target advertising. Black people are often associated with a preference for vanilla (orchids are vanilla flowers, too), as Latinas likewise are associated with vanilla, spices and tropical fruits - and when it's done constantly, the stereotype sticks, making it easier to objectify people as a group, a mere demographic. It's as ignorant of social impact as depicting Asians as a stoic, or frantic (either way, clumsy and geeky, physically unattractive) stereotype, or writing off whole nationalities as drunken cultures. Please, just once, launch a classic Floral for any black celeb, not necessarily African American although it would be nice (something like Chloé or Narciso Rodriguez Essence would be amazing, no? And I don't mean a "dark" "evening" "night" "extreme" "exotic" "spicy" "hot" flanker (follower / sidekick scent)).

The 2011 Duftstars (FiFi Awards Germany) winner in the Lifestyle category was made by Coty Inc. (not Coty Prestige). It's an OK scent, not my fave but wearable, a somewhat spicy, oily-musky coconut reminiscent of hair product, Candie's (zingy Orange Julius patchouli!) and Benefit So Hooked on Carmella. For comparison to another celeb coconut scent, it is fresher, more transparent, and less sweet than Rihanna Reb'l Fleur. A response from a hip 10-year-old: "I like that it smells like cinnamon vanilla." That's accurate, but for me, what also stands out are green, Fougere-like piney notes with the watery coconut musk - I wonder if what I smell is fig, which often has coconut in it (and so Halle Berry's perfume may have coconut, too). It's not too far off from Naomi Campbell in that they both lean towards green: figgy, coconutty, vanillic and aromatic, but Beyonce Heat adds a touch of Jolly Rancher that I guess clashes with the barbershop atmosphere. Musk adds, well, heat, the sweaty animalic base note in any perfume, but the musk is light in this - it wears mostly as a watery, aromatic skin scent.

Beyoncé is an example of a star who was able to crossover the racially segregating flavor & fragrance line when Tommy Hilfiger launched True Star with her lovely face (granted it was a sporty image, which would bring us to another stereotype, but this was a nice, clean skin scent, like rice milk, although the listed note was wheat), and again with Emporio Armani Diamonds by Giorgio Armani, a powdery violet makeup-scented Floral, a demure, soapy and traditional feminine offering (that fit the star's love of the scent of baby powder). Look - if Jean Patou, the legendary French perfume house that gave us JOY (1930), "the costliest perfume in the world", could honor Josephine Baker with a lilting spring garden floral called Amour Amour (1925), today's fragrance industry can launch a new Cinderella perfume for someone, maybe in time for 2012. Makeup guru Kevyn Aucoin was able, in his lifetime, to eradicate the notion of "exotic beauty" for his generation and beyond, saying beauty doesn't have one standard. Hallelujah and Amen!

Miller Harris Noix de Tubéreuse: I did not like this when I first sampled it. Heavily floral and syrupy, it was way too cloyingly sweet, wooded and spicy to be my choice for a tuberose blend. I have since changed my mind and decided, at least for the time being, that this smells rather smoky and delicious on skin, like black coconut incense from an oil vendor in the city. It's like a dark, dark bourbon vanilla with a bright, pop violet tuberose opening, ending with ambery, boozy, sweet buttered rum. It's at least as obnoxious as Robert Piguet Fracas, and like Fracas, its violet-sharp, yet creamy and intoxicating white floral semi-dual, it'll blend with all the other beachy suntan lotion smells in the summer wind.

Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille: Here is another heavy, sweet coconut scent that reminds me of dark vanilla, but it's also very much a woody coconut. This one is much sweeter than the others in a cakey way (think Demeter Angel Food), and it may be better suited to people who don't like flowery scents. If you like Woody Oriental Gourmands in the vein of Aquolina Pink Sugar or Hanae Mori Butterfly, and fruitchoulis like Guerlain My Insolence or Xerjoff XJ Elle (intensely floral berry patchouli), you might like this, the sweetest (and a bit spicy in a gingerbread way), most (OK, the only) fun and Gourmand offering by Serge Lutens.

Urban Decay Sweet Cream Moisture Mist: Let's mix it up with a bath and body product; if what you want to smell is pure, sweet, unadulterated coconut milk, Sweet Cream hits the spot. The texture of this sprayable mist is light, and sinks right into skin, making it feel smooth and dewy as well as smelling subtly fragranced with a veil of sweet, milky coconut vanilla. I don't regularly use body products, and this is one I bought a few years ago from Sephora, so I'm not sure if it's still available, but it's a smart little seasonal pick-me-up. Can't find it in stores? God bless the USA where there's always eBay, home of discontinued treasures.

Would you like more coconut recs? Link to here, here and one for cool weather here.

Related links:

Rihanna Reb'l Fleur Pink Manhattan July 23, 2011

Odin 04 Petrana - Pink Manhattan July 17, 2011