Welcome to how your celebrity fragrance sausage is made: In a boring conference room in Newcastle, surrounded by corporate types, flacks, and real noses. "It might be too much like fruit," offers Beyoncé, taking a sniff. "But I like it."
Beyoncé and Tina Knowles, faced with a panoply of prepared samples with formulaic-sounding names, are going about the serious business of choosing which scent will be anointed Beyoncé Heat Rush, and which will return to the laboratory shelves to gather dust, living out their days as also-rans in the winner-take-all sport of celebrity fragrance marketing. Just kidding! There's no harm in seeing if Faith Hill, Jennifer Lopez, Victoria Beckham, Kate Moss, Sarah Jessica Parker — or any of the dozens of other stars who've cast in their licensed lot with fragrance giant Coty, Inc. — will take it.
Beyoncé launched her first perfume, Heat, in the U.S. last February. It sold $60,000 worth in one day, and was immediately ranked in the top ten women's perfumes by sales. Later in the year, however, Heat slipped, and by June it was number 21 in women's. That pattern is said to be typical of celebrity perfumes that start off strongly, with a big marketing push and lots of hype, and then end up two months later stocked next to indelible classics like Chanel No. 5. Now that the Heat is cooling, B. needs a new fragrance to stay on top, or else she and Coty might not make absolute piles of money. Heat Rush, apparently known going into this meeting as "Sunset Cocktail Mod 5," fits the bill. Congratulations, Sunset Cocktail Mod 5! Beyoncé's perfume line is projected to do around $150 million at retail in 2011.