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Imagine a movie starring Jared Leto, Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, Karlie Kloss, Shay Mitchell, and Hilary Duff. I know, I can’t do it either! But these celebs all now form the strangest Venn diagram ever as newly minted investors in Kopari, a coconut oil-based beauty brand.
Kopari, which has about a dozen products, launched in October 2015. It is currently carried at Sephora.com and will launch in Sephora stores by the first week of February. Its marquee product is the Coconut Melt ($38), which is 100 percent organic coconut oil. (For comparison, you can get a jar of organic coconut oil at Target for $6 that is twice the size.)
The whole collection, including a facial skincare line, contains coconut oil or coconut extract. The collection and website feature a potent mix — by today’s marketing standards — of millennial pink, teal, and sassy script font. I haven’t yet had the chance to try the line, but reviews on Sephora tend to skew gushy. “This product is different from the coconut oil you'd pick up at the grocery store. I am not exactly sure why but when I apply this project to my skin at night there is a fresh moisturized feeling...” reads one.
Let’s just get the first and most important question out of the way, one which I made myself wait ten whole minutes to ask two of Kopari’s co-founders when I hopped on the phone with them yesterday: Is this magical coconut elixir the reason Jared Leto looks like he hasn’t aged a day since he played Jordan Catalano?
“I don’t know. I wouldn’t be comfortable saying that,” said James Brennan, one of Kopari’s four co-founders, laughing. “I wouldn’t want to box him into anything that I’m not sure of.” However, Leto and Brennan have been friends for several years, and Brennan was the co-founder of Suja Juice, of which Leto is also an investor. Leto was the first celebrity investor to come on to Kopari and “has been involved since the get-go.” I would hope he’d use the product that he’s sunk an undisclosed amount of funding into. Anyway.
So what exactly made these celebs cuckoo for coconut? For one thing, Kopari has had a rather precipitous rise to prominence in the beauty world, at least by start-up standards. In addition to Sephora, Kopari is on QVC as well. Both are retail venues that many beauty start-ups take years to crack. And while the company tried the paid influencer route to gain visibility, that didn’t stick as much as traditional media did. The brand got coverage in People, won an InStyle beauty award six months after its launch, and was featured on the Today show. Eventually, venture capitalists came calling.
The founders just announced a deal with L Catterton, an investment group with connections to LVMH, which owns Sephora, so it all makes sense. Once L Catterton (and Jared Leto) was on board, Brennan said he hit up his network of celebrities, which he cultivated from his days working in the nightlife and restaurant business, and, of course, the juice business.
Jared Leto and Ashton Kutcher (who, full disclosure, is an adviser to Racked’s parent company, Vox Media) are both serial investors. Leto has invested in Headspace, Reddit, and a slew of others, while Kutcher owns an investment company and has put money in AirBnb, Fab, and many others. Mila Kunis is of course married to Kutcher and may or may not be into coconut oil. Karlie Kloss has a cookie line and also invested in Reformation. I have no idea why Hilary Duff and Shay Mitchell came on board, but good for them. After a quick scan of Instagram, it doesn’t appear that any of them have featured Kopari on their pages yet.
The relationship of celebrities with beauty brands may be undergoing a bit of a shift. The celeb-as-brand-ambassador model is dying off in favor of actual ownership in a brand. Jennifer Aniston famously owned a stake and promoted Living Proof, which has since been sold to Unilever. And of course there’s Kylie Jenner, Jessica Alba’s Honest Company, Kate Hudson’s Fabletics, and the zillions of models who have beauty lines.
And as far as the popularity of coconut oil, which has been a darling of the wellness world for a few years now, Bryce Goldman, another co-founder of Kopari, is still bullish on it. “We still feel the category is really strong. Our plan for the immediate future is to leverage coconut oil.”
Maybe that movie is Coconut Oil: The Sequel.