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To be a celebrity in this day and age means you probably have a side hustle that capitalizes on your fame with tangible things that people can buy. Rihanna has a clothing line with Puma and a makeup collection, both called Fenty. Gwyneth Paltrow has Goop. Reese Witherspoon has a Southern-inspired clothing and lifestyle brand, Draper James.
But nothing is more tried and true than the celebrity fragrance. Ever since Elizabeth Taylor released White Diamonds in 1991, countless celebrities have used the strategy for its low-cost/high-margin earning potential. And Stormy Daniels, the porn actress with arguably one of the most recognized names in America right now thanks to her legal entanglements with President Donald Trump, just released one.
Naming a scent is important, as it helps evoke a feeling and tell a story. Celebrity fragrances in particular have to tell the story of their subject — or at least the story the celeb wants to portray. To wit, Trump’s two fragrances are called Empire and Success.
Many potential names for Daniels’s fragrance (the tagline of which is “embrace your truth”) were kicked around, including Hush.
“That just had bad connotations,” says Michael Ninn, the chief operating officer and creative director at It’s the Bomb, the company that collaborated with Daniels to produce and sell the fragrance. (Recall that Daniels was paid $130,000 by Trump’s then-lawyer Michael Cohen to remain silent about her alleged affair with the president.) Ninn says that the company scooped up the Truth name after Calvin Klein legally released it.
It’s the Bomb is a company that sells things meant to “enhance the sensual part of your life,” according to Ninn. It’s not an adult product site per se, though there is at least one vibrator for sale. Mostly it sells colorful bath bombs and similar products that it makes in-house, including “PooBombs” for the toilet and CBD lubricant, although shoppers can find penis-shaped soap. There’s also a notation at the bottom of the site that says it will soon sell an “‘I Swallow’ glassware and bar collection.” Think naughty Bath & Body Works.
Trump is not mentioned anywhere on the site, though footage of Daniels surrounded by photographers at what looks like a press conference is included in the promotional video. Daniels addresses this in a roundabout way. According to Ninn, she’s not allowed to currently speak to the press because of a “gag order,” but in an older statement sent to Racked she wrote, in part:
I have met many people that are just coming into their individual truth, whether it be their sexuality, social activism or their skills and abilities that are not considered by many in the public realm to be “normal” but are exceptional and unique to them. ... My fans know that while I may have created a fantasy for them to enjoy, I was always real. There’s a difference between fantasy and outright lying to people and lying is not something I ever have or will do. Did I sometimes not speak out publicly when I was not happy with certain situations? Sure. But that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t aware of my own truth and followed my heart in how I acted when in a situation I didn’t agree with. I am a strong woman who has always known what I wanted and was very adept at figuring out how to get it.
Ninn, who used to work in advertising and graphic design, has known Daniels for many years in his capacity as an erotic and adult photographer and director. He’s been with the two-year-old It’s the Bomb for less than a year, but he recognized the marketing potential for her after Daniels’s representative reached out to him about selling Stormy Daniels products. A perfume made a lot of sense and only took a few months to produce after the initial talks happened.
“Because of who she is and her background ... I mean, we took a big chance with this. It’s divisive at best. Our point was not to make it divisive, but to make it an empowering product,” Ninn says.
The gamble so far seems to be paying off. After the news of the fragrance dropped, it was covered on what seemed like every single mainstream news site. “You couldn’t buy that linkage if you tried,” Ninn says. “Love her, hate her — there’s interest there.” He says traffic to It’s the Bomb went up 1,800 percent that day. While he wouldn’t share sales figures, Ninn says the company is on its second round of production of the product and is filling “large numbers” of customer orders.
But what’s the actual perfume like? On the site, it’s described as “a beautiful, gender-neutral, pheromone infused cologne/perfume created for all.” In addition to pheromones, which are usually described as musky, notes include rose water, melon, freesia, lily, amber, tuberose, and musk. (The science behind pheromones in humans is iffy at best, but they’ve been around since the ’90s, though they’re not used much in perfumes now.) Ninn also said he added “nautical” elements to evoke the ocean.
Gender neutral — formerly called “unisex” in the world of fragrance — is a common designation for perfumes lately. Traditionally feminine fragrances are usually heavily floral and sweet; gender-neutral fragrances tone that down and tend to bring in muskier, spicier, greener, and earthier notes, like former Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt’s (possible) favorite lotion, Asprey Purple Water.
Ninn took pains to make everything about the fragrance as classic as possible. While Kim Kardashian recently released perfume bottles molded in the shape of her naked body, Daniels’s packaging is a bit more traditional. The square glass bottle is fairly standard. Ninn, who designed the fragrance as well as all the packaging and marketing materials, took the concept of “classic” almost to an extreme.
“When you do something for an adult star that has to swing back into the mainstream, you have to make it more mainstream than mainstream. You have to, from my point of view, approach it in the strictest sense of classic,” he says.
So did he succeed?
To avoid any sort of bias, I asked a bunch of people around my office to smell it and give me their opinions on the scent, telling them only that it was a famous person’s fragrance and that it was meant to be gender neutral. All of them had positive reactions. Some said they would wear it, although one person said that while she wouldn’t personally do so, “if someone next to me on the subway were wearing it, I wouldn’t be mad.”
It was almost universally described as floral and not particularly gender neutral, at least in the strictly traditional sense of the term. One man said, “I can’t wear this.” I originally had the same opinion, but after I wore it for a few hours, the floral notes weakened and it took on a clean, less girly scent. It’s really very … nice!
The classic vibe definitely came through, though, and one astute sniffer was even able to suss out the intended beachiness. One person said it felt like something Estée Lauder would release; another said it reminded her of an Elizabeth Arden perfume her mom used to wear. “I feel like it’s someone with a very tidy public image,” one woman said. “I don’t think it’s particularly gender neutral, but it’s also not cloying. It feels pretty grown up.”
When asked which celebrity it reminded them of, a theme emerged there too. Two people each said Reese Witherspoon and Sarah Jessica Parker. Blake Lively, Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, and Taylor Swift all came up. As a true outlier in this field, one person mentioned Andrew Garfield.
There are plans to release more Stormy Daniels beauty products. Ninn says the company is currently in talks with a former “designer for Victoria’s Secret who’s gone out on her own and has a gender-neutral lipstick and lip balm.”
Daniels said in the earlier statement, “Truth offers something that speaks to everyone and celebrates individuality along with the ability to be comfortable in one’s own skin and with their chosen lifestyle.” If nothing else, this venture is certainly a testament that Daniels is doing just that.