Why Are All the A-List Actresses from the '90s Getting Into the Beauty Biz?

It used to be that when an actress's career stalled or she got a bit past her prime, she'd turn to the theater to re-establish herself as a "serious" actress. Now it seems like Hollywood leading ladies are running to the beauty industry to up their cred and leave a legacy. There's a whole generation of waning '90s TV and movie sweethearts (see: Drew Barrymore, Katie Holmes, Jennifer Aniston) who are getting serious in the beauty business. And not just as spokesmodels. But why?
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It used to be that when an actress's career stalled or she got a bit past her prime, she'd turn to the theater to re-establish herself as a "serious" actress. Now it seems like Hollywood leading ladies are running to the beauty industry to up their cred and leave a legacy. There's a whole generation of waning '90s TV and movie sweethearts (see: Drew Barrymore, Katie Holmes, Jennifer Aniston) who are getting serious in the beauty business. And not just as spokesmodels. But why?
Katie Holmes for Alterna

Katie Holmes for Alterna

It used to be that when an actress's career stalled or she got a bit past her prime, she'd turn to the theater to re-establish herself as a "serious" actress. Now it seems like Hollywood's leading ladies are running to the beauty industry to up their cred and leave a legacy.

There's a whole generation of waning '90s TV and movie sweethearts who are getting serious about beauty.

While some are still scoring lucrative deals as traditional spokespeople for beauty brands--like Katie Holmes for Bobbi Brown and the just-announced Jennifer Aniston for Aveeno--others are actually getting involved in the business side, offering creative input and even taking ownership stakes in companies.

Drew Barrymore just launched her very own (huge) cosmetics range, Flower, with Wal-mart, and she's not merely a figurehead. At the launch she told us, "We really labored over every single product, [all] 181 SKUs. We thought about it, formulated, packaged, fought for it with blood, sweat, tears; edited, and created." Jennifer Aniston's also putting her money where her mouth (or hair) is, having recently signed on as the spokesperson, "creator," and investor in hair care brand Living Proof.

Drew Barrymore's 'Flower' Range

Drew Barrymore's 'Flower' Range

And just today WWD is reporting on two new beauty collabs with actresses who haven't graced many screens lately: Cristina Ricci designed a makeup bag for MakeUp ForEver (random...) and Katie Holmes signed on with organic hair company Alterna, in a deal that's a lot like Aniston's with Living Proof. She'll actually be a co-owner of the company, and there might even be a charity tie-in with her fashion label, Holmes & Yang, according to WWD.

So why is the beauty industry so popular with actresses?

"It's absolutely the new twilight career of fading stars," Jo Piazza, the author of Celebrity, Inc.: How Famous People Make Money, told us. "While they used to be put out to pasture in the theatre, that has become a young woman's game."

Ouch.

But don't feel too sorry for them. "Working with beauty brands allows them to continue to feel glamorous and relevant and is also more lucrative than the movie offers they get once they are past their prime," Piazza said. "A past-her-prime actress may only get $2 million a movie, [but] she can make $5 million from a beauty line." Seems like a much better alternative than hitting the theater six nights a week and being paid a pittance.

Jennifer Aniston for Living Proof

Jennifer Aniston for Living Proof

And the beauty companies obviously benefit, too. An Alterna spokesperson told WWD that they saw a parallel to their company in Katie Holmes, saying, “Like her, this is a brand that has been very much around, but hiding in plain sight.” It also probably doesn't hurt that she used to be married to one of the biggest stars in the world, and is a paparazzi staple thanks to that marriage and her stylish daughter, Suri. Similarly, Jen Aniston is a tabloid staple thanks to her romantic adventures, and Living Proof had the good sense to realize that she's still one of the most recognizable celebs in the world. The Wall Street Journal noted, "Living Proof at first thought its MIT credentials would be enough to create brand awareness but eventually saw they needed more firepower."

And these celebs really do still have firepower, for brands if not necessarily on the screen anymore. Celebs like Holmes and Aniston, who are in their 30s and 40s respectively and had a lot of fame in the 90s, are popular with a few different generations. These '90s celebs are old enough that the over-30 demographic will nostalgically embrace them, but young enough to appeal to younger customers who may look up to them.

It will be interesting to see how this trend plays out. We're crossing our fingers for a Claire Danes makeup line.