The Fragrance: “Expensive Hooker”? Maybe.

Photography by Steven Klein
My initial reaction to Lady Gaga’s “Fame” perfume was slight disappointment due to my mounting anticipation since I first heard that Mother Monster was coming out with a fragrance. But still, my senses were intrigued and the scent, though not quite ‘hooker’ was still delicious. I liked the fragrance more and more as I walked around Sephora, frequently smelling, my wrist, struggling to take it all in. Okay, this could be what a high-class hooker might smell like. An expensive escort. Intriguing, sexy, demure, classy- you even have to chase it a little bit.


I can’t pin point the changes in the notes I was smelling as you are supposed to be able to do, however, I did notice the increasingly intoxicating nature of the fragrance, almost as if it were induced with pheromones (which, unfortunately it is not- no blood, no semen, as originally promised). And yet, there was still something very commercial about it, unlike what I had expected from Gaga. But, that in it of itself is perfect.

Lady Gaga consistently subverts expectations. My Art History professor once said: “Lady Gaga will never fall into the Madonna trap- people don’t expect a sex object- they don’t know what to expect. If people can never see you- they can never place you- they can never own you.”
This notion applies to both the scent and the unique purpley-black to clear appearance of the liquid- she wouldn’t just do a fragrance. It had to be bold. She would not sign a contract with fragrance giant, Coty, until they could produce the necessary technology. In fact, once it was done, everybody thought it smelled so good they wanted to make it clear so that they wouldn’t have to explain to people that it wouldn’t stain their clothes. Gaga said “No, The fragrance is called Fame; it must be black. It must smell enticing. You must want to lick and touch and feel it, but the look of it must terrify you.” (Source: Vogue, September 2012, Pg 803).

She had initially stated that her perfume would contain traces of bodily fluids- semen and essences of her blood. If I had to guess, these ideas were shot down and a black eau de parfum was the compromise. To me, this runs parallel to her music.

Her debut album of the same name was a little different than the commercial norm (in 2008, dance music was not frequenting the radio) but still she played it somewhat pop-safe with Fame. After she became one of the best selling artists ever, she was allowed to run closer to the edge with the Fame Monster and leapt into an electro-rock infused pop concoction with Born This Way. By playing the game, she was eventually given free reign to do as she pleased, showcasing her impressive vocal range and further pushing boundaries with her follow-on albums.

Perhaps she will follow a similar pattern with her perfume ventures. Fame the fragrance almost makes perfect sense- it’s alluring yet commercial and fades away somewhat quickly (as can real fame). Maybe, once Fame inevitably breaks sales records, she will come out with a Fame Monster fragrance that incorporates bodily fluids and has a crazier, darker scent, more reminiscent of the true Gaga. This Little Monster can dream.


The Campaign: Fabulous Performance Art and High Fashion Theatrics
Lady Gaga arriving at the Sephora in Paris
Fitting with the concept of ‘fame,’ the campaign-palooza (a 7 figure commercial, a masquerade ball at the Guggenheim, and grand openings at Sephoras worldwide) is bigger than the reason for the campaign: a unique but simple fragrance. The hype and glitz surrounding a celebrity often sparkles brighter than the actual human being themselves.


Even the sexy twist when she is kissing two blind folded men can not detract from the very creepy nature of the short film, complete with horror movie-esque screams.  Scenes of a black liquid form of Gaga malfunctioning are shown in conjunction with three different Gagas aiming and shooting a gun, seemingly at herself. This is a nod to fame culture and the self destruction of many celebrities. As things shatter and fade to black, viewers are presented with a larger than life nude Lady Gaga with men crawling aggressively across her body and ghostly chanting of “Gaga” echoing through the shot. The chanting ends with the Lady herself chanting “Gaga.” The message is clear: when you’re famous, everybody wants a piece of you and you can either be an active participant in the fame, or you can watch yourself destruct.




Author: Samantha Zaruba


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