A look back on scent’s influence — 20 years later.
The early 2000s marked a high point of Jennifer Lopez’s career.
The Wedding Planner reached number one at the box office in its first week, cementing her status as a rom-com lead; and songs from her sophomore album J.Lo — which debuted at number one on the Billboard charts the same week — played non-stop on the radio, at malls, parties, and nearly everyone’s iPods. Not to mention, this was the time where she originally became one half of pop culture’s greatest celebrity couple: Bennifer. So when Lopez announced she was launching her first scent, Glow by Jennifer Lopez, the buzz was palpable.
“We were all excited,” fragrance expert Louise Turner tells InStyle.
Turner, who is now a perfumer at Givaudan, and responsible for many beloved fragrances like Maison Margiela’s Replica Lazy Sunday Morning and Dior’s Miss Dior Blooming Banquet, partnered with the singer and global beauty company Coty Inc. back in 2002 to turn Lopez’s vision into a reality.
“[Lopez] didn’t know much about the business at that point in time, but was pretty determined about what she wanted,” she says. “Those kind of convictions are what makes a success.”
Speaking of, Turner actually credits Glow for putting her on the map and giving her the credibility to take her career to the next level. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without Glow,” she says. “It’s the fundamental influence in my perfumery career and I’m extremely proud of it because 20 years later, it’s still here. I think there are very few fragrances that we can say are like that.”
Lopez’s dream for the fragrance was simple: she wanted it to smell clean — like soap on her skin. “It's sort of like a second skin; something that feels musky,” Turner says. “It's not at all sweet [even though] it's floral and it's got this kind of reassuring kind of aura.”
That “clean and skin-like” scent was made of top notes of neroli, orange blossom, and grapefruit; middle notes of jasmine, rose, and tuberose; and base notes of musk, sandalwood, vanilla, and amber. She explains that this balance between raw materials and musk make it unique compared to the other fragrances out in the market at the time. In fact, Turner credits its simplicity as the reason why the public gravitated towards it. “[It] was easy for people to understand,” she says. “It had a certain directness to it.”
Twenty years down the road, beauty experts still agree.
“It was a departure from the fruity gourmands that dominated most fragrances geared towards girls,” says Sable Yong, a beauty writer and co-host of smells and scents podcast Smell Ya Later. “[It] offered something a bit more ‘grown up,’ but still with that alluring floral blend that read as girly, but not too young.”
Yong was in high school when Glow officially launched in 2002, and remembers seeing it everywhere. “The marketing was relentless,” she says. “I first smelled it at the mall and immediately was obsessed.”
Many others shared that sentiment.
The scent, encased in a white glass bottle resembling the curves of a woman’s body, and adorned with the classic Y2K belly chain, was an instant — and long-lasting — hit. According to Time magazine, the fragrance, along with Lopez’s fashion and other beauty lines, brought a revenue of over $300 million in 2004, two years after its launch. The scent later went on to inspire many Glow spin-offs, and encouraged more celebrities to come out with fragrances of their own — something that was considered a major business risk at the time.
“Before J.Lo, celebrity scents weren’t a viable business venture, because people didn’t really know what to do with them,” says Tynan Sinks, a beauty writer and Yong’s co-host of Smell Ya Later. He points to Cher’s Uninhibited as an example. Despite the singer's megastardom, when it launched in 1987, the fragrance was largely unsuccessful. Sinks believes it was simply because people just didn’t understand celebrity perfume at the time.
However, with Glow, he says consumers and the beauty industry were starting to warm up to the idea of what a celebrity’s place was in fragrance. “Sex appeal is not something you can buy, but Glow allowed us to buy a little piece of Jennifer,” he explains. “She could have bottled anything and it would have sold just as well. It wasn’t about the fragrance — it was about wanting to be her.”
“I think J.Lo’s star power brought the scent to everyone’s attention, and the scent itself is what sealed the deal,” adds Yong. “It took the fresh, aquatic scents that were popular in the late ‘90s and gave them a bit more saturation with white florals, so it was something familiar but also new.”
That said, despite all of her years in the fragrance industry, even Turner says no one can ever really predict whether or not a fragrance will take off. But when it came to Glow, whether it would become a commercial hit or not, she knew the scent itself was something special.
“I was in a book shop or something and someone came up to me and asked, ’What are you wearing? Where can I buy it because it smells so good?’ I said, ‘I'm really sorry, but it's actually not on the market yet and I can't tell you what it is,’” she recalls. “You always know you've got a good one when people ask you.”
With today's oversaturated beauty market, it's a whole different ballgame. Now, if celebrities looking to get into the space and want to resonate with both fans and beauty lovers alike, Turner believes that they have to be more involved in the development of the product they are hoping to sell. Believe it or not, a famous name is simply not enough anymore.
“If you want to use your name and your image and everything like that, it needs to be coherent,” Turner says. “It needs to be something that you really believe in and not always what some company has actually convinced you to take. I think it's nice the way that Jennifer did it; she was very involved.”
“A personal narrative and concept and a cool-looking bottle can do a lot of the work in making a celeb scent successful,” she says. “Most people consider celebrity fragrances an extension of experiencing that figure. So if the impetus for the scent came from a personal story from the celeb, it makes the fragrance a more intimate-feeling and experiential way to connect with that person — even if it is para-social.”
So while many can complain that celebrities have gone overboard with beauty brand launches, it’s successes like Glow — even 20 years later — that encourages others to follow.
“People want to buy a piece of their favorite celebrity,” says Sinks. “They want Hailey Bieber’s skin, Rihanna’s makeup, and Kylie’s lips. Like it or not, celebrities putting out brands is a good idea when — and only when — the product matches the celebrities’ lifestyle and ethos. Glow did that; Glow started all of this.”