Estee Lauder's New Ads Starring Misty Copeland May Do More Ballet Than Perfume
Ballet & Beyond

Commentary: Estee Lauder’s Ads Starring Misty Copeland May Do More For Ballet Than For Perfume

Look closely at Estee Lauder’s new advertisements featuring Misty Copeland: Those cheerful teen dancers in the background are important.

Copeland, who in 2015 became American Ballet Theatre’s first female African-American principal dancer, is as famous as an dancer can be in America right now. Her broad appeal has already been proven: Her first advertisement for Under Armor became a viral sensation, but in that 2014 campaign, she was presented as an individual, creating her path. And that fighting spirit reflected reality, as she was still a year away from her historic promotion.

By contrast, Estee Lauder’s visuals for the Modern Muse fragrance campaign show her surrounded by young dancers; In the video, she gives them pointers in what looks like a class. They may be just models, but their presence reinforces the belief that ballet is a thriving art form that attracts new talent.

In a statement, Aerin Lauder, the cosmetics company’s Style and Image Director, alluded to Misty’s influence: “She is all about feminine strength, power, dedication and passion, and you see that in what she does every day, whether she is performing or inspiring the next generation of dancers.”

Ballet may or may not be growing in popularity among young dancers. But for a major non-dance brand to advertise in a way that suggests ballet has a future may be more influential to the image of ballet than anything coming from with the dance world.

And it may encourage other brands to follow suit by featuring dancers. “Ideally, Misty’s deal will have a ripple effect,” said Lane Harwell, executive director of Dance/NYC, a dance advocacy group. “It will open up more business opportunities for more dancers with more brands.”

That’s an economic benefit to dancers, who work in a field where compensation can be much lower than the effort put in. And their devotion is part of how dancers inspire, even more so than sports stars. “Top ballet artists represent strength and athleticism that brands may find attractive,” said Harwell. “They are also uniquely emotional, wise, and graceful.”

Estee Lauder’s fragrance Modern Muse was introduced in 2013, and even if it is manufactured for another century, its image will likely be boosted by new artists and new personalities. Ballet has been around since the 18th century, and its stars are remembered for generations: Plenty of fans still can’t get over stars from the mid-20th century.

One ad can’t make an art form instantly popular, but if dancers are inspired by it, one ad can influence the future.