TORONTO, Feb 15 (Reuters) - For many, Viva Glam lipstick is a
fashion statement with its former transvestite spokesmodel
RuPaul and its brilliantly odd hues, but for millions infected
with HIV and AIDS around the world, the lipstick is a lifeline.
All the money from sales of Viva Glam lipsticks in more than 30
countries goes to those living with HIV or AIDS. Viva Glam was
the brainchild of MAC Cosmetics, the Toronto-based firm now
owned by Estee Lauder Cos. Inc.
While MAC runs only one ad a year -- for its lipstick -- it has
turned some heads with its cast of unlikely spokespeople and
models such as drag queen and performer RuPaul, lesbian singer
k.d. lang and hip-hop stars Mary J. Blige and Lil' Kim.
"We did the boy as the girl and the girl as the boy, and the
way that drew attention to MAC and the AIDS Fund was
brilliant," John Demsey, president of MAC Cosmetics, told
Reuters. "We've had tremendous controversy. Some love it, some
people don't. Quite honestly, we don't care."
An Italian Roman Catholic bishop called the ads, featuring
RuPaul in a long blond wig, red basque and thigh-high platform
stiletto boots, "sick." But MAC said the lipstick raked in
nearly $4 million in sales last year for the MAC AIDS Fund,
started by founders Frank Angelo and Frank Tokay in 1994.
Angelo died of complications from surgery in 1997.
"MAC's images are really forward. They express a very unique
glamour and spirit," said Dale Crichton, executive vice
president of cosmetics at Nordstrom Department Stores, which
carry MAC cosmetics from powder blush to lipsticks, eye pencils
BOLD DESPITE STAID CORPORATE HOME
MAC's edge has not dulled even though for three years it has
been a part of the Estee Lauder empire, whose brands are
advertised by more traditional models. In fact, industry
experts dub it the makeup world's flourishing house of couture.
"They were really the first company, more or less, where you
have a makeup artist who has the knowledge to train
consumers," said Allan Mottus, editor of The Informationist, a
New York cosmetics trade publication.
MAC started in 1985 as a line of cosmetics dedicated solely to
professional makeup artists, and one of the founders, Toskin,
was a makeup artist himself.
"They have a cult following of consumers who relate with the
makeup artists at counters. There is a bonding process,"
With its glitzy colors -- Blade is greener than your garden,
Jet roams somewhere between blue and gray -- Viva Glam's
message has certainly struck a chord with the
Sales of the lipstick have brought in nearly $19 million since
1994 and all the money has gone to the MAC AIDS Fund, said
Demsey, who did not disclose total sales for MAC since it is
part of publicly traded Estee Lauder.
"We love to associate ourselves with the people we associate
with because they are fun, they do it for the right reasons,
and they give us a voice that breaks through the clutter and
allows us to raise money," Demsey said.
Owner Estee Lauder keeps quiet even if it knows that MAC's
image may be a little risque.
"Yes, MAC is a rule breaker. They are counterculture. But they
have carte blanche from me. They call the shots," said Fred
Langhammer, president and chief executive of Estee Lauder,
which markets 16 brands, including its own name.
"I do not want to 'Lauderize' MAC or any of these brands,"