Blackglama Ads, History and Trivia about the Enduring Brand.

Blackglama Ads, History and Trivia

One of the most beautiful and enduring ad campaigns of all time doesn’t get a lot of press because of its controversial product – real fur. But Blackglama has kept their same ad campaign and headline for over 40 years and it still works. Photographs of the world’s most beautiful women – and in a few cases, men – wrapped in the world’s finest black ranch mink.

Blackglama Ads, History and Trivia

In this post I will share with you some compelling Blackglama ads, history and trivia. I’ll share with you what I feel are the sexiest ads from the campaign, the ones that truly warrant a “legend” status, the only males in the campaign, other work inspired by the ads and some juicy anecdotes.

But first, a little background on how the ad campaign began.

In 1968, New York ad executive Jane Trahey conceived of the campaign and invented the name “Blackglama.” She felt that fur wouldn’t show up well in the photography so she devised a ‘gimmick’ – this being the association with someone very famous. The campaign was executed by her associate, Peter Rogers, who later, in 1974, bought out the firm and continued with the campaign. He also wrote the 1979 book “What Becomes A Legend Most?” about the campaign. More trivia about the campaign after the images.

The following images are my personal picks for the sexiest photos since the campaign began, shown from most recent to the earliest. I have chosen portraits that exude sexiness in different ways. Some show a lot of skin, others possess a come hither look in the subject’s eyes that are just as sensual. You may be thinking it’s odd that I chose to include Angela Lansbury and Julie Andrews in a man’s suit (a nod to her role in Victor, Victoria) or a bundled up Lauren Bacall, but one look at their expressions and you’ll see that many women certainly feel sexy when wrapped in the word’s finest fur.

Janet Jackson, 2011:
janet jackson for Blackglama, 2011

vintage blackglama ads janet jackson

Janet Jackson, 2010:
janet jackson for blackglama 2010

Elizabeth Hurley, 2008:
elizabeth hurley mink ad

Naomi Cambell, 2007:
naomi campbell 2007

Elle Macpherson, 2005:
Elle Macpherson, 2005

Cindy Crawford, 2004:
Cindy Crawford blackglama 2004

Gisele Bundchen, 2002:
Gisele Bundchen, 2002 for blackglama

Linda Evangelista, 2001:
Linda Evangelista, 2001 Blackglama ad

Catherine Deneuve, 1989:
Catherine Deneuve 1989 for Blackglama

Cher, 1986:
cher vintage blackglama ad

Ann Margaret, 1985:
1985 ann margaret blackglama ad

Sophia Loren, 1982:
Sophia Loren, 1982

Julie Andrews, 1982:
blackglama Julie Andrews 1982

Natalie Wood, 1981:
Natalie Wood, 1981 print ad for mink

Lana Turner, 1980:
Lana Turner, 1980 blackglama

Angela Lansbury, 1979:
Angela Lansbury for Blackglama, 1979

Faye Dunaway, 1978:
Faye Dunaway Blackglama ad 1978

Shirley Maclaine, 1977:
Shirley Maclaine for Blackglama, 1977

Liv Ullman, 1977:
Liv Ullman in fur for Blackglama 1977

Raquel Welch, 1975:
Raquel Welch Blackglama ad, 1975

Brigitte Bardot, 1970:
Brigitte Bardot in mink Blackglama ad 1970

Maria Callas, 1970:
Maria Callas, 1970

Marlene Dietrich, 1969:
Marlene Dietrich, 1969 print ad blackglama mink

Lauren Bacall, 1968:
Lauren Bacall, 1968 Blackglama

Barbra Streisand, 1968:
Barbra Streisand, 1968 Blackglama ad

And Blackglama didn’t care what color you were, only if you were talented and worthy.

Lena Horne, Leontyne Price and Pearl Bailey for Blackglama
Lena Horne, Leontyne Price and Pearl Bailey for Blackglama

I can’t just show you the sexiest without sharing with you some portraits of those who truly warrant the “legend” status.

10 who truly warrant “Legend” status:

Lillian Gish, Gloria Swanson, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Judy Garland, Helen Hayes, Lucille Ball, Diana Ross, Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor.

Lilian Gish
Lillian Gish for Blackglama
Gloria Swanson Blackglama ad
Gloria Swanson for Blackglama
Bette Davis Blackglama
Bette Davis for Blackglama
Joan Crawford Blackglama ad
Joan Crawford for Blackglama
Judy Garland for Blackglama
Judy Garland for Blackglama
Helen Hayes Blackglama ad
Helen Hayes for Blackglama
Lucille Ball
Lucille Ball for Blackglama
Diana Ross Blackglama ad
Diana Ross for Blackglama
Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn for Blackglama
Elizabeth Taylor
Elizabeth Taylor for Blackglama

Trivia and tidbits about the Blackglama ad campaign:

Taking The Pictures – Photographer Richard Avedon shot the campaign for the first five years. Underrated American photographer Bill King, who died of AIDS in 1987, followed Avedon. Rocco Laspata of Laspata/Decaro has been shooting the campaign since then.

B/W vs COLOR – With the exception of color photos in the 2004 and 2005 campaigns featuring Cindy Crawford and Elle Macpherson respectively, the portraits were always shot in black and white.

TYPEFACE Although the typeface has changed twice since the campaign’s inception (first Cooper Black condensed, then Bodoni Condensed, and finally Optima) the ads have always had the same headline “What becomes a Legend most?*”

HEADLINE – *Originally, the line was typeset with an initial cap on the words “what” and “legend” only, when the typeface was changed from the original, the headline was set with all initial caps.

MODELS NOT ACTORS – From 2001 through 2009, the campaign featured supermodels (Linda Evangelista, Gisele Bündchen, Cindy Crawford, Elle Macpherson, Naomi Campbell and Elizabeth Hurley) as opposed to screen and entertainment legends. This is also the year that more than one ad was shot for the campaign so as to show more available products from the brand.

NO NAMES – As of 1980, the models were never paid nor did their names appear on the ads, but they each received a coat of their choice. I do not know if this is still the case.

BACK_TO_BACK – Janet Jackson is the only model to be featured in the campaign for two consecutive years in a row (2010 and 2011).

CHARITABLE – Carol Burnett was the only one to turn down a coat and instead asked for the money to be donated to charity:

Carol Burnett was the only one to turn down a coat and instead asked for the money to be donated to charity
Carol Burnett was the only one to turn down a coat and instead asked for the money to be donated to charity

• Dolly Parton, Katharine Hepburn and Jackie Onassis turned down repeated offers to star in the campaign.

DOUBLE VISION

Actress Claudette Colbert appeared in the campaign twice, once in 1971 and again in 1989

SMOKERS
Liza Minelli, Lillian Hellman and Bette Davis all posed with lit cigarettes:

Liza Minelli for Blackglama
Liza Minelli for Blackglama
Lillian Hellman for Blackglama
Lillian Hellman for Blackglama
Bette Davis for Blackglama
Bette Davis for Blackglama

ART IMITATES LIFE

judy garland
Andy Warhol was so fond of the Judy Garland ad in the campaign that he turned it into one of famous colored silkscreens

THE MEN
The only men to ever pose for the campaign were Ray Charles, Tommy Tune, Luciano Pavorotti and Rudolf Nureyev. Frank Sinatra bowed out at the last minute.

Ray Charles for Blackglama
Ray Charles for Blackglama
Tommy Tune
Tommy Tune for Blackglama
Luciano Pavarotti for Blackglama
Luciano Pavarotti for Blackglama
Martha Graham, Rudolph Nureyev and for Blackglama
Martha Graham, Rudolph Nureyev and Margot Fontaine for Blackglama

COMEDY

In 1984 Joan Rivers released a comedy album on whose cover she posed as a Blackglama ad with the line altered to read “What Becomes a Semi-Legend Most?.

PARODY PETA created their own mock version (below) of the ad campaign with Amy Sedaris in protest.

• ART

Mark Verbioff installation at The Hammer Museum, 2016
Mark Verabioff installation at The Hammer Museum, 2016

Much of Artist Mark Verabioff‘s work references past Blackglama ads.  “The Blackglama Insurgents” 2005, included 18 page tears from the campaign marked with masculine gestures in spray paint referencing male sexual pleasure and violence. Other installations of his that reference the ads as societal commentary include his “FASCIST GERD Private.” and Made in L.A. 2016: a, the, though, only

Verbioff's Blackglama Insurgents
Verabioff’s Blackglama Insurgents, 2005

“All legends share a timelessness, a glamour, an endurance that goes beyond what’s currently or merely in vogue.” — Peter Rogers

sources: Blackglama.com, People Magazine article from 1979 and the 1979 book Blackglama: What Becomes A Legend Most (now out of print)