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, 2010:
Elizabeth Hurley, 2008:
Naomi Cambell, 2007:
Elle Macpherson, 2005:
Cindy Crawford, 2004:
Gisele Bundchen, 2002:
Linda Evangelista, 2001:
Catherine Deneuve, 1989:
Ann Margaret, 1985:
Sophia Loren, 1982:
Julie Andrews, 1982:
Natalie Wood, 1981:
Lana Turner, 1980:
Angela Lansbury, 1979:
Faye Dunaway, 1978:
Shirley Maclaine, 1977:
Liv Ullman, 1977:
Raquel Welch, 1975:
Brigitte Bardot, 1970:
Maria Callas, 1970:
Marlene Dietrich, 1969:
Lauren Bacall, 1968:
Barbra Streisand, 1968:
And Blackglama didn’t care what color you were, only if you were talented and worthy.
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.
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:
• Dolly Parton, Katharine Hepburn and Jackie Onassis turned down repeated offers to star in the campaign.
• DOUBLE VISION
Liza Minelli, Lillian Hellman and Bette Davis all posed with lit cigarettes:
• ART IMITATES LIFE
• 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.
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.
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
“All legends share a timelessness, a glamour, an endurance that goes beyond what’s currently or merely in vogue.” — Peter Rogers