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Misty Copeland Becomes a Face of Estée Lauder, and Ballet Takes Note


Misty Copeland in an Estée Lauder ad.

Supermodels and actresses have generally been the ones to land high-profile, lucrative modeling contracts to promote major cosmetics companies. Enter the ballerina.

The ballet world took notice on Monday when Estée Lauder announced that the public face of one of its fragrances would be Misty Copeland, the American Ballet Theater star.

The news that she would promote the fragrance, Modern Muse, was seen in the industry as a commercial vote of confidence in the popular appeal of ballet — and especially of Ms. Copeland, the first African-American woman to become a principal dancer at Ballet Theater. Her personal story has been told in books and a documentary film; she has made the cover of Time magazine; endorsement deals with companies including Under Armour have helped spread her fame beyond the dance world; and there was even a Barbie doll made in her likeness.

Her selection underscored the extent to which, even at a moment when many ballet companies have struggled to sell tickets, individual dancers are still seen as bankable. Since ballet careers tend to be short, dangerous and not particularly well-paid compared with other fields of entertainment, many dancers have worked hard to build their own brands. It does not hurt that they tend to be young, extremely fit and attractive — which puts them in line for endorsement deals that might otherwise go to athletes or models.

Just last week Tiffany & Co. announced that it would feature another Ballet Theater star, David Hallberg, in its fall advertising campaign. In recent years other dancers have been in ads for Uniqlo and the Gap, various jewelers, and even other scents: The dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied has appeared in ads for an Yves Saint Laurent cologne.

But the news that Ms. Copeland would be taking a role with Estée Lauder was seen as a step further in the recent world of ballet endorsements. Estée Lauder officials said that she would be the first ballet dancer to serve as what it calls a “spokesmodel” for one of its products, and that it was planning a multiyear engagement with her that would include TV commercials as well as print and digital campaigns.

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