- Pop superstar Lady Gaga has launched worldwide a new perfume line, Fame
- The 26-year-old performer earned $52 million last year, according to Forbes
- On the scent of the new line: "I wanted it to smell slutty, to be totally honest"
- The perfume itself is tinted black, a first for the fragrance industry
Lady Gaga met with me this week about the launch of her new fragrance, Fame, but as is often the case with this pop mega-star, it is hard to determine what is marketing, what is performance and what is her reality.
"Fame has a very interesting prospect with dangerous encounters around the corner.....Fame is ultimately about the cycles of desire and how to do away with them or manage them well," the 26-year-old superstar said. "Vanity can create a very cruel space for you if you don't know how to manage it."
One thing you are sure of -- she is passionate. Unlike other celebrities who license their name to use on products other people make, Gaga was heavily involved in the entire process, she says, including the idea of making the actual liquid black -- a perfume first. At first, her collaborators tried to talk her out of the dark tint "so you don't have to explain to everyone how it won't get on your clothing," she recalled. "And I said, `I don't want to do it unless it's black'."
She is certainly someone who knows how to walk the fine line between shock value and mass appeal -- as when I asked about what she wanted from Fame's scent. "I wanted it to smell slutty, to be totally honest," she said.
"I don't think that women need to smell interesting. I have an interesting mind but I want to smell like a slut ... I mean it in a lovely way like the way your husband makes you feel when you've had a really long day and he knows exactly what to say to you to make you feel sexy."
Does she think of herself as a businesswomen? "Well, I guess we'll find out," she said.
The young performer is certainly in the black: Forbes estimates Gaga earned $52 million between May 2011 and May 2012 -- a drop from the $90 million she earned the year before, the magazine reported. But Forbes expects that figure to balloon next year, as she launched her 2012-2013 "Born This Way Ball" world tour in late April with more than 100 concerts planned.
Will that passion translate into commercial success for the perfume? Some fans are turned off when their favorite artists hawk products, but as Gaga quipped during our interview, "I already am a product."
Prices for the Fame products range from $19 to $79 for a 100 milliliter bottle, and the line also include soap, shower gel and body lotion. She joins a long list of celebrities who have launched their own perfume or cologne lines, from Beyonce and Brittany Spears to Pavarotti and Michael Jordan.
"The most exciting thing about this fragrance is that is was collaboration between myself and two lifelong friends of mine, incredible photographers and creators," she said.
"Steve Klein shot the ad campaign the amazing images for the fragrance and Nick Knight designed the bottle with me. It's been an amazing time for me. I've been enjoying myself because I get to work with people I really love and respect and give something back to the fans.
"We really spent a lot of time creating this for you because we love you and we appreciate that you love the aesthetic that we created through our music and TV performances," she added.
Gaga has dismissed the idea of a fashion line in the past, saying the Haus of Gaga, the creative team behind often controversial couture, "was not a commodity, not something to be sold." But that may be shifting. When I asked her if this experience has made her open to the idea of other products she coyly responded, "Anything is possible."
As for the woman herself: She was punctual, polite, fabulously turned out but I can honestly say by the end I had no more insight on Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta the person, than I did at the start.
And I suspect that is just how Lady Gaga likes it. She is in it for the long haul and very much in control of every aspect of her Fame.