Reality television pushed Kat Von D, star of TLC’s L.A. Inked, from the beauty sidelines to center stage when her makeup line at Sephora, expected to generated $2 million in first-year retail sales, racked up an estimated $12 million. “Kat Von D the brand has grown bigger than the show itself,” asserts the Los Angeles–based tattoo artist. “I don’t want to be the girl who does a show. I have more to offer.” Von D is just one example of those who have benefited from the new beauty business model. Television execs have a fondness for the industry’s big personalities, promise of visible transformations (for better or worse) and appeal to the 18-to-34 female demo. And small beauty brands and little known personalities are anxious to land reality gigs to get noticed, build lines and turn viewers into customers. “For an indie brand like mine, I have to get as much broadcast exposure [as possible] to try to compete against the large consumer packaged goods companies with all their ad dollars,” says Scott-Vincent Borba, creator of the eponymous skin care line. Borba is shopping two pilots—one focusing on inspirational makeovers, the other, a day-in-the-life format—and is testing for another reality television opportunity about food. Reality show pitches, it seems, are almost as essential as line sheets these days. The list of beauty reality shows—proposed and green-lighted—grows by the day. Among those currently on air are Bravo’s Shear Genius and Tabatha’s Salon Takeover, Oxygen’s Addicted to Beauty and E Network’s Dr. 90210. Next year, Jessica Simpson is set to front The Price of Beauty on VH1, delving into beauty regimens around the globe.
“The fashion and beauty worlds are very much of interest to the networks I deal with,” says Charlie DeBevoise, cofounder of North South Productions, which is developing a show about Douglas Little of D.L. & Co., and a green beauty–oriented elimination competition. At 44 Blue, the production company behind Split Ends and Peter Perfect with hairstylist Peter Ishkhans, at least three shows are in the works. Hairstylist Allen Edwards has been tapped for an unnamed show; another, tentatively titled Capitol Style, features Michelle Obama’s hairstylist, Johnny Wright, and a third, Beauty School Dropout, is in development with Brandon Martinez, who gained fame on Bravo’s Blow Out. Go Go Luckey, which created MTV’s Laguna Beach, has signed Rand Rusher, co-founder of Leaf & Rusher skin care, for a show that spotlights the Leaf & Rusher medical clinic in Beverly Hills. Rusher isn’t crazy about the idea of being on TV, but he has employees to take care of and a brand to promote. “Credibility doesn’t pay my bills,” he says. Despite the encroachment of digital media, Americans are watching more TV than ever. The Nielsen Company found that Americans watched approximately 153 hours of TV a month in the first quarter of this year, a 1.2 percent increase from the year before. Of course, copious television viewing doesn’t make every show a winner. Makeup artist Napoleon Perdis’ Get Your Face On With Napoleon Perdis, didn’t last on TLC past one season, and the show “didn’t ring in dollars at the till,” he says. Still, Perdis wouldn’t shy away from future small-screen opportunities. “It helps in creating authority,” he says.