Who knew a perfume could serve as platform for political activism? Many people realize that a fragrance is like a bouquet of olfactory symbols, usually along the lines of aspirational representations. Most often a perfume aspires to irresistible seduction or puts you on the waiting-list for upward social mobility and sometimes, but much less often so, expresses a hopeful political message.
Sean Combs will launch a new perfume for men called I Am King in December 2008, first in the US and UK. Before anyone starts thinking it is all about diva P Diddy, Combs makes sure to stress that the name of his new fragrance is a mantra of self-affirmation, a reflection of politico-social ambitions and especially aimed at African-American and Latino men,
"You have to look at all of the images they have out about African-Americans," said Combs. "So when you see this image, you need to understand it's bigger than the fragrance, it's bigger than me. When a young African-American male or a young Latino male sees this image, they see this elegant sophistication and they see I Am King next to it -- it hits their senses and they believe; that's what motivates me when I'm taking the pictures."...
"Turning playful, Combs said, "Yeah, we definitely do wear jeans that sag off our ass, we definitely like our music loud, but we're also very intelligent, very smart -- you know, as they say about Barack Obama, we're also very articulate. Yes, we speak well and we can also wear tuxedos. And we also smell good."
To deflate any accusation of sexism, Sean Combs announces that an I Am Queen perfume will follow next in the fall of 2009.
The ads for I Am King point to stereotypical images of success and "happiness" for the dominant Alpha male. They are replete with status symbols. There are lots of cool gadgets, women escorts (Bar Rafaeli and Ana Paula), and means of luxurious transportation. The universe of reference is the sleek atmosphere of James Bond movies, which makes you realize maybe Sean Combs thinks it's high time someone saw his potential as the next universal movie-screen playboy (he will be playing in a new movie, unnamed so far).
The fragrance I Am King "...opens with tangerine zest, juicy orange, succulent cranberry and a proprietary Imperial French berry note. The heart is of kir royal, crème de cassis, premium Champagne and cooling Mediterranean water accord. Base notes are of key lime pie, lemon cream, rich labdanum extract, cedarwood, vetiver, white moss, sandalwood essences and clean powdery undertones."
The eau de toilette will be available in two sizes, 1.7 oz. for $57 and 3.4 oz. for $74. An array of ancillary products will accompany the main scents.