Mary J. Blige My Life by Carol's Daughter is one of the latest celebrity fragrances to appear on the market and certainly the one which was most talked about in recent memory for its record-breaking sales on HSN on July 31st 2010, the day of its exclusive on air and online introduction. According to Harlem World, During the first 6 hours, 10 000 bottles of perfume were sold each hour. 20% more customers tuned in. 10 000 people signed up for regular shipping of the fragrance. And all this was based only on Mary J. Blige's charisma, the link her fans feel with her and perhaps a phenomenon of instant, real-time mutually encouraging shopping spree and unfolding popularity. As the media commented again and again, the bestseller's takeoff was solely based on intangibles such as trust and love for the person behind the scent as no one could tell for sure what fragrance would come out of the heart-shaped flacon gilded with the words "My Life." The one note that was released in advance must have been the most laconic press preview ever: expect tuberose. Then 4 days before the HSN launch, Blige unveiled a little more saying that My Life was for women "who love tuberose, love jasmine, love fruit," she says. "It's all there."
The name comes from one of the singer's albums, the one through which Blige says her fans have most connected to her.
The decision to launch My Life on HSN was deliberate and bold. Next to nothing filtered prior to the official introduction and there was a strategic reason for it. According to the Associated Press,
"A year ago, we were strategizing and asking, `What could we do to
differentiate ourselves in the beauty business?'" adds HSN CEO Mindy
Grossman. "The whole experience of buying fragrance now: I don't find
it compelling. I think it's a big opportunity. ... Buying a scent is
buying a smell, but you're also buying what it means to you, what went
Blige has taken extra care to stress that her involvement in the perfume development of My Life was authentic "I knew exactly what I wanted it to smell like. I needed to love it and be able to live with it for a few years. I am not impressed with the hot thing."
Notes: Gardenia petals, bartlett pear and white freesia / Tuberose, jasmine, golden lily and apricot blossom / Cashmere woods, praline, sesame and incense
The Eau de Parfum opens to my nose on a white, fresh floral bouquet mingling gardenia and tuberose while a fruity facet develops. Soon however, the composition takes on a slightly less predictable route: the classic white-floral bouquet is made somewhat oilier in texture and more savory in smell than the flowers in their natural states thanks to a lightly roasted sesame seed note and salty musk. The praline adds its toasted pyrogenic note also and sweet vanillic nuance.
The floral composition visibly tries to strike the right balance between light and deep, fresh and warm. To that effect, it is lightened up by a light-as-air yet discreetly perceptible tea accord. As the scent mellows down it takes on a honeyed amber golden tonality with a few sticky, resinous hints.
Despite the interesting addition of an uncommon sesame note, My Life cannot be really called quirky and offbeat. As befits the genre of designer fragrance, notes are made to blend in rather than to attract attention to themselves as is more often done in so-called "niche perfumery" where overdosing one material is part of the ethos and aesthetics of a world whose main fear might be to get bored to tears by propriety. Here, there is this supplementary nuance of lightly toasted sesame seeds on a Swedish cereal cracker spread with floral honey, but the personality of the scent is really meant to espouse the skin and ultimately self-efface while leaving a warm glow.
One could note moreover that while a sesame-seed note in perfumery is as of yet seldom advertised, it may appear de facto as a nuance associated with rich floral bouquets as in Serge Lutens Nuit de Cellophane, Chanel Cristalle Eau Verte, Mally, The Fragrance, Nina L'Elixir where it plays the role of a lead weight for a tablecloth whose fabric is not heavy enough, anchoring it and preventing the perfume from feeling too flimsy.
Looking more closely at the compositions of fragrances that openly list a sesame note, one finds that there are already at least two available on the market: Armani Onde Extase (2008) features sesame absolute; Davidoff Adventure (2007) offers a heart note of black sesame.
It might be of interest to readers to know that you could label the sesame-seed idea under the heading "everything new is old again." Sesame oil used to be employed as a carrier for perfumes in Ancient Egypt where it would have lent its characteristic aroma to aromatic blends.
Despite this heavier, oleaginous nuance, My Life tilts in the direction of feeling like perfumed water as if you were smelling the scent of a bouquet of flowers rich with nectar which was drenched by the rain. A watery nuance officially resting on Bartlett pear and white freesia -the latter is also peppery - is quite present.
The fragrance is rather linear in its evolution past the initial stages. One can note that a fruity apricot blossom note blooms more towards the mid and end stages, recalling somewhat vaguely Trésor by Lancôme both for this apricot tonality and bold, massive structuring of the scent. It is however saltier and less pastel, more ambery and oilier.
Do not expect to detect swirtls of incense in the drydown as those potentially foggy and dry notes are covered by a mellow golden-brown amber. The gustatory facet while present (praline, sesame) is never overly literal; the farthest on the scale of foody nuances within the composition is the light, comforting nuance of waffle batter one gets in the drydown. Given as a "musky floral," My Life could also just as well be seen as an ambery floral. The golden-lily note which smells close to Paper-White Narcissus is especially perceptible in the sillage, away from the skin.
Having discovered snippets of the biography of Mary J. Blige on the occasion of the promotion of her perfume, you might have expected a more forceful composition, with more dissonances and asperities to the scent to reflect the intensity of her life experiences. But My Life is more like the sound of Blige's singing voice: smooth, soft, caressing, with a hint of broken frailty.
This discrepancy invites us to make a point about the difference which may exist between illustrative biographical perfumes and life-affirming biographical perfumes. My Life is not meant to be a replay of Mary J. Blige's life but rather it comes as an olfactory balm for one who has visibly seen already too much as she suggests in the song My Life, "If you look into my life to see what I've seen,"
Gawkers of life might want to smell a dramatic perfume. For those who have survived, it is perhaps more natural to want to come away from the experience with a sense of appeasement and softness. Again, in the words of Mary J. Blige "And you will be at peace with yourself;" She also adds about My Life the perfume,
"It's all a reflection of my personality. Me and a lot of my fans want to smell soft and a little fruity _ but not too fruity with bees chasing us around _ and also strong and beautiful,"
Finally, My Life is one of those inspirational fragrances which were not just designed to smell nice but to carry a message of hope. It's a bottle of perfume thrown into the sea ready to be picked up and deciphered by those who will read between its lines and understand its meaning.
You can listen to the song My Life below,