Beyoncé, Mya, and other R&B stars have become the mainstream's advertising darlings

By Liane Bonin
March 20, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST
Beyonce: Armando Gallo/Retna

Recently L’Oreal decided that Destiny’s Child singer Beyoncé Knowles, 19, was worth it — worth a big bucks, five year endorsement contract, that is, following in the footsteps of such stars as Andie McDowell, Heather Locklear, and Jennifer Lopez.

But Beyoncé isn’t alone. Other African American rap and R&B stars — including Lil’ Kim, Mya, and Mary J. Blige — have become the new faces Madison Avenue is using to hawk products to mainstream America. ”Urban artists have destroyed the rock & roll hegemony and are dominating the charts, and these companies have wised up,” says Caroline Meaby, a researcher for the BBC documentary ”Ghetto Fabulous.” ”The media is accepting images of black beauty.” And how! takes a look at the deals these new musical style queens have made, and lets you know if singing or selling is the path to their future success.

WHO Beyoncé
WHAT L’Oreal
HER WORDS The ads haven’t come out yet, but Beyoncé can’t stop saying L’Oreal’s name. ”This is the icing on the cake,” she told the Houston Chronicle. ”I can’t wait to open a magazine and see myself in L’Oreal!” You can bet those ads will be everywhere come May, when the new Destiny’s Child album, ”Survivor,” hits stores.
WHAT THE PROS SAY ”Beyoncé speaks to young women, and her look is very hip and trendy,” says Julia Chance, beauty editor of Honey magazine. ”If L’Oreal’s goal is to reach a younger audience, they’ll try to work with her existing look.” But with Destiny’s Child getting more airtime than President Bush these days, are we going to be burnt on Beyoncé? ”I don’t think people are tired of her, because she’s about to morph into a new direction, which will keep people interested,” says Chance. ”She’s got a solo album and an acting career in the works. And in this industry, all press is good press.”
BETTER SINGER OR SELLER? Beyoncé can do no wrong. She’s golden — unless L’Oreal dyes her hair bright orange or Child’s other two singers, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, announce they’ve got ”creative differences” with her.

WHO Lil’ Kim
WHAT MAC cosmetics; Iceberg fashions; Candie’s shoes
HER WORDS It’s not ALL about the payday. ”I love money, money is a necessity, and power is, too,” Kim, 25, told the San Francisco Examiner. ”But I’m an artist who cares about outside things, such as people living with AIDS.” She’s putting her money where her mouth is: The Viva Glam line of MAC lipsticks she endorses gives 100 percent of the proceeds to the MAC Aids Fund. In just two months, the line has raised $750,000 for the cause.
WHAT THE PROS SAY The 5’2” star is drowning in hype, and a backlash is in the works. ”There have been rumblings from her fans that her image is more important to her than her music now,” says Meaby. But representing MAC, especially for a good cause, is still a savvy move for Kim. ”In the urban community, there is heavy brand loyalty to MAC, and both she and the line represent the cutting edge,” says Chance.
BETTER SINGER OR SELLER? More people noticed her little purple pasty at the 1999 MTV Music Awards than bought her last album, so Kim should focus on promoting her raunchy femme fatale image. C’mon, we haven’t had a flamboyant, trash talking bleach blond since Dennis Rodman!