There are celebrity fragrances, like J Lo's Glow and Britney Spears's Fantasy. And then you have fragrances that are so well-known, and so iconic, that they basically become inanimate celebrities in their own right. One of these scents is Chanel No. 5, which celebrates its 100-year anniversary in 2021. To honour the milestone, as well as the perfume's enduring legacy in beauty, fashion, and pop culture, the brand has created a campaign called Celebrity By. More cultural commentary than promotional video, the digital campaign is made up of a series of films that see six prominent figures from the worlds of media, arts, and academia discussing and analysing the notion of celebrity today. The speakers — like actor Marion Cotillard and Yale professor Laurie Santos (the brains behind the university's super popular "Happiness Class") — examine both the cultural and intellectual significance of "celebrity" on the world.
One of those speakers is also dancer Lil Buck, a movement artist and choreographer from the US whom I've admired for years. Lil Buck has managed to take jookin — the street dance style that originated in his hometown of Memphis, TN — and not only make it more mainstream (he's been in music videos for Janelle Monáe and gone on tour with Madonna), but also bring it into the fine art world, collaborating with professional ballet companies, contemporary museums, and classical music maestros like cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
The first time I saw Lil Buck was actually in a YouTube video where he was dancing to Ma's music . The video showed a live performance of Lil Buck jookin to the famous Le Cygne (The Swan) ballet solo. I still get emotional watching the now-viral video, which has over 3.5 million views and messages in the comments section like, "To this day this is one of the most haunting, elegant, beautiful pieces of emotionally-connected art I have ever seen".
In the context of Chanel's project, Lil Buck is an example of the confluence of the celebrity and the creative, of pop culture and fine art, and of street dance and classical ballet. He's also an example of celebrity being used for good — how it can be a vehicle for artistic inspiration and a drive to succeed. In the four-minute film, he talks about what celebrity meant to him before he was famous. "When I was a kid growing up in Memphis, my idea of celebrity, how I imagined it, was just . . . getting out of Memphis", he tells the camera. "I wanted the world to know what I got and see what I had to offer to the world." Additionally, he goes on to talk about using his celebrity power to inspire others. "There's so many kids in Memphis who do the same dance style that I do. And now they're looking at me like, "Dang, that's Lil Buck! He's from the same neighbourhood I'm from. If he can do it, of course I can do it.'" You can watch the full interview with Lil Buck in the video above, and head to Chanel.com to see all six short films.