Michelle Pfeiffer has made a career out of being unpredictable. At one time, she was Catwoman, purring unforgettable lines like, "Life's a bitch, now so am I." A decade earlier, she was Elvira Hancock in Scarface — a role so iconic that people recreate it every Halloween. In the past 10 years alone, she's played the ultimate villain in Hairspray and Bernie Madoff's wife.
Now, at 60, she's taking on an entirely new role as the founder of her own fragrance line called Henry Rose, which is launching with five different unisex scents. Even for Pfeiffer, this pivot seems highly unlikely, especially given how she went without wearing a single drop of perfume for 10 years.
"Around 2004, I stumbled upon the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database," says Pfeiffer, who shares two children, Claudia Rose and John Henry Pfeiffer, with Hollywood producer David E. Kelley. "I went down the rabbit hole, and started searching everything I and my children used. What I found is that whenever fragrance came up, it would be flagged as 'high hazard.'" That's largely due to the lack of transparency around the term 'fragrance' on ingredients lists.
Pfeiffer decided to give up perfume for an entire decade, and start focusing on creating a fragrance she could trust. It was harder than she anticipated. "I thought, Maybe I can try to develop one with a cosmetic company," Pfeiffer says. "I approached a few, and they were not interested in being transparent in the ingredients. I didn’t feel comfortable putting my name or face on something that I wouldn’t wear myself. I got discouraged pretty quickly, and shelved it for a while."
Years went by, and as more people started paying attention to what was inside of their personal care products, Pfeiffer decided to give it another shot, approaching International Flavors & Fragrances with the idea of creating the first fine fragrances that are EWG-certified with a completely transparent ingredient list. They bit, and for the last year, Pfeiffer has been involved at every stage — from selecting the perfumers and ingredients to making sure the brand is environmentally conscious. (The bottles themselves are made from NEO-Infinite glass — 90% recycled, 100% recyclable — and have soy caps.)
If you've noticed, despite this being a celebrity fragrance, it's not very celebrity fragrance-y. It's not called something like "Pfeiffer Perfumes," and she isn't planning on putting herself on much of the marketing materials, either. According to her, there's a reason for that. "I really took to heart advice that I got that people have become a little bit suspicious and doubtful of celebrity endorsements," she says. "I felt that it was very important that the brand stand alone and that the credibility stands separate from me."
Despite her not planning to star in any kind of ad campaign for Henry Rose, Pfeiffer has clearly left her mark on the line. For one, the line is named after her children's middle names: Henry and Rose. One scent, called Jake's House, is inspired by a smell that was in her grandparent's bathroom in North Carolina. "My grandfather's name is Jake," she says. "It smells very soap-y and clean." Another scent, Torn, was inspired by the Old Spice her father used to wear, while the scent Fog is inspired by Pfeiffer's summers in San Francisco.
Now, given Pfeiffer's long list of unforgettable roles, we had to ask: Which Henry Rose scents would her most memorable characters wear? "Obviously Catwoman would wear Dark Is Night," Pfeiffer says. "Susie Diamond [from The Fabulous Baker Boys] might wear Torn. Sukie [from The Witches of Eastwick]... she would wear either Fog or Jake’s House. And Last Light they all might wear to lunch."