A $30 eyebrow pencil has landed the buzzy beauty brand of celebrity-favored makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury on the wrong end of a new lawsuit. According to a complaint filed in California state court on Wednesday by actress Brooke Shields, the “Brooke S” shade of Tilbury’s Brow Lift pencil is little more than clear-cut attempt by the brand to “capitalize on [her] iconic eyebrows,” and as a result is serving to “interfere with Shields’ ability to market a cosmetics line” of her own.
The complaint asserts that “from the beginning of her career” – including her early days in Vogue and in Calvin Klein commercials to her film roles, such as in Louis Malle's Pretty Baby – Shields' “bold eyebrows have been the trademark of her look and a target for endorsements and collaborations.” In fact, Shields’ counsel alleges that her “eyebrows have been the subject of profiles in media such as Instyle, Elle and Vogue, who even ran a story entitled, 17 Times Brooke Shields’s Eyebrows Were the Best Thing in the Room.”
More than that, 53-year old Shields claims that since working with MAC in 2014 as part of “the largest installment to date in MAC’s Icon collection celebrating well-known beauty icons including Shields, Diana Ross, Catherine Deneuve, and Raquel Welch,” she has been “investigating and developing potential opportunities to create her own cosmetics line with an emphasis on eyebrow-enhancing products.”
London-based Tilbury’s use of Shields’ first name and initial in connection with an eyebrow pencil, which Tilbury “neither consulted Shields [about] nor requested permission to use,” not only “interferes with Shields’ ability to market such a potential collection, the unauthorized use also runs afoul of her right of publicity, which enables the actress to prevent others from commercially exploiting her name and/or likeness without permission, the lawsuit argues.
The same goes for Beautylish, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale's, J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Sephora and Yoox Net-a-Porter, which are also named as defendants in connection with their sales of the product. “The product is also sold on Amazon.com where it is advertised as “inspired by the supermodel brow of the ‘90s,” the complaint states. Although, Amazon is not named as a defendant.
Shields has asked the court to force the defendants to cease their use of her name and sales of the “Brooke S” products, and is seeking unspecified monetary damages.
Tilbury’s “Brooke S” shade joins a long list of products named after famous figures. Take the “Naomi” Brow Lift in a shade for “dark brown to black” eyebrows, a reference to supermodel Naomi Campbell, for instance. There is also the “Kim KW,” the “Bosworth’s Beauty,” the “Penelope,” the “Secret Salma,” and the “Kidman’s Kiss,” which are shades in the Hot Lips lipstick collection, referring to Kim Kardashian West, and actresses Kate Bosworth, Penelope Cruz, Salma Hayek, and Nicole Kidman. (None of those uses have resulted in litigation).
As for whether Tilbury’s use of “Brooke S” as opposed to the actress’ full name is sufficient to give rise to merited right of publicity issues, it seems consumers are certainly putting two and two together. According to one recent review of the Brow Lift pencil on Tilbury’s e-commerce site, “I always was told that I have eyebrows like Brooke Shields, so this confirms it! Color perfect! Applicator perfection! Compliments galore! I highly recommend.” Media outlets have similarly highlighted the product. Hello Giggles, for example, stated in an article, “Charlotte Tilbury's new Supermodel Brow Lift kit will inspire you to channel Brooke Shields.”
All the while, as of early this month, Charlotte Tilbury, which stocks in select retailers across the globe, was reportedly in acquisition talks with American cosmetics giant Estée Lauder Companies. Per WWD, the talks fell apart after "the two parties [failed] to agree on a price – Lauder was said to be offering $1 billion, but the brand was looking for $1.4 billion.”
A rep for Charlotte Tilbury was not immediately available for comment, but a rep for Shields’ counsel, Alex Weingarten of Venable LLP, told TFL: “This is an egregious violation of Brooke’s rights, which we will litigate vigorously to vindicate,” further noting that “Brooke Shields’s career as a model, actress, author, and entrepreneur spanning decades has made Brooke (and her eyebrows) a household name.”
*The case is Brooke Shields v. CHARLOTTE TILBURY BEAUTY INC., et al., (Cal. Sup).