Glow by J Lo Changed the Celebrity Fragrance Market. It Also Had a Controversial Start

Art by Alan López for Remezcla

Without Glow by J.Lo, we may not have Britney Spears’ Midnight Fantasy or Ariana Grande’s Moonlight. That’s because when J.Lo launched her first fragrance, she changed the fragrance industry. “Glow changed everything,” Chandler Burr, The New York Times‘ former scent critic, told the BBC. “Elizabeth Taylor was one of the first [to have her own scent], but Glow kicked the whole thing into overdrive.” And while for many of us holding our first bottles of Glow came with happy memories, the beginning of this venture was embroiled in controversy.

When Jenny launched her debut fragrance, she had already made her mark in the fashion and dining industries. Launched in September 2002, the perfume – a fruity floral scent packaged in a blinged out bottle – became a massive success. The product, which she launched with Coty, Inc’s Lancaster Group, came about fairly quickly. By March 2002, Sweetface Fashion – the clothing brand she and Tommy Hilfiger’s brother, Andy Hilfiger, created – signed a licensing agreement and rushed to get the product out by the holiday season. With Lopez succeeding in film and music, Lancaster wanted to strike while her star was on the rise. By this point, the word “glow” had already been a part of J.Lo’s vocabulary for years. As a matter of fact, in a 1998 Movieline interview (where she, BTW, dragged half of Hollywood), the word was already a part of her life. “I have the ‘stardom glow,’” she told the outlet. In 2002, Her younger sister, Lynda Lopez, joked that J.Lo stole the word glow from her. “She stole that one from me,” Lynda, who hosted an E! beauty series titled Glow, told the New York Daily News.

And while the sisters were glad to share the word “glow,” Jenny From the Block faced legal challenges from Glow Industries before her fragrance’s launch. The company, established in 1999, said the beauty mogul infringed on its trademark. Right after J.Lo hosted a party at Trump World Tower in mid-2002 (?), Glow Industries’ lawyer, Arthur Aaronson, sent a letter to J.Lo’s people, who were nonplussed.

When Terri Williamson – the woman who launched Glow Industries – learned about J.Lo’s perfume, she was surprised. She was certain that Jenny had heard of the company. Her manager’s office was just across the street from Glow’s offices after all. And her sister, Lynda, had featured the products on her E! show. Because the scent had yet to reach market, she figured J.Lo could change the name. “I thought we’d write a letter, and they’d stop using the name,” she told Inc.

But with a lot riding on the success of this fragrance for Lancaster and Coty, the companies were ready to fight. After Williamson’s lawyer sent the letter over to J.Lo’s people, he received materials that highlighted the many companies that use the word. Williamson mistakenly thought it’d be easy to sort out, but Coty and Lancaster were moving full steam ahead. By August, Williamson filed a suit against J.Lo.

The companies first met with J.Lo (who knew she wanted the product to smell soapy and was involved in every step of the process) in December 2001, and were pushing to get it out to market by fall, far shorter than the typical 18 months it takes to develop and release a fragrance. On the J.Lo side of the equation, they also faced some issues. Lawyers advised the team to use “Glow by J.Lo” in all ads, something it hadn’t done consistently. While J.Lo’s team said it pulled all the ads, Williamson said she had seen adverts that didn’t include “by J.Lo.”

By September, Glow by J.Lo made its debut. And though Coty and Lancaster worried that it’d be a failure, they quickly saw that it was anything but. In the first month, the perfume made $17.9 million in sales. It also sold well in Germany and Japan, and tested well in Italy and Spain. Williamson, worrying about the damage to her own company, and her lawyer filed a preliminary injunction, in hopes of stopping production as their case played out in court.

For Williamson, the perfume had caused confusion. In one of its issues, Elle quoted Pam Anderson as saying that she always carried Glow by J.Lo when in reality the actress was a fan of Glow Industries. Williamson even created a custom scent for Pam. For Coty, an injunction meant it’d have to pull the perfume at the market, which would come at a great financial cost. The company had spent more than $5.2 million on advertising the scent.

Unfortunately for Williamson, her trademark application was still pending, so Jenny’s team took advantage of that. J.Lo paid $40,000 to buy Glow Kit, a trademark that belonged to a Chicago dermatologist (who was allowed to license the trademark and continue using it). This gave Lopez the upperhand. She could then turn around and sue the other Glow for trademark infringement. On October 8, Lopez filed a counterclaim, stating that Glow Kit had seniority.

When they went to court on November 7, 2002, Williamson’s legal team employed a risky legal strategy by omitting evidence in their filings, but it didn’t pay off, with J.Lo’s team outmaneuvering them. A judge denied Glow a preliminary injunction a month later. Right after Christmas, Williamson realized she’d never be able to keep the name Glow. “They could stop using it today, and Glow would still be linked with J.Lo,” she told Inc. “We may never get into some stores for that reason alone. Will Macy’s East take our products if it’s still carrying J.Lo’s fragrance under another name? The problem is that the damage had been done. Even if I win the case, I might have to change the name.”

For the other side, in the many months before the October 21, 2003 trial, they continued to see success. In early 2003, Lancaster projected the sales of Glow by J.Lo would reach $100 million in its first year. It had also served to boost the sales of her clothing line, which up until this point had been a disappointment.

By the time the court date came around, thing weren’t as intense. Williamson had already decided to change the name of her company and Sweetface Fashion and Coty decided to settle. And while the details of the case were not revealed to the public, it’s likely J.Lo’s team had to pay up.

Fifteen years later, both Glow Industries and Glow by J.Lo are still around – but they’re not quite the same. Williamson changed the name of her company to Water Music and is still selling natural products. J.Lo’s Glow, on the other hand, has seen a change in ownership. After Coty divested from J.Lo’s perfume brand in 2017, Designer Parfums announced a new partnership with the star, who has launched 23 additional fragrances since Glow.

In the last few years, sales of celebrity fragrances have declined. In 2011, this industry generated $150 million in yearly sales, but by 2014, that number dropped to $50.6 million.