Coppertone Girl: Florida Based Cultural Icon

The Coppertone Girl look back over the shoulder is a pose that’s changed our cultural sense of sexuality probably more so than the sunscreen impacted skin tone. The ad campaign dates back to 1959 with artwork created for $2500 by Ocala, Florida artist Joyce Ballantyne Brand using her three year old daughter Cheri Brand as the model. Coppertone was a small Florida company wanting to go national and they did producing billboard images and packaging that took many forms over the decades as the company and influence of the brand imagery spread. That $2500 Coppertone Girl’s bare bottom and look back over the shoulder stayed front in center as American as a Norman Rockwell illustration, an iconic bit of advertising history and American culture. Joyce was a prolific commercial artist in her early years post WWII after attending the University of Nebraska and American Academy of Art in Chicago. Having studied under some of the great pinup artists of her time she leaned toward the provocative in her work whatever the outlet, which often solicited complaints. Joyce passed away at the age of 88 in 2006. Much the same as Betty Brosmer Weider the famous pinup model influenced the narrow waist aesthetic of women competing in bodybuilding bikini competitions Joyce influenced the posing with the look over the shoulder. "The trick is to make a pinup flirtatious," Joyce said. "But you don't do dirty. You want the girl to look a little like your sister, or maybe your girlfriend, or just the girl next door. She's a nice girl, she's innocent, but maybe she got caught in an awkward situation that's a little sexy,” Joyce stated in interview with the St Petersburg Times (2004). Mastering provocativeness is and art in itself. Other artists have tried to do the same and not fared so well including Jill White, a photographer from North Carolina nearly banned from Facebook last year for trying to recreate a variation on the ad with her daughter. There has always been a sense of uncomfortableness for many with the Coppertone girl ad. Bikini bikini posing with the look back and exposed buttocks is met with regular opposition as the mere display is considered too sexually provocative for some and as American as the Coppertone girl and Moon pies for others. Part of the inequality that drums up a sense of sexist inequality between men and women posing is there are so few iconic poses for men wearing little to nothing. While females have been posing nearly nude on billboards like these Coppertone girl ads since the 1950s there are no male equivalents. Women can be athletes and sexually provocative at the same time while men are stuck bodybuilding and fitness model poses few of which have had the impact of little three year old Cheri Brand in the $2500 advertisement.

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