Spinnato sat down with PASSPORT to discuss working with Garland’s kids, scents he loves and loathes, skincare tips, and exotic ingredients he’s discovered while traveling.
When siblings Liza Minnelli and Lorna Luft mused about how to honor what would be their mother’s 100th birthday this past June, they ultimately decided to create a fragrance named after her. But who could actually create a scent evoking the legendary Judy Garland, incorporating her favorite fragrances, and making it unisex so gay male fans would enjoy wearing it?
Enter openly gay “Wizard of Olfactory” Vince Spinnato, a seasoned and passionate cosmetic chemist who’s helped create scents, skin, baby, pet, bath, body and other products for companies and celebrities including Ole Henriksen, Jennifer
Lopez, Carrie Underwood, Michael Jordan, and his own luxury skincare line that incorporates caviar and diamonds, Vincenzo Skincare (vincenzoskincare.com).
Inspired by the fragrances Garland wore and loved, the unisex Judy: A Garland Fragrance by Vincenzo Spinnato (judygarlandfragrance.com) makes its retail debut just in time for the holidays in both a special 100th Limited Birthday Edition bottle ($140) and David Shyde’s striking, hand-blown, ruby-colored glass creation ($160). Incorporating notes from the Judy Garland Rose, Dark Orchid, Tonka Bean, Velvety Musk and other floral, spice, and woody notes. It’s a rich, complex scent which both Luft and Minnelli admit instantly evokes memories of their mom.
Born in New Jersey and based in Los Angeles, Spinnato boasts over 25 years in the beauty, health, and personal care business, which he shared dishy anecdotes about in the 2021 memoir, My Pursuit of Beauty: A Cosmetic Chemist Reveals The Glitz, The Glam and the Batsh*t Crazy,” and a 2022 documentary release, Skin Deep: Formulating A Legacy, both of which also address intimate personal life dramas and struggles, including body dysmorphia and trichotillomania disorder.
Married last year to fashion designer Roberto Racanelli (who recreated six Garland dresses for an Empire State Building display earlier this year), Spinnato sat down with PASSPORT to discuss working with Garland’s kids, scents he loves and loathes, skincare tips, and exotic ingredients he’s discovered while traveling.
The first and most obvious question: how did this Judy fragrance come to be?
Lorna got a hold of my book and skincare line, Caviar & Diamond, about eighteen months ago. Lorna’s a self-professed skincare fanatic and she knew I was in the area and reached out to me personally. We had a three-hour conversation on that first call and became fast friends. After that she invited me to her home to go over her skincare regimen, and after two or three times she said, ‘it’s going to be my mother’s 100th birthday and a lot of companies want to do a fragrance with us and I know what you do and trust you with protecting our mother’s legacy and body of work and image.’ So it really was Lorna pitching it to her siblings Joey [Luft] and Liza, and they loved the idea and she wanted to go with us.
What were some of the biggest challenges creating the actual fragrance, and how did the Garland kids help guide you?
When I worked with A-list celebrities in the past they were alive and I could chat and ask them questions. With a legend such as Judy, who has passed away, I wanted to make sure we got it correct, and that was one of the really big advantages for me. I was able to ask, ‘what did your mom like, what didn’t she like, what did she wear and not wear?’ Lorna said Judy didn’t like heavy, overly florals like lilacs or hyacinths. We even got into what food she liked, so some of the top notes are things like coriander, tonka bean, chocolate, and beautiful spices. Also, it was tough because we were taking a hybrid of [fragrances] she used to wear, but aren’t on the market anymore, and they wanted it to be unisex. As you know, Judy has a massive gay male following and we didn’t want to leave them out of the mix, so that was the hardest thing to do, finding a balance of what she used to wear and liked but also what her fans would want to wear, modernize it, and also make it unisex.
Did you learn a lot about Judy in the process?
I learned a lot working with the kids. For example, how funny Judy was. She was hysterical and made people laugh all the time, especially when on the talk shows. I didn’t know she was 4’11,” and that she was good friends with John F. Kennedy. A lot of backstories I didn’t know, personal stories, which also helped build the fragrance. For a legend like Judy you don’t want to get anything wrong. It’s very personal. Every little story, even if not related to sense or smell or touch or feel, helps you craft how the bottle and box should look and smell like. But a lot of people ask the children, ‘what was it like to grow up with an icon?’ And their answer to me was always, ‘she was just momma in the kitchen.’ Judy was a celebrity when they were born, so they didn’t know anything different. She really was down to earth and grounded and when she came home she wanted comfort food like steak and potatoes, and she adored chocolate.
The fragrance officially gets into consumers’ hands this December. What are your ultimate hopes for it?
We hope the fans will say they love what we did. People are waiting for this to come out, and Judy hasn’t had anything tied to her personally since passing in 1969. There are a million things tagged to her characters, like from Wizard of Oz, but not Judy Garland the person. This is actually the very first thing to carry her name. The estate and family waited 50+ years to do this.
Which celebrities would you love to do fragrances for next?
I just loved doing this project for Judy and keeping her legacy going, so I want to keep this energy going and my wish list right now is Lucille Ball, Audrey Hepburn, and Grace Kelly. A year ago, I would have named celebrities who are alive, but this project went so wonderfully, to re-engage Judy’s legacy and body of work and her fans. They’re itching for a new thing, and I’d be proud to keep these womens’ legacies going.
Judy was designed to be unisex, so is it safe to say you see specific scents as feminine or masculine?
Yeah for sure, there are definitely feminine and masculine-forward scents. The woods family. Sandalwood, frankincense, any kind of woodsy notes you have more in a male dominant fragrance or candle. In feminine ones you have more floral and fruits: guava, papaya, pomegranate. There are for sure scents geared towards male or female markets.
Is there anything wrong with a man preferring to wear womens’ scents?
Personally, I love to wear womens’ deodorants because I love fruits and vanilla. I do, too. I wear the women’s Dove deodorants. For sure, whatever men like. It’s all about the balance. Whether a deodorant or fine fragrance, everything has a heart note, a top note and a bottom note. If you have rose and hyacinth in a top note and don’t ground it with anything in the wood family it’s going to be very floral, but if you ground it with more masculine notes it would pull it more in a masculine direction.
You launched Caviar and Diamond a couple of years ago. What can you tell us about it?
It’s a four-step skincare regimen all based in caviar and diamond. It’s massively antiaging for fine lines, wrinkles, tightening and firming. It works on contact so it has an instant gratification factor. When somebody uses it they see the results right away.
What are some skincare do’s and don’ts?
If you’re talking about gay men specifically, we shave our face a couple of times a week and that causes micro tears into the skin, so you want to use products with Retinol and Vitamin E to help cure those. You can get ingrown hairs, underlying bacteria. So anything with anti-inflammatory properties is great to use on a daily basis.
You’ve also worked on pet products, and gays certainly do love their four legged family members. Is there a huge difference in how you approach pet versus human products?
The categories of pet and baby products are almost more strictly monitored than regular [adult human] skincare and hair care. The reason is babies and pets can’t communicate or speak, so there are a lot of extra layers of protection that go into making a product for them. I worked with John Paul Mitchell on his pet care line, and also for Seth MacFarlane the actor. It’s a weird but funny story, he had a really successful movie in 2014, A Million Ways to Die in the West, and bought a bunch of race horses and I ended up doing a product line for him for horses. Everything from shampoo to conditioner to a mane detangler and something to protect the horseshoes on their feet. I’ve done salad dressings for Wolfgang Puck! I’m all over the map.
You suffer from and actively raise awareness about trichotillomania, a hair pulling disorder. Can you tell us more about it?
Yes. It’s been around a long time, it’s even mentioned in the Bible. It’s a stress disorder, and I haven’t done it for many years thank God, but if you get stressed you pull out your hair. It can be eyebrows, leg, pubic, arm, the hair on your head. It’s a little more known now since public figures like Megan Fox and Kirsten Stewart [have been open about] having it. But a lot of people do suffer in silence, because women have a better chance of covering it up with extensions and wigs. I wish I was just a nail biter.
Any tips or hacks for people who suffer from this to help stop or mitigate the damage?
It sounds kind of weird but a lack of serotonin in the brain is something people with this disorder have, and one way to increase it quickly is using a tanning bed. It’s horrible for your skin, but one of the things I do is go to the tanning bed and once a month have my entire body waxed and that gives me a fix mentally, having all the hair ripped out at one time. The hair is not there for me to grab anymore!
Let’s talk about your hubby. How did you two meet?
He’s Canadian and we met about five years ago. I saw him on Facebook and he was in a picture at a fashion show with two of my ex-boyfriends! I messaged him, ‘hey, just wanted to tell you I like your picture and you’re the only guy in it I haven’t dated.’ He responded, ‘do you want to?’ And that’s where it started! We went to Italy in October and did a symbolic ceremony, just the two of us, in Lake Como and had a honeymoon all that month. And we did our legal marriage this year in the USA and will have a third one with friends and family about two years from now.
Have you ever discovered an amazing exotic skincare or fragrance ingredient while traveling?
I went down to the Amazon a couple of years ago on a tour and they were talking about the animals and trees, how Guaiac Wood has anti-inflammatory properties and nutritional value. I actually went rogue and got sap out of the tree to see how it felt on my skin and it was amazing! I’ve been playing with it ever since.
Ultimately, what’s the most satisfying part of your career so far?
Judy. It’s such an honor, this is a gigantic beloved name, Judy Garland. I really think we did 100 percent what she would have loved. We actually hired a Garland historian, the only one in the world approved by the family and estate, so we ran everything by him. Down to her signature, everything we have is historically perfect. That’s the thing I’m proudest of. We have this legacy and legend in our hands and have gone through every step to make sure we honor her along the way.