After seven years, Estee Lauder Cos. last week replaced Paulina Porizkova with a "face for the '90s," British actress Elizabeth Hurley. The selection culminates a two-year search said to have encompassed a galaxy of celebrities-from supermodel Vendela, who's working for Almay since leaving Elizabeth Arden Co., to film star Uma Thurman.
During the quest, Lauder found that many models it relished were already taken by the competition. So to snare a well-known countenance with a contemporary, global appeal, Lauder scoured talent agencies along with the usual modeling shops.
But it was Jane Proctor, editor of the British fashion magazine Tatler, who suggested Ms. Hurley, a client of Creative Artists Agency and actor Hugh Grant's girlfriend.
The Brit fit the bill.
"We did extensive research on what women are looking for in a spokesperson, and we found they want someone with whom they could be friends," said Estee Lauder USA President Robin Burns. "Someone real, intelligent, warm and approachable as well as beautiful."
Terms weren't disclosed, but in beauty industry circles, the number being bandied about is $8 million for a multiyear contract.
One Ford Modeling agent, who didn't wish to be identified, said cosmetics and fragrance companies are increasingly recruiting actresses because they possess a Hollywood cachet and are universally known, without being overexposed as supermodels sometimes are.
Last year, Karl Lagerfeld signed actress Daryl Hannah for his Sun, Moon & Stars fragrance.
Other actresses being courted this year by beauty's big names: "Legends of the Fall" co-star Julia Ormond and Juliette Binoche of "Damage," who's said to be flirting with Lancome.
The company is in need of a new face since parting with Isabella Rossellini, who last month accepted a behind-the-scenes job as VP of Lancaster Group Worldwide.
Beauty's road to Hollywood is being paved by several trends, most notably a lack of new models ready to make the leap to supermodel status.
"The whole waif look put a damper on the beauty industry, which is looking for women whose looks and overall persona are glamorous," said Sheri Colonel, president of the Gotham Group, New York, which handles Maybelline.
The waifish stars of last year, she said, won't easily make the transition, marketers "who have terrific faces are holding onto what we have."
And unattached supermodels are often snapped up, as in the case of Jerry Hall, who will be representing designer Thierry Mugler's new fragrance Angel.
Another factor: modeling's high stakes, always at least six figures for a beauty contract with supermodels often commanding millions.
"The stakes are high and every company is getting better and better at this game so that there is less and less distinction between mass and class imagery," Ms. Colonel said. "It takes a while for models to reach the level of experience that legitimizes the expense and minimizes the risk."