There was a time when coffee table cynics looked to first-day movie collections as the make-or-break factor in a budding star’s career trajectory. But the year is 2019, and fates are now sealed long before the first poster of the debut movie is unfurled. With social media playing judge and jury, celebrity endorsements now serve as the litmus test of an upcoming star’s commercial viability. As influencer marketing soars to dizzying new heights, celebutantes occupy the cosy intersection on the Venn diagram of marketability. 

Seven months before the release of her debut movie Student of The Year 2, Ananya Panday was snapped up by Lakmé India as the face of their lip care range, becoming the youngest star to have signed an endorsement deal with the cosmetic giant. The 20-year-old has also replaced Disha Patani as the ambassador of high street label, ONLY.

Brands are now looking beyond conventional photoshoots to leverage their star power in the virtual world. Having made its mark as a retail powerhouse, Nykaa found the perfect candidate for its first-ever brand ambassador in young Janhvi Kapoor who has their target demographic on speed dial. The star’s Instagram presence has doubled over the course of the past year, now resting at a solid 4.5 million followers. The major bulk of her deliverables is monopolised by a series of innovative how-to videos, including a recent one that had her doing a full face of makeup without using a mirror in just one minute. 

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Guys!! I’ve come up with this exciting + lowkey stressful (😅) makeup challenge with @nykaabeauty for my 22nd birthday🎂 Can you do a full face of makeup just using lipsticks without a mirror in under a minute? I promise it’s fun as long as you don’t poke your eye out with lipstick like I almost did 💄 Here are the rules: 1⃣Do a full face of makeup under 1 minute using the only Nykaa lipsticks, without using a mirror 2⃣Upload the video of you doing the challenge on your Instagram and make sure your profile is public 3⃣Tag @JanhviKapoor, @NykaaBeauty & @MyNykaa 4⃣Use hashtag #JanhviBirthdayChallenge 5⃣Tag your friends in the comments below & get them to participate 🎉22 lucky winners will win #JanhviLoves Nykaa Makeup hampers specially curated by me. So pull out your lippies and get shooting! ⚠Contest ends on 12th March! P.S @mallikadua dont leave me hanging #JanhviBirthdayChallenge #JanhviLovesNykaa #MakeupChallenge #NykaaLipstickChallenge #NykaaCosmetics #JanhviXNykaa

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Elsewhere, Sara Ali Khan made her endorsement debut as the newest brand ambassador for Veet. The hair removal brand has in the past favoured seasoned names like Katrina Kaif and Shraddha Kapoor. The brand’s top marketing minds devised a ‘most Googled questions about’ video that has the young star debunking the many myths and misconceptions surrounding cold wax strips. At last count, the video had crossed the three-million mark on Instagram, providing the brand an assured audience with one-third of her 9.4 million strong following online.  

It can be argued that box office cred serves as a cursory footnote in the life of a starlet, rather than career-affirming validation. Let’s take the curious case of Athiya Shetty who made her much-hyped debut under Salman Khan’s tutelage in Hero (2015), and then appeared in the multi-starrer Mubarakan where she had very little to do. Yet, the 26-year-old commands prime real estate in the pages of all the major glossy magazines — flip through the latest for the month, and you’ll find her bathed in a sumptuous swathe of tulle and precious jewels from Hazoorilal Legacy. 

READ: Why Every Fashion Week Must Have A Bollywood Showstopper 

Likewise, the decidedly slim list of movies on Disha Patani’s portfolio belies her cult following of 20.7 million on Instagram. Reports say that her current net worth of Rs 55 crore is fuelled in no small way by a horde of brand endorsements, including the prestigious distinction of being the first Indian star to sign on with Calvin Klein. Srimoyi Bhattacharya, founder of leading PR firm, Peepul Consulting, explains what’s tipping the scales in their favour; “Given the sheer volume of brand endorsements that known A-listers are associated with, the brand recall is very low. When someone is wearing 5-6 outfits in the same day, the brands do not really benefit from styling them in a look. Identifying new talent, thus, becomes the need of the hour,” she says.

The eligibility qualifications now include, but are in no way limited to, a healthy attendance record on the social circuit, a carefully curated off-duty wardrobe orchestrated by an invisible team of stylists and a certain brand of magnetism on social media. Bhattacharya adds, “The grooming process can begin years in advance, and with good reason. Beyond just scouting for a fresh face, brands are growing increasingly aware of the fact that consumers can’t be fooled and the profile of the person they are signing on can’t be a force-fit. Thus, you’ll see massive image-building teams working on cultivating a certain profile for newcomers even before they step into the industry. I think Janhvi Kapoor has done a good job of this, with a personable approach that is endearing to brands and end-consumers alike. Ananya Panday also serves as an interesting person to watch.” 

So, are endorsement deals more crucial than debut movies for newcomers? Even in the worst case scenario, it serves as a solid plan B.

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