The Artist Behind the Coppertone Girl Ad

The woman behind an iconic Coppertone suntan lotion ad died this week. Joyce Ballantyne Brand drew the image of a puppy tugging at the bathing suit of a little girl in 1959. The artist's daughter, Cheri Brand Irwin was the model for that ad, and she speaks with host Madeleine Brand about her mother's life and legacy.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Remember that Coppertone ad where a dog pulls down a little girl's bathing suit revealing her white bottom? That drawing was created by Joyce Ballantyne Brand she died this week at the age of eighty eight. Her daughter was the model for that ad, she was three years old at the time and Cheri Brand Irwin joins me now to tell us more about her mother. Welcome to the program.

CHERI BRAND IRWIN (Model for Coppertone ad): Well thank you.

BRAND: Now I understand your mom was a little surprised by that ad's popularity. It's become somewhat of an iconic image. How did she create it?

Ms. IRWIN: Well really back in the 50s Coppertone was a small company in Florida and they were going national, and when they went national they wanted an artist to design their national ad campaign and she was selected from five other artists that submitted renderings, and hers was selected.

BRAND: Well why did she decide to draw you in that image? That image, I mean that image is a little, was a little shocking at the time wasn't it?

Ms. IRWIN: Well, she was given directives from an art director apparently that, to submit something with a-with a baby some how, involving a baby and a suntan line and she took the concept from there. So basically I was three and the, the best age for a child to be detected in playful activities on the beach was that age. So I got to model.

BRAND: Lucky you.

Ms. IRWIN: We modeled for a lot of mom's arts. We were always getting in different costumes and posing for different things that she was doing. So it was nothing unusual.

BRAND: I understand she also used herself as a model at one point.

Ms. IRWIN: She's used herself and setting the stage for say a pin up. When she did pin ups in the 40s she would put herself in a position that she wanted the models in and if she didn't have a model she'd get in the position and use that to paint from. She'd paint a fictional person but put them in the position. So she used photographs for every one of her art jobs.

BRAND: She did 40s pin ups?

Ms. IRWIN: Yes, the 1940s pin ups.

BRAND: Were they sexy, were they come hitherish?

Ms. IRWIN: The famous pin ups. As she explains it it's always an innocent girl caught in a compromising position and she was one of the top ten, pin-up artists.

BRAND: And I understand she also won a scholarship to be a Disney animator but, but it didn't pan out, what happened?

Ms. IRWIN: Back in the day when she was invited to be an animator on staff it was before women artists were accepted. So when they realized she was a woman, that was not okay.

BRAND: What was her personality like?

Ms. IRWIN: She was a very outgoing, I mean people have likened her to the Auntie Mame story; open a new window, we need a little Christmas. You know, she was just a high spirited positive person that had, you know, obviously for a woman to be a leader in the 40s and 50s for women in business period. Just to do the portrait artwork that she did, commercial artwork, she's a trendsetter. You know, she really was ahead of her time. We had a very interesting childhood for me. We had friends like Derwood Kirby, Jonathan Winters, always over and when you attended social functions there was always people there from Jack Par to Ed McMahon to Johnny Carson to just on and on and on. One time we went to a social event and they were writing the roadrunner tune right there on the piano and then they had a little ensemble out in the garden and we asked who they were and they said Peter, Paul, and Mary. So, it's just an example of her life. It was quite, quite fun.

BRAND: Quite exciting.

Ms. IRWIN: Yeah, very exciting.

BRAND: And I understand she enjoyed her daily martini.

Ms. IRWIN: Oh she was-yeah, she liked to have a little toast at happy hour and had many great conversations over those times with, with all of her friends.

BRAND: Well thank you very much.

Ms. IRWIN: Well, you're welcome.

BRAND: Cheri Brand Irwin was the Coppertone baby. Her mother Joyce Ballantyne Brand who painted that iconic image died earlier this week.

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