** FOR USE WITH AP LIFESTYLES ** Edelman provided this illustration of the original Little Miss Coppertone. When she was first introduced in 1959, there was a Norman Rockwell-like quality to Little Miss Coppertone, with slightly muted colors and a wide-eyed innocence in the image by Joyce Ballantyne Brand. The late Brand used her own 3-year-old daughter as her inspiration. (AP Illustration/Edelman)
Updated: November 16, 2011 1:27AM
TAMPA, Fla. — Cheri Irwin once owned the most famous derriere in America. And the Question has become the price of her strange fame, a fame she never expected, certainly never sought:
How are your tan lines, Coppertone Girl?
She was 3 when she posed for her mother, a commercial artist who had been hired to whip up an ad for what turned out to be a small paycheck. Her mom posed her on a backyard table, yanked down her bathing trunks and started painting. The finished ad, considered a Madison Avenue classic today, featured the pigtailed little girl, a precocious cocker spaniel and those pale butt cheeks.
Irwin, 56 now, has lived a full life. But the Coppertone gig eclipses everything. It’s a conversation starter and a conversation stopper. She hears a throat being cleared and a slight giggle and braces herself for a question she loathes.
She has been asked the tan-line question a million times by a million bores — usually baby-boomer men who think they’re saying something original and laugh-out-loud hilarious.
“People can be incredibly boring about the Coppertone Girl,” she said. “Sometimes they ask about my tan line. It’s irritating.”
Irwin’s mother, Joyce Ballantyne Brand, now deceased, created ads for Pampers and Pepsi and illustrated stories for national magazines. The Coppertone ad was a small job, and not a challenging one, but it paid $2,500.
In 1959, somebody at the ad agency had handed her a sample — featuring stick figures of a girl and a dog — and told her to develop it. Brand’s daughter was available and worked for nothing. She posed the girl on an aluminum table in the backyard and started sketching. Later she added a palm tree, a beach and the dog.
“People seem very excited to learn I was the Coppertone baby,” she said. “In 1993, there seemed to be a renewed interest. I was invited to appear on [Sally Jessy Raphael’s talk show] and ‘Entertainment Tonight.’ Anyway, that’s it.”
Today, she manages a new Segway Experience franchise in Tampa.
“When people go on this tour with me, they’re creating memories,” she said. “I mean, they’re going to remember the day they took a tour on a Segway for the rest of their lives. I tell people I’m in the memory business.”
Scripps Howard News Service