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The “Coppertone Girl” is all grown up

The Coppertone logo on a building in Miami.  Phillip Pessar/Flickr

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Brought to You By is our series about all the stuff that’s become part of the culture and of the economy. Where did they come from and who thought of them? 

If Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen is part of your summer supply stash this year, check out the artwork on the bottle. It’s a picture of a dog nipping at the rear-end of a toddler’s swimsuit on the bottle.

When Joyce Ballantyne designed the original artwork for that logo back in 1959, she used her own daughter as a model. The size of the little girl’s swimsuit has grown over the years, but Coppertone has used versions of it on their products ever since. For the latest installment in our seasonal series, “Summer, Brought to you By,” we hear from Joyce Ballantyne’s daughter, the now grown-up “Coppertone Girl.”

I’m Cheri Irwin and I’m the baby that modeled for the Coppertone logo trademark.

My whole family was centered around my mother being an artist.

She was in a circle of artists in Chicago back when all the pinup art work was done. It was post-World War II and they had all the little girly girls, you know, caught in a situation with their skirts blowing up or something going on, and mom was one of the top five pinup artists.

There weren’t a lot of women that could survive full time as an artist and worked from home back in the 50s. She was very much a maverick in that sense. She had the capability to cross venues and do beautiful oil paintings and then translate over to pinup artwork and then into commercial drawings. She just loved to draw or paint or create.

She did literally hundreds of billboards and got the assignment to create a baby playing on a beach. So, she came up with the rendering of the Coppertone ad that you see today, which is the baby and the dog playing on the beach with the tan line being exposed. And I’m the baby.

We were the family models. So as far as this one, it was just one of many that I did. I think it was probably going into high school, is a good time to say I was more aware of the word getting out that that was me or, you know, my mother was involved and that was me. And then, of course, high school you know how it is— they have to make fun of it. I got all the comments— like “turn around, prove it” or “turn the other cheek.” People can’t resist.

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