What if you could watch Matthew McConaughey’s iconic Wolf of Wall Street scene with him thumping his chest in the chair right next to you? What would that look like? Actually, what would that smell like?
Dallas-based entertainment reporters-turned-chandlers Bailey Briggs and Danielle Hawthorne took a good guess. They believe there’d be whiffs of mahogany and teakwood, notes of whiskey barrel, traces of hashish. In January, the pair officially launched DYST Candle, a line of locally made candles that smell like your favorite celebrities, like McConaughey, Michael B. Jordan, and Margot Robbie.
Before the pandemic, Briggs and Hawthorne were working together as hosts for a local entertainment show, covering upcoming movies and junkets and interviewing various celebrities. Then COVID-19 reached our shores and shut down the entertainment industry. The pair knew they needed to expand their income stream, but they wanted keep movies involved somehow.
Really, they wanted to recreate that feeling of going to the movies. Then Briggs got an idea. What if they made candles that smelled like the actors in the films themselves? “Can you imagine Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson right next to you?”
Hawthorne, a lifelong movie fan and devoted candle lover, was all in. “We instantly clicked on it,” she says.
They spent the next year developing their candle line. Briggs and Hawthorne researched competitors, looked for production partners to pour their candles in Dallas, and brainstormed celebrities. “Who do we want to make a candle with?” they asked themselves. Eventually they settled on seven to launch the company: McConaughey, Jordan, Robbie, and Johnson, plus Jennifer Anniston, Harry Styles, and Zendaya.
The gimmick of DYST is that as entertainment reporters, Briggs and Hawthorne have met a ton of celebrities. (“We smell them, so you don’t have to,” Briggs says.)
Obviously, not every candle has the same aroma as its namesake.
Instead, they researched the celebrity’s background—where they’re from, what they’re interested in, and which issues are important to them, Hawthorne says. The Rock has his own small-batch tequila company, so his candle smells like tequila, citrus, and, uh, “masculine musk.”
Of course, some candles do actually smell like the celebrities themselves. McConaughey’s known for smelling rather fragrant, Briggs says. “He’s just earthy.” So they picked those teakwood, hashish, and whiskey aromas. Additionally, they are working with a perfumiest to mimic the scent of Kevin Hart’s favorite cologne.
They have seasonal and genre-themed candles, too. “I love our RomCom candle,” which has orchid, merlot, vanilla chestnut, and chocolate notes, Hawthorne says. It’s “Valentine’s Day in a candle.” There’s a chai-scented holiday candle that Hawthorne says she’d burn year-round. “She would eat the candle if she could,” Briggs says.
Each candle costs $36. DYST uses up to five different scents in each candle, cotton wicks, and a soy wax blend*, although they’re experimenting with new waxes as well. Each candle burns for up to 80 hours. “When you light it, it fills the room,” Hawthorne says.
Briggs and Hawthorne, who also run a digital entertainment content brand* called Did You See That (DYST), plan to release candles based on the celebrities’ upcoming films. The Pattinson launched right before the Robert Pattinson-led The Batman premiered earlier this year.
They’re releasing an Austin Butler-themed candle in honor of the Elvis biopic, which premiered June 24. The Reese will launch when actress-turned-producer Reese Witherspoon’s movie Where the Crawdads Sing comes out in July. Other candles are in the works for Brad Pitt and George Clooney. They’re dipping into genre, with horror, and achieving their initial goal of putting you in a theater: movie-theater popcorn.
When they’ve popped up around town, lots of people stop to smell their favorite celebrities, they say. “Is this really what they smell like?” they ask. The McConaughey has sold out twice already. They recently began selling wholesale to shops as well.
And while right now it’s just Briggs and Hawthorne running the DYST, they’re grateful that they’ve been able to pivot in the pandemic. Says Briggs, they’re “just two girls making a dream work.”
*A previous version of this story misidentified the type of wax used and the Did You See That entertainment brand’s platform. This has been corrected.