estée lauder, fashion, scent

Estée Lauder’s name is known all over the world, as it is one of the biggest cosmetics company worldwide. However, what do you really know about the woman behind the brand and where she came from?

Estée Lauder was born in July 1906 in New York. She was originally named Josephine Esther Mentzer, reports Divany. Even though as a child, she liked to make up stories about a glamorous upbringing by American, French, or sometimes Austrian aristocrats who catered to her every need, in her autobiography, she finally opened up about the truth.

Her mother, Rose, was from a Hungarian Jewish family. She followed her husband, Abraham Rosenthal, to America in 1898 with their five children. However, in 1905, she married the Czech grocer, Max Mentzer, giving birth to their daughter a year later. It is unknown what had happened to her first husband.

Even though the baby was named Josephine, she was nicknamed ‘Eszti’ after her mother’s favourite aunt. As an adult, she turned the English spelling of ‘Estee’ into ‘Estée’ so that it looked more French.

The beginning

Estée was first introduced to cosmetics by her uncle, John Schotz, who was also of Hungarian origins. She enthusiastically observed how he made creams for moustaches or for protecting the skin, while she learned the basics of business from her father. She fell in love with skincare and was dedicated to perfecting and selling her uncle’s products.

Estée met Joseph Lauter, and they got married in 1930. They later changed their name to the better-sounding Lauder. Estée and her husband had two sons. Leonard was born in 1934 and Ronald was born in 1944.

Although in 1939, the couple split up, three years later, they rekindled their love and stayed together until his death.

With her husband, Estée was finally able to realise her dream and found her own cosmetics company, called Estée Lauder Companies. Although she was successfully selling her products beforehand, too, the company was what really brought her success. 

Success and suffering

Although her business was getting more and more successful, and her personal life was back on track, too, Estée was starting to feel worse and worse mentally and fell into depression.

The business world was still ruled by men, and it was hard for her to make her way there, all the while having to raise two children. She was always busy doing something, either presenting her products in beauty salons, hiring people, or drawing up strategies, which quickly led to burnout. 

estée lauder, fashion, cosmetics
Estée Lauder and Ivana Trump, 1986
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Her first big success came with Youth Dew, a perfume and bath oil combination, then the cream called Re-nutriv, which is popular to this day. She eventually became so successful that even Grace Kelly, Nancy Reagan, and Frank Sinatra shopped her products. 

In 1998, she had the honour of being included among Time magazine’s “Most influential businessmen of the 20th century.” She was the only woman on the list.

She lived to be 97, and at the end of her life, the company’s worth was estimated to be 10 billion dollars. 

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