Beauty, Art And Millions Of Dollars: The Life And Power Of Helena Rubinstein

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Cosmetics pioneer Helena Rubinstein, and her story of women, beauty, wealth and power.

Helena Rubenstein – “Chaja” when she was a girl in the shtetl – left Poland a century ago for Australia, then London and Paris and New York.  Built a cosmetics empire from a few tubs of face cream.  Became one of the world’s first self-made female business titans.  With a message for women that sold:  “Beauty is Power.”  It was for her.  She built a fortune on it.  Saw the face as a work of art.  Make-up as a form of self-expression.  As a path of individual women’s identity and empowerment.  Do you?  This hour On Point: “Beauty is Power” and the story of Helena Rubenstein.

-- Tom Ashbrook


Mason Klein, curator at the Jewish Museum, where he organized the exhibit, "Helena Rubinstein: Beauty Is Power." Author of the exhibit's catalog (of the same name) and co-author of "The Radical Camera" and "Alias Man Ray."

Nancy Koehn, historian and professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. (@nancykoehn)

From Tom’s Reading List

JCC Greenwich: Curator Mason Klein on the Secret Ingredients of "Helena Rubinstein: Beauty Is Power" — "Immortalized by her tart maxim, 'There are no ugly women, only lazy ones,' Rubinstein gave unlazy women the salves and sensibilities to step in where Mother Nature left off. Her inventive company and style faced down status quo notions of beauty and helped makeover the playing field with access for all."

Jewish Women's Archive: Helena Rubinstein — "'My Life for Beauty,' Helena Rubinstein’s autobiography, was published in 1966, a year after her death. In the introduction, her son Roy Titus called his mother’s life and work 'so inseparable that a book dealing with one aspect without the other would seem incomplete.' Thus, the first half recounts 'My Life,' and the second half, 'For Beauty,' includes advice for achieving beautiful skin, hair, nails, and so on. The title is poignant and very appropriate. In addition to her son’s assessment that Rubinstein’s life and work were 'inseparable,' the title also lends credence to the theory that she gave her life for beauty. Late in life, she expressed numerous doubts about the wisdom of her absorption in her career in beauty, blaming this involvement for painful costs in her personal life."

New York Times: The Rivals -- "Helena Rubinstein's story is the most vivid. Her myth describes a moneyed childhood in Krakow and studies for a medical career, quickly derailed by Rubinstein's squeamishness. There was a passage to Australia, where an uncle lived, with 12 pots of her mother's 'Krakow cream,' made from a secret recipe, and a business tailor-made to a female population drying up in the sun."

Read An Excerpt Of "Helena Rubinstein: Beauty Is Power" By Mason Klein

This program aired on January 21, 2015.


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