Lauder, Estée Mentzer

views updated


LAUDER, ESTÉE MENTZER (1907–2004), cosmetics entrepreneur. Lauder was born Josephine Esther Mentzer in Corona, Queens, New York. Her mother, Rose Schotz Rosenthal Mentzer, a Hungarian-born widow with six children, married Max Mentzer, ten years her junior; Estée was the youngest of the Mentzer children who grew up as Jews in a mostly Italian neighborhood. She married Joseph Lauter in 1930; the couple, who divorced in 1939 and remarried in 1942, became close partners in Lauder's cosmetic empire; they had two sons, Leonard (1933) and Ronald (1944). Lauder, who changed the spelling of her name in 1937, learned to create face creams from her maternal uncle, John Shotz, a chemist, and eventually began marketing her improved versions under her own name. Estée Lauder believed in selling her cosmetics at the finest department stores in the United States and abroad; by 1985, half of Estée Lauder and related product sales were in 75 foreign countries. Lauder trained the saleswomen who demonstrated and sold her products and pioneered giveaway promotions, always including lipstick in the gift package of samples. She also invested in marketing, using beautiful models to advertise her cosmetic lines. In 1953 she launched another phase of her business with Youth Dew, bath oil with a scent that could be used as a perfume, and the first of a number of fragrances. She created a men's line in 1965 and, after extensive medical testing, launched the fragrance-free Clinique line. In addition to numerous awards in the cosmetics industry and in fashion, Lauder received the French government's Insignia of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1978 and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine Spirit of Achievement Award in 1968. In 1970 she was recognized by 575 business and financial editors as one of ten Outstanding Women in Business. She published her autobiography, Estée: A Success Story, in 1985. Lauder was a philanthropist, contributing to National Cancer Care and to the Manhattan League; the Lauder Foundation has given huge sums of money to Jewish and Zionist causes. Her son Leonard (1933– ) became chairman of the board of the Estée Lauder Companies Inc. Lauder has been an active participant in the worlds of education, art, politics, and philanthropy. He had a long association with the Whitney Museum of American Art; he also served as president of its board. For Ronald *Lauder, see following entry.

[Sara Alpern (2nd ed.)]