One of the last of the great old beauty-products queens and pioneering businesswomen, along with Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein:
NEW YORK (AP) - Estee Lauder, who started a kitchen business blending face creams and built it into a multimillion-dollar international cosmetics empire, has died. She was 97. In 1998, Lauder was the only woman on Time magazine’s list of the 20 most influential business geniuses of the century. Her company placed No. 349 in the 2003 ranking in the Fortune 500 list of the nation’s largest companies, with revenue at $4.744 billion. Said Lauder, “If you have a goal, if you want to be successful, if you really want to do it and become another Estee Lauder, you’ve got to work hard, you’ve got to stick to it and you’ve got to believe in what you’re doing.”
Born Josephine Esther Mentzer in the working-class Corona section of Queens, she was the daughter of Max and Rose Schotz Mentzer. Lauder never disclosed her birth date, but a company spokeswoman said she was 97. During the 1930s, she began selling face creams that her uncle John Schotz, a chemist, mixed up in a makeshift laboratory in a stable behind the family house. And she began experimenting with mixes herself. Lauder went to beauty salons where she gave free demonstrations to women waiting under hair dryers. More often than not, they became customers. Sometimes she stopped women on Fifth Avenue to try her products.
Estee Lauder became a household name in 1953, when the company debuted Youth Dew, a bath oil and perfume. Over the years she added new lines and new products, fragrances such as White Linen and Cinnabar, the Aramis line of men’s toiletries and the Clinique line of fragrance-free, allergy-tested products. Lauder and her husband were active in philanthropic work, including contributions to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York and the University of Pennsylvania, the site of the Joseph H. Lauder Institute of Management and International Studies.