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Cosmetics capitalist Estée Lauder (Josephine Esther Mentzer) died at 95 on this date in 2004. She was born to Hungarian immigrants who ran a hardware store, and she became interested in cosmetics through the work of her uncle, a chemist who developed beauty products and fragrances. In 1953, she introduced her first fragrance, “Youth Dew,” a bath oil and perfume that sold 50,000 bottles in its first year and 150 million by 1984. She co-founded her eponymous company in 1946 with her husband Joseph Lauder (whom she divorced and then remarried); today it has 42,000 employees and nearly $11 billion in annual net sales. While Lauder’s son Ronald has been an outspoken conservative in most of his activities (including leadership of the World Jewish Congress), the Estée Lauder company has given most of its political contributions to liberal Democratic senatorial candidates in New York. Nevertheless, the company’s products — including Aramis, Prescriptives, Clinique, Aveda, and DKNY and Tommy Hilfiger toiletries products — have been targeted for boycott by Palestinian activists, in opposition to Ronald Lauder’s support for the Likud party and his opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian state.
“I wanted to see my name in lights, but I was willing to settle for my name on a jar.” —Estée Lauder