Estée Lauder (businesswoman)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Estée Lauder
Lauder (left) with a customer in 1966
Josephine Esther Mentzer

(1908-07-01)July 1, 1908[1]
New York City, U.S.
DiedApril 24, 2004(2004-04-24) (aged 95)
New York City, U.S.
Known forCo-founder of The Estée Lauder Companies
Joseph Lauder
(m. 1930; div. 1939)
(m. 1942; died 1983)

Estée Lauder (/ˈɛst ˈlɔːdər/ EST-ay LAW-dər; née Josephine Esther Mentzer; July 1, 1908[1] – April 24, 2004) was an American businesswoman.[2][3][4] She co-founded her eponymous cosmetics company with her husband, Joseph Lauter (later Lauder).[5] Lauder was the only woman on Time magazine's 1998 list of the 20 most influential business geniuses of the 20th century.[6]

Early life and education[edit]

Lauder was born Josephine Esther Mentzer in Corona, Queens,[7] New York City,[1] the second child born to Rose Schotz and Max Mentzer.[8][9] Her parents were Hungarian Jewish immigrants.[1][10][11] Her mother's mother was from Sátoraljaújhely and her mother's father was from Gelle (now Holice, Slovakia),[12] while her father had Czech-Jewish ancestry. Lauder's claims of descent from European aristocracy were discredited in a biography, Estée Lauder: Beyond the Magic (1985) by Lee Israel.[13] Her New York Times obituary observed "she was a New Yorker and not an aristocrat at all", notwithstanding "the mythmaking that is so much of the magic of the beauty industry".[14] Her "favourite story was that she had been brought up by her Viennese mother in fashionable Flushing, Long Island, in a sumptuous home with stables, a chauffeured car and an Italian nurse."[15]

In actuality, her mother Rose emigrated from Hungary to the United States in 1898 with her five children at the time to join her first husband, Abraham Rosenthal.[8] In 1905, Rose married Max Mentzer, a shopkeeper who had also immigrated to the United States in the 1890s.[8] When their daughter was born, they wanted to name her Eszti, the diminutive form of the Hungarian first name Eszter,[16] after her mother's favorite Hungarian aunt, but decided at the last minute to keep the name "Josephine", which they had agreed upon. However, the baby's nickname became "Estee", the name she would grow up using and responding to. Eventually, when she launched her perfume empire with her husband, she added an accent mark to make her name look French and began pronouncing it the way her father had in his Hungarian accent.[17]

Lauder spent much of her childhood trying to make ends meet. Like most of her eight siblings, she worked at the family's hardware store, where she got her first taste of business, entrepreneurship, and what it takes to be a successful retailer. Her childhood dream was to become an actress with her "name in lights, flowers and handsome men".[9][18]

Estée and Joseph Lauder in 1971
Lauder (left) with Ivana Trump in 1986

When Lauder grew older, she agreed to help her uncle, Dr. John Schotz, with his business. Schotz was a chemist, and his company, New Way Laboratories, sold beauty products such as creams, lotions, rouge, and fragrances. She became more interested in his business than her father's. She was fascinated watching her uncle create his products. He also taught her how to wash her face and do facial massages. After graduating from Newtown High School in Elmhurst, Queens, New York, she focused on her uncle's business.[citation needed]


Lauder named one of her uncle's blends Super Rich All-Purpose Cream, and began selling the preparation to her friends.[8]: 115  She sold creams like Six-In-One cold cream and Dr. Schotz's Viennese Cream to beauty shops, beach clubs and resorts.[19] One day, as she was getting her hair done at the House of Ash Blondes, the salon's owner Florence Morris asked Lauder about her perfect skin. Soon, Estée returned to the beauty parlor to hand out four of her uncle's creams and demonstrate their use. Morris was so impressed that she asked Lauder to sell her products at Morris's new salon.[8]: 116 

In 1953, Lauder introduced her first fragrance, Youth-Dew, a bath oil that doubled as a perfume. Instead of using French perfumes by the drop behind each ear, women began using Youth-Dew by the bottle in their bath water. In the first year, it sold 50,000 bottles; by 1984, the figure had risen to 150 million.[20]

Lauder was the subject of a 1985 TV documentary, Estée Lauder: The Sweet Smell of Success. Explaining her success, she said, "I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard."[19]

Awards and honors[edit]

Lauder received the Chevalier (Knight) class of the Legion of Honour from the Consul General of France, Gerard Causer, on January 16, 1978. She was the first woman to receive this honor.[21]

She was inducted to the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1988. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004.

Personal life[edit]

Estée met Joseph Lauter when she was in her early twenties. On January 15, 1930, they married. Their surname was later changed from Lauter to Lauder.[5] Their first child, Leonard, was born March 19, 1933.[8]: 115 [22] The couple separated then divorced in 1939 and she moved to Florida, but they remarried in 1942.[19] Their second son, Ronald, was born in 1944. Estée and Joseph Lauder remained married until his death in 1983, and she later regretted her divorce, saying that she married young and assumed that she had missed out on life but soon found out that she had the "sweetest husband in the world".[23]

Leonard became the chief executive of Estée Lauder[24] and then chairman of the board.[25] Ronald was a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration and was U.S. Ambassador to Austria in 1986–87.[26] As of 2021, he is the president of the World Jewish Congress.


Lauder died of cardiopulmonary arrest on April 24, 2004, aged 95,[27] at her home in Manhattan.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Josephine Esther Mentzer – New York, New York City Births". FamilySearch. Retrieved January 3, 2016.
  2. ^ "Estee Lauder Obituary". The Telegraph. Retrieved February 4, 2019.
  3. ^ "From A Kitchen in Corona, Estee Lauder Built An Empire". Queens Chronicle. Retrieved February 4, 2019.
  4. ^ "Estée Lauder Founder of cosmetics empire and epitome of gracious living". The Irish Times. Retrieved February 4, 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Estee Lauder". The Biography Channel. AETN UK. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved June 22, 2014.
  6. ^ Timothy Williams, Gates Among Time's Top 20 20th-Century Business Titans Seattle Times, November 30, 1998
  7. ^ Severo, Richard (April 26, 2004). "Estée Lauder, Pursuer of Beauty And Cosmetics Titan, Dies at 97". The New York Times. Retrieved May 9, 2010.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Kent, Jacqueline C. (2003), Business Builders in Cosmetics, The Oliver Press, ISBN 1-881508-82-X
  9. ^ a b Lauder, Estee. "The Makings of a Beauty Tycoon: Estee Lauder is Born". Archived from the original on October 17, 2015. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  10. ^ "Population Schedule". Fourteenth Census of the United States. US Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census. 1920. Retrieved August 29, 2016 – via
  11. ^ "Population Schedule". Fifteenth Census of the United States. US Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census. 1930. Retrieved August 29, 2016 – via
  12. ^ Votruba, Martin. "Estée Lauder". Slovak Studies Program. University of Pittsburgh. Archived from the original on November 22, 2017. Retrieved January 14, 2017.
  13. ^ "Empress with a finger in every pot of cream". The Glasgow Herald. April 8, 1986. p. 10. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  14. ^ "Estée Lauder, Pursuer of Beauty And Cosmetics Titan, Dies at 97". The New York Times. April 26, 2004. Retrieved March 7, 2019.
  15. ^ "You couldn't make it up".
  16. ^ "The Extraordinary Life of Estée Lauder, the Queen of Cosmetics". July 2023.
  17. ^ Lauder, Estee (October 21, 1985). "Estee Lauder". New York. Vol. 18, no. 41. p. 32. ISSN 0028-7369.
  18. ^ Herzog, Edwin (May 2012). "Estée Lauder profile". Majoroszog Journal.
  19. ^ a b c "Estee Lauder biography". Archived from the original on February 22, 2008.
  20. ^ "estee lauder Biography". Archived from the original on October 25, 2012. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  21. ^ "Estee Lauder was honored by the Government of France. She received..." Getty Images. Archived from the original on February 2, 2017.
  22. ^ "Leonard Lauder". Archived from the original on October 11, 2010. Retrieved October 31, 2010.
  23. ^ "Cosmetics Magnate Estee Lauder Dies at 97". Washington Post. Retrieved August 10, 2018.
  24. ^ Mirabella, Grace (December 7, 1998). "Beauty Queen: Estee Lauder: She turned cosmetics into a big business by making the experience at the sales counter a personal one". Time. Archived from the original on March 6, 2008. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  25. ^ "Cosmetics mogul Estee Lauder dies". CNN. April 26, 2004. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  26. ^ "Just Who Was Our Envoy to Vienna". The New York Times. July 27, 1989. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
  27. ^ a b "Cosmetics Mogul Estee Lauder Dies". CBS News. April 25, 2004. Archived from the original on February 5, 2007. Retrieved August 8, 2008.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]