THE KRAKOW CREAM
CYNICS CALL THE BEAUTY business ‘selling dreams’ and no one sold them better than Helena Rubinstein. She was a natural born saleswoman with a rare gift for embellishment, obsessively glossing over her past – some shade here, some cover-up there – quite appropriate for a beauty queen, and when it came to telling her own story, the embellishment she added to the first three decades of her life took exaggeration to an art form.
It’s doubtful even her vast, extended family knew the whole truth and, as most of them worked for her, it wasn’t in their interests to discuss it. No one ever broke away from the party line. ‘What Madame says goes’ was the mantra from her press officers, and the stories got repeated so often that they became fact. As she got older and most of the people who had observed her early life or helped her achieve fame and fortune had died, she was alone with her version of her memories.
What Helena Rubinstein perhaps failed to realise is that the truth about her brilliant career, her unquestionable achievements, her phenomenal success, is all the more awesome when told without the omissions and exaggerations. It seems rather poignant that with all her fame and wealth, with all her abilities and assertiveness, she lived with her past life shrouded in a veil of fantasy.
Helena Rubinstein, or simply ‘Madame’ as she became universally known, was in her ninety-third year when she commissioned her memoirs in 1964. A few months later she was dead. Sales of her book, My Life for Beauty, were very successful. People wanted to read the story of the legend whose lipsticks they had worn. And what a story it was.
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: War Paint: Madame Helena Rubinstein and Miss Elizabeth Arden : Their Lives, Their Times, Their Rivalry. Contributors: Lindy Woodhead - Author. Publisher: Wiley. Place of publication: Hoboken, NJ. Publication year: 2003. Page number: 24.
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