I wanted to find a picture as beautiful as the one the Estée Lauder company put up for its tribute to Evelyn Lauder.
But of course they should have the loveliest one. She was their own — but she had earned the right to be one of them....Evelyn married Leonard Lauder, son of the illustrious Estée, in 1959, when the company was still powdering its nose, so to speak.
She credited the childhood trauma of fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe with giving her the backbone to stand up to her mother-in-law, whom she said was "like a steamroller."
So her blind date with Leonard at 19 eventually took her from public school teacher to peddling beauty products. But that might've been more suitable anyway, as her father had owned a lingerie shop in Austria, and later a chain of dress shops in Manhattan.
Not only did Evelyn handle training and fragrance development within the company, she specifically developed, along with Vogue editor Carol Phillips and Dr. Norman Orentreich, the Clinique brand, with its signature lab coats, and played a significant role in cultivating the philanthropic side of Estée Lauder.
Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1989, shortly after, she helped establish, with the help of Self magazine, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the pink ribbon as the international emblem for awareness and funding.
Pink Ribbon, a new lipstick and blush hue she initiated eventually raised millions for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and her personal fundraising efforts went into the creation of the Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, which opened October 1992.
"Evelyn Lauder deserves to be remembered for more than just pink ribbons," said a Facebook friend. And Nancy Cardozo, a Brooklyn editor, responded:
I'm grateful to her for her work with Memorial Sloan Kettering. Maybe she saved my life. Certainly she made a tough time infinitely less awful than it might have been.
[I was] diagnosed with breast cancer in my early 40s when the youngest of my 3 kids was 4. (I'm 58 now.) I went to the MSK breast cancer center for my chemo. It was a beautiful, soothing, healing place clearly put together by someone with exquisite taste and an understanding of what it's like to be a breast cancer patient."
Life saver, life liver, life lover, Evelyn was also an accomplished photographer — her third exhibit at London's Gagosian Gallery opened this fall, Salon Beauties, a collection of dramatic images of mid-20th century porcelain vases of women's heads.
In an interview this spring, Harper's Bazaar described her as
emit[ting] simultaneously the cool polish of a society doyenne and the warm sympathy of a Jewish grandma."
But beauty advice is part and parcel of her persona: Dying her own hair every 10 days, alternating moisturizers for maximum effectiveness, religiously wearing sunscreen, maintaining a white smile, "but no Chiclets."
Her drink of choice was vodka over wine – like Elizabeth Hurley, a 'face' of Estée Lauder!
Her words of wisdom for midlifers? "… if you're going to diet, do it in your 50s. When you start in your 60s, your skin is less resilient, and it's not going to snap back."
In 2007, Evelyn learned she had ovarian cancer. She died at her home in Manhattan on November 12 – she was 75.