Helena Rubinstein and the Business of Beauty

November 14, 2011

Media_httpwwwnewyorke_bayip(New Yorker) “Rubinstein’s New York living room, like everything else about her, was tasteless but full of gusto,” Brandon writes. “It sported an acid-green carpet designed by Miró, twenty Victorian carved chairs covered in purple and magenta velvets, Chinese pearl-inlaid coffee tables, gold Turkish floor lamps, life-sized Easter Island sculptures, six-foot-tall blue opaline vases, African masks around the fireplace, and paintings covering every inch of wall space.” She once invited Edith Sitwell over for lunch and, upon hearing that Sitwell’s ancestors had burned Joan of Arc at the stake, exclaimed, “Somebody had to do it!” In the nineteen-fifties, she took as a companion a young man half a century her junior, wooing him on a date that began with an enormous lunch (“I need to keep up my energy!”) and a showing of “Ben-Hur” (“Most interesting! I’m glad the Jewish boy won!”). From then on, Rubinstein took the young man everywhere, even to a state dinner with the Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, who asked her, “Who’s your goy?” Rubinstein replied, “That’s Patrick! And . . . and, yes, he is my goy.”

Note the backhanded accusation of racism at the Jewish entrepreneur. It is as if implying that even the Jewish business woman is a bigot. Some interesting history here, but told in a frame that is hostile to profit and business. Hate is not profitable and though the editorial feels otherwise, the greater story is that haters go to considerable illogical choices to guide their decisions. Rubinstein is compared to the L’Oreal owner Schueller who bought her business after she died and was a Nazi and Arab League collaborator against Israel and it’s Jews. It is pointed out that L’Oreal could of just as well bought another cosmetics company like Elizabeth Arden, but the point is that he bought Rubinstein… and like Lehman Brothers before him… bought her company in what would turn out to be a poor business decision. The was written in March; back when business was still under attack. It was written in the New Yorker and used a Jewish historical business figure to prove how shrewd business decisions are often immoral. After looking it over months later I have realized how biased the New Yorker actually is, because if you look at the underlying story (hidden behind the writer’s bias and behind the critic of the writer’s bias) is a story about how vanity, ego and bigotry led to a poor move. Oscar Schindler is also brought up. Suppose Oscar had not saved those Jews? Would he of become a hero after the war?