Estée Lauder was the American co-founder, with her husband Joseph Lauder, of Estée Lauder Companies, a pioneering cosmetics company.
Born Josephine Esther Mentzer, Estée Lauder was raised in Corona, Queens, by her Hungarian mother, Rose, and Czech father, Max. The name Estée was a variation on her family nickname, Esty. Always interested in beauty, she was mentored by her uncle, chemist John Schotz, and began her business by selling skin care products to beauty salons and hotels.
Mrs. Lauder's leadership inspired thousands of people. She received scores of honors, including the United States' Presidential Medal of Freedom and France's Legion of Honor. However, Mrs. Lauder was happiest advising women during her in-store appearances. One of her favorite quotes was "Telephone, Telegraph, Tell-A-Woman," because she knew that once a woman tried an Estée Lauder product, she would love it and share it with her friends.
When the company began to advertise, Mrs. Lauder insisted that its images portray beauty that was both aspirational and approachable. Over the years, supermodels Karen Graham, Willow Bay, Paulina Porizkova—and now Elizabeth Hurley, Carolyn Murphy, Hillary Rhoda and Gwyneth Paltrow—have represented Estée Lauder.
She married Joseph Lauder in 1930. They created the company together. They had two sons, Leonard and Ronald. Estée divorced Joseph in 1939, and re-married him in 1942. The couple remained married thereafter until his death in 1982. The Estée Lauder company was created in 1935. Her older son, Leonard Lauder, was chief executive of Estée Lauder and is now chairman of the board. Her younger son, Ronald Lauder, is a prominent philanthropist, a Republican political appointee in the Reagan administration, and developer of property in Berlin, among other endeavors.
Lauder died of cardiopulmonary arrest, aged 97.