Crusader of beauty and revolutionary heroine, Helena Rubinstein (born in 1872 as Chaja Rubinstein) had been a rebel daughter since her youth. She grew up with a strict education in an orthodox and humble jewish family among her seven little sisters. She decided to quit Krakow at 24 years old, escaping an arranged marriage obliged by her father. After a period spent in Wien, she left Europe for Australia to join some relatives that lived there, she had very little knowledge of English and little money. It was in Australia where she started to build her own glorious empire.
The Jewish Museum of Paris (mahJ) is hosting for the first time - a retrospective entirely consecrated to the story of this bold, female entrepreneur who succeded in her life in a time where women did not enjoy the same rights and positions as men, especially in the business field. The exhibition is running until August 25th.
Helena Rubinstein was a small woman (148 cm height) with long, black hair always combed back and porcelain skin. Once in Melbourne, her elegance and her perfect flesh tones were promptly noticed by the local women who suffered from wrinkled and dried skin because of the sun exposure. Helena understood that her beauty treatment rituals were completely new to Australian women and started to sell the jars of the cream she brought from her mother’s house. She also suggested to them to protect their skin by wearing hats or bringing umbrellas to avoid direct sunlight. When her personal stock of cream was over she started to experiment producing the cream on her own thanks to a key ingredient which was easy to find over there: lanolin. To hide the strong smell of lanonin Helena tested different essences : lavender, pine bark and water lilies. While working as a waitress in a tea room she met someone interested in developing her project, helping to create the brand and finance the product. She officially launched her first cream The Valaze, a real success among Australian natives and the beginning of her brilliant career. The next step was the inauguration of the first beauty salon in the elegant district of Collins street, where she began creating creams for different kind of skins ; a second salon opening followed in Sydney.
In five years she made enough money to also conquer the rest of the world : she moved back to London where she opened a third salon, then she left for the French capital after a marriage with the publisher Edward Titus with whom she had two sons. In Paris she focused on herbal preparations and make up treatments. Passionate about contemporary art, she soon met and became friends with the most important artists of those years : Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Dalì, Paul Eluard, Man Ray and Chagall.
In 1915, a year before the beginning of the WWI, her husband convinced her to move to the United States. She opened a new salon in New York and, as soon as the business increased, she multiplied the openings : San Francisco, Philadelphia, Boston, Los Angeles, Washington, Chicago and Toronto. In Hollywood she became the personal beauty advisor of silent movies stars such as Theda Bara and Pola Negri.
From her youth, Helena showed a strong and rebellious personality. She had the courage to swim against the tide of her family culture, and the social norms of her time. She set the bar in many areas in the cosmetic field : she sold the first hydrating cream, founded the first beauty institute, invented the first anti-age treatment, the first mask made with hormones, the first waterproof mascara and the first lifting beauty treatment. She studied the interactions between beauty care and a proper diet and created a beauty therapy for ill people.
The french poet Jean Cocteau used to define Helena "the empress of beauty".
Lady Rubinstein reinvested her money to support charitable institutions, education, medical research and art.
A part of her impressive art collection, related to african pieces, will be shown at the Quai du Branly Museum from this November.