Ta biografia nie jest lekką lekturą. Pomijając fabułę, męczy fakt, że pisana jest nieco pretensjonalnie w czasie teraźniejszym. Obfituje za to w ogromną ilość faktów z życia Rubinstein i z nawiązką odpowiada na pytanie jaka właściwie była ta słynna Helena – ‘kobieta która wymyśliła piękno’? Nie będę ukrywać, że trudno ją polubić, choć nie umniejsza to mojego podziwu dla tej postaci. Nie pomagają trudny charakter bohaterki i życiorys pełen sprzecznych faktów: zaczynając od daty urodzenia, na wykształceniu kończąc. Przez całe życie Rubinstein z sobie właściwą konsekwencją mniej lub bardziej zgodnie z prawdą kreowała swój PR. Robiła to na długo zanim to pojęcie w ogóle weszło do użytku. A że po drodze do zbudowania tego wyidealizowanego wizerunku zdarzyło jej się ‘kilka’ razy minąć z prawdą? Cóż, na szczęście wtedy jeszcze nie istniało Google, a prawda była bardziej niż kiedykolwiek pojęciem względnym. Na jej temat krążą legendy i jak się okazał, głównie dlatego… że sama je o sobie rozpuszczała.Z jednej strony Rubinstein była damą, mecenasem sztuki – jej drugiej wielkiej pasji zaraz po pracy. W zbiorach jej obrazów i rzeźb znajdowały się dzieła największych artystów ostatnich dwustu lat. Z drugiej strony sprytna i nieco złośliwa, uwielbiała siać zamęt wśród rodziny i pracowników. Krążyło nawet powiedzenie, że ‘jeśli Helena lubiła cokolwiek bardziej niż pracę, to ludzi z problemami’. Współpracowników raz obdarzała względami i traktowała jak swoje dzieci, a innym razem nieustannie strofowała i sprawdzała. Jeżeli można okreslić ją jednym słowem to na pewno była postacią niejednoznaczną. Znana ze swojego naukowego podejścia stała się niekwestionowanym pionierem branży urodowej. Jak na pioniera przystało przed innymi odkryła i wykorzystała potencjał finansowy dbałości o piękno. Nawet jeśli codzienność jej nie rozpieszczała, a w miłości zabrakło jej szczęścia (pierwszy mąż okazał się playboyem), to ostatecznie choć poobijana, z życiowych zmagań wyszła obronną ręką. Jak to zrobiła? Żeby się tego dowiedzieć warto przeczytać tę książkę.
If what people say about appearances being deceptive is true, Helena Rubinstein was the master of creating them. A short, dark-haired woman with alabaster complexion – you may think the next porcelain dolly from Poland who decided to try her luck in the big world. And on top of that this Jewish name and the fact that her thoughts concern mainly cosmetics… What could she possibly know about life? Paradoxically – everything. You’d better fasten your seat belts, if you are looking for a story about a delicate, flawless creature who thinks only about lipsticks and clothes, as you have never encountered such a big disappointment so far. Helena Rubinstein was a real tyrant. She was a merciless and authoritative ruler of the firm which she created on her own from the single jar, however she was not lacking of charm and class. Helena was an autodidact to a great extent (contrary to popular belief she didn’t study medicine, what’s more she didn’t even take her A-levels), but it wasn’t the need of self-improvement which made her brand recognizable in the whole world. In the world of male business she decided to put women on the pedestal, which was the fundament on which she built her empire.
She came from Cracow, but she was well aware that the only thing waiting for her there is a family pattern referred to as “a housewife rising five children”. When Helena was in her twenties, she boarded a ship heading to Australia, as she counted that it would be easier to begin her life at ‘aunt and uncle’ side far away from Poland. However, the reality in small Caroline wasn’t much better than in Cracow: she ran a shop from dawn to dusk doing a work destined for at least five people and getting paid starvation wages. And she didn’t even hear words of appreciation. At that point she decided that she had to change something. Her mom’s homemade cosmetic cream recipe came her to rescue. At first, she was experimenting in her kitchen- trying to recreate her mom’s formula. After leaving her aunt and uncle she was helping in a pharmacy at first, then she was in motion and caught hold of different jobs. Eventually she started her own business. Her cosmetics were working miracles. As Helena Rubinstein was given a gift of great understanding of women, she knew exactly how to get through to them.
Helena Rubinstein was the first person to have made significant use of science in the development of cosmetics. She knew the strict connection between those two disciplines and thanks to that she distinguished three types of skin complexion: dry, oily and combination skin. Helena was aware that youth and beauty, particularly for lowborn women, were very often the best (and the only) bargaining cards. Over time she understood that rich women also want to be beautiful and the most important thing connected with this desire was that they were willing to incur costs. Helena even decided to rise the prices of her products, but not due to production costs, but because of her good psychology knowledge. She was well-aware of the fact that women won’t believe in the miraculous effects, as long as they won’t have to pay through their noses for them. She used to tell stories about faraway lands, from which her ingredients came from, even if the products were made from herbs collected outside her window. Each time she knew exactly what she was doing and she proved to have been the best marketing manager of her firm.
This biography is not an easy reading, but if you want to find out who was Helena Rubinstein, it is a great way to do it. I’m not going to hide that I don’t like her, but it doesn’t diminish my admiration for her. She had a strong personality and her biography is full of contradictory facts: starting with the date of her birth, ending with her education. Rubinstein understood the power and the need of appropriate public relations. She would consequently apply Public Relations techniques even before the term “Public Relations” was introduced. Even though Rubinstein departed from the truth when it came to creating her ideal image, it wasn’t a big sin, was it? Well, luckily enough Google didn’t exist yet and the term “truth” was more relative than it is now. There are a lot of legends about Helena Rubinstein in the biography and I wonder if some of them are true. Helena was clever and a little bit malicious, she loved causing commotion among her family and employees. One of her employees once said that apart from work Helena liked people with problems. She liked them to such extent that she triggered problems herself. Rubinstein was unlucky in love, since she turned thirty, she claimed that men are either lazy or they aren’t fit to any purpose. When she finally fell in love, she was unlucky to have chosen a playboy – Edward Titus. Admittedly this marriage gave her 2 sons, but she dedicated more time to developing her brand than to rising her children. If the family didn’t bring her enough conflicts, she was looking for them in clashes with her competitors. She couldn’t stand the other cosmetic giant – Elizabeth Arden, and later she burnt with hatred against Charles Revson (the creator of the “Revlon” brand).
Helena Rubinstein was a very ambiguous woman. On the one hand she was continuously surrounded by crowd, what is more she was one of the first people who created the monarchy of beauty whose influences are visible on a few continents. She was a lady and a patron of art; her collections consists of paintings and sculptures (also those inspired by primitivism) or sketches made by the greatest artists of 18th and 19th century. Art was her second passion after work. On the second hand she was toxic and difficult to live with and because of that she felt lonely throughout the most part of her life. She felt that if she doesn’t plan something on her own, no one would do it better for her. Her coworkers were irritated, as sometimes Helena respected them and sometimes she treated them like children. It’s hard to deny that she was a loyal person towards her family. If it was possible, she always employed relatives. Helena was famous for her scientific approach, she was a pioneer of cosmetics business and she was building her empire step by step. However, the pioneer’s way isn’t easy, it leads through undiscovered meanderings of life and it may lead some astray. Rubinstein was a genius, not only because she noticed that the pursuit of beauty was a great opportunity to earn money, but also, in particular, because she struggled her whole life and even though she was a little bit bruised she did eventually win. How did she do that? Read the book, if you want to find out!