From Krakow to Australia without a penny of money
Madame did not always have the French name Helena. It was one of the first touches of dense retouching that hid the real facts of her biography from the public, creating a much more elegant picture. In an era when she was pursuing a career, primordial poverty was respected only if presented as something romantic. The truth about Madame's origins was rude both to the taste of contemporaries and to her own.
The father of the nee Chaya Rubinstein kept a seedy shop in the Jewish quarter of Krakow, selling either food or kerosene. In any case, nature deprived him of his business acumen, so he did not get out of debt. Mom took care of the house and numerous children. Both of her sons died in infancy, and the only dowry of her eight daughters was attractiveness, thrift and good manners.
Every evening the girls repeated the beauty ritual learned from their mother: they ran a comb through their hair 100 times, washed themselves with cold water and applied a moisturizer, which the mother mixed herself. Allegedly, Gitel learned the composition from an actress friend, and she - from the Hungarian chemist Jacob Likuski, who worked in Krakow. Madame kept the habit of doing these simple procedures before going to bed for the rest of her life. And in his youth, self-care was, perhaps, the only parental admonition that did not cause protest from the wayward Haya.
The eldest daughter gave her mother and father more headaches than the other seven combined. She grew only 147 cm, was not very well built, and even my mother could not find a better compliment for her than “smooth skin is your main wealth”. She was only 15 years old when her father fell ill, and Khaya first went to a business meeting instead. Gitel gave her advice: "If you really want to become smart, listen more and talk less."
Parents hardly agreed to marry Haya for a wealthy 35-year-old widower. Later Madame, who had hidden her true age all her life, said that the groom seemed to her, an eighteen-year-old girl, a decrepit old man. Arithmetic claims that Hae was then about 23 years old, and the chances of marriage were diminishing every day. However, she rejected the groom and proposed her candidate, Stanislav, a student at the Krakow Medical Institute. Pope Rubinstein adhered to orthodox views: Stanislav was not a Jew, which means that marriage was out of the question. After a violent scandal, the father and daughter decided that they should not live under the same roof. Haya wrote to her mother's brother in Australia, asking if she could come.
Secret doctor from Europe
According to legend, when Haya sailed to Australia, in her meager luggage lay the last gift from her mother - 12 jars of homemade moisturizer and a recipe for its manufacture. Haya immediately drew attention to the weathered faces of Australians, who were almost unfamiliar with the concept of skin care. The Australian women, in turn, marveled at her smooth, fresh face. Haya handed out several jars of cream to her new friends and taught them how to use it. The rave reviews gave her the idea to turn this into a business.
According to legend, Haya moved from her uncle to Melbourne to a friend whom she met on the ship, and persuaded her to invest her savings in a beauty salon. Some of the money went to order a large shipment of cream in Krakow from Dr. Likuska and ship it to Australia. Haya calculated that many Australian women are not even aware of the existence of Poland, but they know France and evoke the correct associations with luxury, fashion and beauty. Dr. Likuski's cream was called Valaze, which sounded in French, but in fact, if you believe Madame, translated from Hungarian as "gift from heaven." Khaya said that the composition includes almond oil, essences of rare herbs and a secret ingredient - an extract from the bark of coniferous trees that grow only in the Carpathians. To prevent her name from spoiling the Parisian flair, she introduced herself to potential clients as Helena.
In reality, everything did not develop as sweetly and smoothly as in the legend. According to chemists, a home-made cream without preservatives simply would not survive a long sea voyage, which casts doubt on the beautiful story of 12 jars. Madame found the notorious recipe in papers shortly before her death. “It's part of the story,” she told the secretary, showing a yellowed piece of paper. - The famous original formula. " On the scrap was written "Vegetable oil, petroleum oil, wax."
As for Dr. Likuski, who allegedly even came to Australia to help Elena with the organization of the laboratory, he simply never existed. Historians have not found traces of a "famous European doctor" with such a surname either in Hungary or in Krakow. But they found out that valaze is not translated from Hungarian as “a gift from heaven”, this word means hiding places, stash. If Elena were alive, she would be glad that someone finally appreciated her joke.
Researchers believe that Haya Rubinstein arrived in Melbourne without cream and money even for basic ones, not to mention ordering large quantities of goods from overseas. In the two years she spent with her uncle, she did not earn a cent: she nursed his children in exchange for food, bed and the opportunity to learn English. As soon as Elena realized that she could already communicate on her own, she happily waved her hand to the provincial Coleraine.
No one was waiting for her in Melbourne. Banks of that era, in principle, did not lend to women. Khaya did not have anything for good employment - no education, no profession, no residence permit. She scored low-paying jobs and rushed between them, dreaming of paying off her rent at least on time. But at the same time, she gradually acquired another type of capital - acquaintances and admirers. Especially her social circle was expanded by the place of a waitress at Melbourne Cafe. Haya's unusual appearance and ebullient energy attracted men to her. What degree of intimacy with them she allowed herself will forever remain a secret, but things went smoothly.
The "friend" who loaned money to open the first salon was Frederick Shepperd Grimwaid. Rubinstein turned him into a woman to make the story socially acceptable and avoid unnecessary questions. Frederick was a partner in a pharmaceutical company and enjoyed spending evenings with Haia in the labs, helping to refine her mother's cream recipe. Haya learned that lanolin, a wax from sheep's wool, is a natural moisturizer, while pine bark is an antioxidant. Both sheep and pines are dark in Australia, any of their derivatives could be bought in tons for a pittance. In addition, the updated composition includes soft paraffin, distilled water and lavender, with which Khaya masked the strong smell of sheepskin. She sold the first samples by hand - and so successfully that soon the demand exceeded supply.
Haya could only work in Grimwade's lab at night, and she still served the tables during the day. Gradually, the entire motley company of her gentlemen was involved in the opening of the salon. The artist drew the sign and labels, the owner of the printing house printed advertising brochures with the story of Dr. Likuski and the Carpathian pines. The napkin tea seller taught Hayu the basics of marketing, the wine merchant - the specifics of logistics. In her free time, everyone helped her pour the cream into jars.
The cost to manufacture Valaze, even with the expense of the pretty packaging, was laughable. Grimwade offered to sell it at a 150% mark-up - 2 shillings 3p. “Women won't believe that a good product can be so cheap,” said Haya. “They like to think they're rubbing something special into their skin. I will charge 7 shillings 7p a can."
Between business and love
By 1905, the glory of Helena Rubinstein had already thundered throughout Australia and New Zealand. Former Haya did not want to be considered an ordinary cosmetologist. She called her network of establishments "the Vienna Institute of Beauty" and received clients in a white medical coat: she studied the scope of work, made a "diagnosis", prescribed "treatment." Women were surprised to learn that there are several types of skin, each requires special formulations. For the cream for daily care, she recommended either a mask or a moisturizer, as well as individual remedies for acne, blackheads, clogged pores, and age spots. The laboratory churned out all new names.
This is not to say that Elena's qualifications existed only in her imagination. As soon as the financial situation allowed, she began to travel to Europe, meet with dermatologists and cosmetologists, and undergo practice with them. In her absence, the case was taken over by her sister Ceska, whom Elena had discharged from Poland and personally trained in running the business.
Helena traded all her former beauties for the American journalist Edward William Titus, who served as her advertising director. Titus was originally from the same Jewish community in Krakow, but, like Elena, he preferred not to think about it. For two years of acquaintance, he corrected her manners, taught her to the theater, introduced her to the work of famous writers and artists. “Edward opened a different world for me,” Rubinstein admitted.
Titus made an offer on the eve of Elena's departure to London, where she was going to open the first European salon. He said, “I see you are determined to build an empire. Let's do it together. " Undaunted Elena was suddenly frightened. She was in love, but did not see a place for love in a life with 12-hour working days. Age was approaching forty, in front of them lay undeveloped cities with sophisticated, spoiled clients who needed to be enticed and satisfied.
Having received a refusal, Edward followed her to England and achieved his goal the second time. They got married in 1908 in London - the groom included in his marriage vows a promise never to get in the way of the bride's ambitions. Elena soon discovered that she was pregnant.
Fight for the hearts of American women
In 1909, Elena had a son, Roy, three years later - Horace. Both times she immediately returned to business after giving birth, leaving the babies in the care of their father and nannies. In interviews, she always spoke about her sons with tenderness, but in fact she was barely familiar with them. All her attention belonged to other "children" - salons in London and Paris. When the First World War began, Edward barely managed to persuade his wife to leave them for safe America.
Elena's sadness dissipated as soon as she saw the American women. “They had red noses and gray lips,” she recalled. - The terrible powder gave the faces an unnatural whiteness. I thought that working with these women would make me famous."
However, it turned out that Elizabeth Arden is already engaged in accustoming local residents to high-quality makeup (see also: "The Woman Who Created an Empire from Scratch: Elizabeth Arden's Recipe for Success"). Elena Rubinstein immediately declared war on her. Elena willingly accepted orders from Hollywood, playing on the desire of irresponsible young ladies to be like movie stars. It was she who composed the characteristic makeup for the most famous on-screen "vamp" of the time - Teda Bara and Paula Negri.
Captivated by the struggle for clientele, Elena did not notice how her husband got bored in marriage, but realized this only when Edward directly expressed his desire to go to a younger woman. Helena sold the American part of the empire to the Lehman brothers for $ 84 million in today's equivalent. According to her, she wanted to prove to Edward that their relationship is more important to her than business, but it was too late.
Work is the best remedy for wrinkles
In the mid-30s, Elena's salons began to offer their clients a comprehensive Beauty Day program, which included not only cosmetic but also spa procedures. The brand produced 62 creams and 69 lotions, 78 types of powders and 115 shades of lipstick, 46 types of perfumes, colognes and eau de toilette. Soap, blush, and eye shadow were beyond counting.
Everyone, including relatives, respectfully called Helena "Madame" - this nickname was coined for her by Edward at the dawn of the novel. She enjoyed a reputation as a controversial and extravagant woman, wearing high heels to a ripe old age and painting her nails the color of bull's blood. Her huge collection of jewelry was kept in a library cabinet, arranged alphabetically. Seven paintings by Renoir were seen above the fireplace in the apartment. She could have commissioned Juan Miro to design the carpet for the salon and Salvador Dali to design the powder box, but would hire a bag of sandwiches to save on the dining room.
Both sons worked for her company. Roy prepared to take over over time, Horace stuck in the lab helping invent waterproof mascara and other cosmetic miracles that modern women take for granted.
For happiness, Madame lacked only a husband and, if possible, a title. Both that, and another Elena acquired in 1938, becoming the wife of the Georgian prince Archil Gurelli-Tchkonia. He was a very conventional prince, but he had a docile character, appreciated his wife for the opportunity to lead a comfortable lifestyle and could always play a game of bridge with her, which they both adored.
Archil helped Madame restore the European part of the business, from which the Second World War left only smoking ruins. Then Helen was severely criticized for the fact that during and immediately after the war, she offered women to attend beauty lessons for a symbolic fee. They were offered free samples of cosmetics, taught to apply makeup. Moralists said that war is not a time or a reason to advertise your product. “President Roosevelt personally thanked me for keeping up the spirit of the American women,” Rubinstein replied. "He called it my contribution to the victory."
Madame was deeply distressed by the sudden death of her husband from a heart attack in 1956. Three years later, she lost her youngest son. But neither personal tragedies, nor advanced age, nor diabetes made her retire. She opened factories, appeared on television, and taught self-care workshops. “Work prevents wrinkles on the brain and soul,” she said. Elena did not live a little to a hundred years. She died in her sleep on April 1, 1965, having returned from a board meeting the day before.
Photo: Getty Images
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