‘There are no ugly women, only lazy ones.’
Before Arden or Revlon, there was Helen Rubinstein. With an iron will and truly entrepreneurial spirit, Rubinstein built a cosmetics empire that still stands today. Michele Fitoussi’s bestselling biography chronicles her extraordinary life. Spanning almost a century, Rubinstein’s life was so full of incident that this reads like a work of fiction.
Fitoussi has thoroughly researched her subject, including the connection of this beauty icon to a small Australian country town. Rubinstein opened her first store in Collins street, Melbourne, years after being banished to Australia for refusing to accept an arranged marriage. A pioneer for women’s rights, she opened a number of beauty institutes to provide women with some kind of education. Her marriage to a brilliant American publicist may have propelled her to worldwide fame, but it was also a crushing and abusive partnership.
Style icons like Chanel are the subject of numerous biographies, yet not so much for Helena Rubinstein. It’s strange, as her life and the context against which it unfolded is truly fascinating. Her conflicting relationship with her Judaism is sensitively discussed, made even more compelling by the horror of the holocaust unfolding before her from a distance. Fitoussi weaves the personal and professional together effortlessly.
Overall this is an intelligent and truly insightful biography, presenting an admirable and droll woman who could do more than survive adversity- she could turn it into an opportunity.
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Author: Michele Fitoussi was born in Tunisia to French parents, and has lived in Paris since the age of five. She has worked for the past twenty-five years at Elle magazine and has interviewed many influential decision makers and world leaders in areas as varied as politics, human sciences, sports, literature and the media.