That’s Leonard Lauder in a nutshell. Last week when he graced a Nordstrom store, several members of the cosmetic staff had been lined up near their counters awaiting his entrance well before his ETA. The moment he stepped inside, a wave of applause erupted. You might have thought such enthusiasm was reserved for a major celebrity. In the minds of those who know him, Mr. Lauder is much more than that.
For starters, he is the chairman emeritus and senior board member of a cosmetics empire that includes the flagship, Estée Lauder, along with 24 other brands, including Clinique, MAC, Aveda, Bobbi Brown, Smashbox and La Mer. The company acquired these under his leadership. He is also a generous philanthropist – with 78 pieces of his cubism collection being showcased this month at the Metropolitan Museum of Art – and a distinguished naval officer. But what keeps Mr. Lauder in the hearts of those who are honored to know him is his love for people.
That day, even though he was on a tight schedule, Mr. Lauder stopped and spoke with me as if I were the only girl in the world and time had stood still. I have no doubt that he treated every person he met the same way. One counter manager told me that all his employees were well-prepared to answer any business question he had, but all he wanted was to tell them how much he appreciated their dedication.
The above picture is of Mr. Lauder and his wife, Evelyn, who was taken from him by breast cancer. Because of his love for her, a portion of the proceeds from all his products is donated to research for eradicating this disease.
When I was a child, Mr. Lauder’s work helped me overcome a baffling medical problem. A rash broke out on my face with large welts. My dermatologist prescribed product after product, but nothing could conquer this mysterious malady. Finally, a Bobbi Brown makeup artist suggested to my mother that we try Crème de La Mer. This natural product made from sea kelp healed my skin. Every time I see any Lauder-owned ad or product, I will now think of this extraordinary man and be grateful that I had the privilege of meeting him.