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No matter how much we learn about beauty, we always enjoy discovering something new. Recently, we read Mark Tungate's book Branded Beauty: How Marketing Changed the Way We Look, and discovered all kinds of fun and crazy facts about the industry's most iconic brands. From Maybelline's dusty origins to Revlon's quiz show controversy, read on for five of the most surprising tidbits we unearthed about beauty brands you probably have in your bathroom right now.
Born Maximilian Faktorowitz, the man who became Max Factor played his greatest makeup trick on himself. Although he was the official makeup artist to the royal court in Russia, he was Jewish and under constant surveillance. He wanted to escape the country with his wife and kids but knew that it would be a challenge. Thanks to a brilliant makeup job, Max managed to convince the royal doctor that his yellowing skin was the result of jaundice. He was allowed to go to a resort town to recuperate, and from there he fled the country and took a boat to America.
The "she" in "maybe she's born with it" was a woman named Mabel Williams, whose brother TL named Maybelline in her honor. His first mascara was inspired by his sister, who mixed Vaseline with coal dust and then put the mixture on her eyelashes. TL Williams made his first mascara in 1917. In 1996, Maybelline was sold to L’Oreal for $758 million.
If you’ve ever seen the movie Quiz Show, you know the story of the classic TV game shows that were totally rigged by the producers. The shows hired actors to play contestants, gave them the answers, and chose the results ahead of time to craft maximum drama. One of the shows, The Question, also got in hot water when allegations surfaced that Revlon, who advertised on the program, had a say in which contestants made it to the air, with a preference for pretty ones who wore Revlon products.
THE BODY SHOP
In the 1970s, Dame Anita Roddick founded The Body Shop in her native England. The premise of the store was that all the products were derived from natural materials and inspired by things Roddick had discovered on her various trips around the world. Although the dark green paint in the store soon became one of the brand's trademarks, it wasn't an homage to the environment. The color was chosen because Roddick's shop had bad mold and the green was the only color that covered it up.
The German brand, owned by Beiersdorf, is another brand directly affected by antisemitism. After Jewish members of the board and management fled the Nazis, the company had to walk a very careful line in order to stay in business. Their ads, which featured tan, blonde young people, were often lumped in with pro-Aryan propaganda, even though Nivea didn't make any claims one way or the other about where their allegiances were. "Thanks to its diplomatic maneuvering and the ambiguity of its image," Tungate writes, "Beiersdorf survived the war intact. It entered the 1950s optimistic that Nivea remained a much-loved brand."
· Branded Beauty [Amazon]
· All Beauty Week 2012 coverage [Racked]