The Powder & the Glory

About This Episode


Narrated by Jane Alexander, The Powder & the Glory tells the story of two of the first highly successful women entrepreneurs, Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein. One hundred years ago these women immigrated to America and, starting with next to nothing, created what is today the $150 billion global health and beauty industry.

Operating in major cities all over the world, their competing companies defined the business of beauty, making cosmetics both newly respectable and, finally, indispensable. They developed advertising and marketing techniques that became part of the business landscape, and they themselves became household names and cultural icons. When they started their businesses, makeup was used mostly by prostitutes and performers, and businesses were run mostly by men. They changed the way we look at ourselves, built powerful businesses, and became two of the world's wealthiest women.

Although they lived and worked only blocks apart in New York for over 50 years, the two women, by design, never met. Their competition drove them both to great creativity and success. Whenever one launched a successful product, the other sought to outdo her rival with a bigger success, and as soon as possible. Rubinstein said of her rival, "With her packaging and my product, we could have ruled the world."