The granddaughter of legendary beauty empire creator Estée Lauder, Aerin, 44, along with her sister Jane, are on Forbes magazine’s World’s Billionaires List for 2014 (She owns 16 million shares in the Estée Lauder Companies).
Nevertheless, according to the Daily Telegraph, after 25 years of working for Estée Lauder, Aerin Lauder has taken an independent path, with her own lifestyle and beauty brand, Aerin.
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When she was a teenager, Aerin’s father, Ronald Lauder, was appointed U.S. ambassador to Austria under President Reagan, and the family moved to Vienna, which “shaped a tremendous amount of my vision, style and taste, ” she told the Telegraph.
“I really did not want to go, but looking back on it, it was the best experience I’ve ever had. We traveled every weekend, I experienced incredible new cultures, museums, cities. It opened up my eyes.”
Despite her life of luxury and her 25-year experience in the business, Aerin Lauder is perpetually nervous about her new venture. “I’m very detail-oriented, which is good and bad, ” she says. “I will wake up in the middle of the night, thinking about something or seeing a mistake, and I’ll immediately send an email.”
“I’m very focused on details, ” she says, “I think that is really important because it is my name on that product, and I think it should be the best it can possibly be.”
Estée Lauder was born Josephine Esther Mentzer in 1908, in Corona, Queens, the second child of Hungarian Jewish immigrants Rose and Max Mentzer. When she was born, her parents wanted to name her Esty, after her mother’s favorite Hungarian aunt, but decided at the last minute to keep the name Josephine, which they had agreed to.
But the baby’s nickname was Estee, and when Estee grew up and launched her perfume empire with her husband, she added accent marks to make her name sound French.
In 1953, Estee introduced her first fragrance, Youth Dew, a bath oil that was also as a perfume. Instead of using French perfumes by the drop behind each ear, women began using Youth Dew by the bottle in their bath water. In the first year, it sold 50, 000 bottles, and by 1984, as many as 150 million.
Estée Lauder explained her success saying: “I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard.”
Aerin Lauder told the Telegraph her grandmother would have cheered her on: “Estée started her company around the same age that I did this, and had this amazing belief in following your dreams and doing things that you love.”
Aerin tells the following anecdote about her grandmother, who, in the early ’50s, tried to sell her Youth Dew at the Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris. But no one would give her the time of day there, so Estee went in and “accidentally’ spilled a bottle of the bath oil and fragrance, creating a scene. And then, women rushed over from around the store to find out about this wonderful scent. Needless to say, shortly thereafter, Galeries Lafayette featured the Estée Lauder product.