The woman born Josephine Esther Mentzer didn't put too much thought into acquiring the more glamorous name under which she became famous. Estée was her nickname as a girl; she married into Lauder. But she struggled mightily to travel from her parents' apartment above the family hardware store in Queens to presiding over a global cosmetics company. The daughter of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, she was enthralled by beauty and glamour, and her talent lay in convincing other women she could help them attain it. In the 1930s, with a face cream her uncle, a chemist, brewed up in his...

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