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Color Stories


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About the Author

Mary Lisa Gavenas, author of Color Stories: Behind the Scenes in America's Billion-Dollar Beauty Industry, has worked as both a beauty editor and scholar of the beauty industry-especially as it relates to cultural history-and was recently named a Fellow at the Leon Levy Center for Biography. A former editor at Glamour, In Style, Mirabella, and a columnist at Elle, she was a member of the advisory board for The Dove Report: Challenging Beauty and has been cited as an expert source in media ranging from The New York Times to BBC-4. Visit her at the Gotham Center for New York City History:


Following a year in the life of a product from concept to counter, former Glamour, Mirabella and InStyle beauty editor Gavenas offers a curious peek behind the closed doors of beauty editors' offices. She exposes the symbiotic relationship between manufacturers and magazines: advertising pays editors' salaries, while casual mentions by editors sell product. Gifts to editors abound for these much coveted credits and range anywhere from flowers to Cartier watches, depending on the quality of the product placement. Though Gavenas touches on some of the darker days of the business, such as blinding chemicals in Lash-Lure, a 1930s mascara substitute that went unregulated for years, most of her book praises the willful self-empowerment of some the country's earliest women entrepreneurs and self-made millionaires. Biographical sketches of make-up moguls include those of Helena Rubenstein, Mary Kay, Elizabeth Arden and Este Lauder. Disappointingly, Gavenas pays highly successful African-American businesswomen Annie Turnbo and Madame C.J. Walker much less attention, squeezing their stories together into barely two and a half pages. Other than moving from door-to-door distribution to department store counters, the industry has changed very little over the years, according to Gavenas. "A century ago, beauty companies were pushing products with the same kind of romantic stories, pretentious promotions, and inspired goofiness that are still working so well." Gavenas effectively captures the attitude of the industry with her descriptions of photo shoots, runways and fabric shows, making this a well-crafted story of a booming industry. (Dec. 3) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Ruth P. Rubinstein, Ph.D.

Author of "Dress Codes: Meanings and Messages in American Culture"There is more to "Color Stories" than makeup. There are stories about women's complex interactions with other women and surprising observations about how the top cosmetics companies market their products. Gavenas shows us that what a woman wants from make-up can't always be quantified.

Paco Underhill

Author of "Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping"Every cosmetic purchase involves a moment of reverie, where the woman is transformed from the person she is, to the person she'd like to be. This book is about the industry behind that moment. Welcome to the beauty business, more corrupted than Anna Nicole Smith, more jaded than Jacqueline Susann, and deliciously portrayed by Mary Lisa Gavenas.

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