In her long career as an executive at Estée Lauder, the company founded by her mother-in-law, Evelyn Lauder worked with many shades of red, peach and bronze, but pink was the hue that changed her life.
Lauder, who has died aged 75, created the pink ribbon campaign forbreast cancer awareness with her friend Alexandra Penney, the former editor-in-chief of Self magazine, in 1992.
The campaign started small, with Lauder and her husband, Leonard, largely financing the little bows given to women at department store makeup counters to remind them about breast examinations.
That grew into fundraising products, congressional designation of October as breast cancer awareness month and $330m (£207m) in donations – $50m from Estée Lauder and its partners – to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which Lauder also started.
That money helped establish the Evelyn H Lauder Breast Centre at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York, which opened in 2009.
Lauder died on Saturday at her Manhattan home from complications of non-genetic ovarian cancer. Just last month, she reminisced about the early days of the breast cancer campaign. When it launched, it was so little known that some people thought it symbolised Aids awareness.
“There had been no publicity about breast cancer, but a confluence of events – the pink ribbon, the colour, the press, partnering with Elizabeth Hurley, having Estée Lauder as an advertiser in so magazines and persuading so many of my friends who are health and beauty editors to do stories about breast health – got people talking,” she said.
Then, three years after distributing the first pink ribbon, a flight attendant noted it on Lauder’s lapel and said: “I know that’s for breast cancer.”
“From there, it became ubiquitous,” she remembered.
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