‘War Paint’ Highlights Two Female Titans Of The Cosmetic Industry

Mary Nye Bennett and Pamela Gold star in the Atlanta Lyric Theatre production of “War Paint.” (Courtesy of Atlanta Lyric)

Cosmetic icon Elizabeth Arden lived by her mantra, “To be beautiful is the birthright of every woman.” Her entrepreneurial spirit led to the creations of beauty products around the world, but the road to success was met with fierce competition.

 Helena Rubinstein had a vicious rivalry with Elizabeth Arden. Their rivalry is central to the story of “War Paint,” the new production of Atlanta Lyric Theatre. Actors Mary Nye Bennett, who plays Helena and Pamela Gold, who plays Elizabeth, joined Lois Reitzes in studio to discuss the film.

Bennett on the rivalry between Rubinstein and Arden:

“The two women never went into business together because I think they were just very stubborn. In the end, it was that rivalry that propelled their careers. They were constantly trying to one-up one another. Anytime one of them had a new idea or a great new marketing scheme, the other would swoop in and steal it. That’s what made them the multimillionaires that they were because of their competition with each other.”

Gold on the revolution of makeup: 

“The only women who wore makeup in the early 1900s, were either actresses you would see on the screen or prostitutes. It was actually not viewed as being “lady-like” or dignified to be seen wearing makeup in public unless you were involved in one of those professions. These two cosmetic entrepreneurs really broadened the acceptance of makeup and said that it was women’s right and privileged to wear makeup and make themselves look and feel beautiful.”

The show runs through Sept. 1 at the Cobb Civic Center.

This story was originally published with audio on WABE.org.

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