Is there anything better than when worlds collide and all your interests seem to align in one lovely spot? This is just what’s happened for those who happen to be fans of musical theater as well as beauty junkies thanks to the new musical, War Paint. Starring two absolute legends, Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole, War Paint chronicles the lives and rivalry between beauty titans Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein.
Not only are we seriously #blessed to have both queens Patti and Christine back on the Broadway stage, but it’s amazing to see them going head-to-head as the trailblazing cosmetic icons who revolutionized beauty in the early 20th Century. It’s no surprise that both of these incredible actresses are nominated for Tony Awards in the Best Actress category. We’ll be sitting on the edge of our seats this Sunday night waiting to see how this particular rivalry goes down.
War Paint is playing at the Nederlander Theater in New York City, you can find tickets, here.
Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein created the modern-day beauty industry — those of us who are makeup obsessed owe them quite a debut of gratitude.
Not only did they make beauty products accessible and acceptable for all women, but they changed the way the world saw women. Before they came around, makeup was considered gauche and only acceptable for ladies of the night. Arden practically invented the idea of skin care and anti-aging, and we’ve never been the same since.
While most of us have at least heard of both Rubinstein and Arden, it’s a fascinating treat to be able to dive into their groundbreaking stories. These women made it on their own terms — they were truly ahead of their time.
Helena Rubinstein was a Polish immigrant living in Paris with her American husband when she began to make a name for herself, not only for the luxurious creams she made but for her stylish salons and lavish dinner parties. By the time she came to the United States at the onset of World War I, her fame preceded her.
Rubinstein opened her first salon in 1915, and the success of her ever-expanding brand led to a nation-wide chain of salons and spas. She claimed to be the “first self-made female millionaire” thanks to being publicity savvy. If you think beauty products are all about branding these days, we have Helena to thank for it. She was a wiz at advertising, and wasn’t above using scare tactics to get women to buy her products — she basically invented the concept of “problem” skin types.
Elizabeth Arden has been a household name for as long as any of us can remember. Born in Canada, though she liked to keep that detail hush-hush, Arden built a cosmetics empire as the sole owner that made her one of the wealthiest women in the world. From the very beginning, she encouraged women to use makeup as a means of taking care of themselves, not only by teaching them how to properly apply it but by showing them how to coordinate colors and offering makeovers at her many salons.
Arden made it acceptable for women to be seen outside the home in painted faces, and convinced and entire generation of women (and all those that followed) that makeup was imperative for a lady to look put together and polished. She purposely targeted middle aged women and promised them youth and beauty with her products.
Elizabeth Arden was also one of the first to make pink the popular color it still is today. She regarded it as the height of femininity, and not only were all her products in pink packages, but she wore it her entire life.
War Paint takes us through decades of their rivalries and gives us an up close look at their tumultuous personal lives as well. These fascinating, powerful women built their empires at a time when women were still fighting for the right to vote. They are responsible for the entire modern-day beauty industry, and when you look at what came after them, it’s pretty mind-blowing.
Not only is the story of these two women absolutely gripping, but War Paint is a masterful theatrical experience that transports you to another era. The choreography is beautiful and made all the more enjoyable with the addition of glamorous period costumes that had us drooling. That said, you really can’t beat having the opportunity to see two titans of the stage like LuPone and Ebersole working together. That alone makes a trip to the theater worth it.
If makeup and musicals are your thing, make sure you get a chance to visit the Nederlander Theater should you find yourself in New York. You’ll be swept away to another time and place, just as the obsession with beauty began to flourish, for better or worse.