“A woman’s most powerful possession is a man’s imagination.”
—Maybelline Ad, 1934 In 1915, when a kitchen stove fire singed his sister Mabel’s lashes and brows, Tom Lyle Williams watched in fascination as she performed a “secret of the harem”—mixing petroleum jelly with coal dust and ash from a burnt cork and apply it to her lashes and brows. Mabel’s simple beauty trick ignited Tom Lyle’s imagination and he started what would become a billion-dollar business, one that remains a viable American icon after nearly a century. He named it Maybelline in her honor.
Throughout the 20th century, the Maybelline Company inflated, collapsed, endured, and thrived in tandem with the nation’s upheavals—as did the family that nurtured it. Setting up shop first in Chicago, Williams later, to avoid unwanted scrutiny of his private life, cloistered himself behind the gates of his Rudolph Valentino Villa and ran his empire from a distance.
Now after nearly a century of silence, this true story celebrates the life of an American entrepreneur, a man whose vision rocketed him to success along with the woman held in his orbit, Evelyn Boecher—who became his lifelong fascination and muse. Captivated by her “roaring charisma,” he affectionately called her the “real Miss Maybelline” and based many of his advertising campaigns on the woman she represented: commandingly beautiful, hard-boiled and daring. Evelyn masterminded a life of vanity, but would fall prey to fortune hunters and a mysterious murder that even today remains unsolved.
A fascinating and inspiring story of ambition, luck, secrecy—and surprisingly, above all, love and forgiveness, a tale both epic and intimate, alive with the clash, the hustle, the music, and dance of American enterprise.
An engrossing and captivating tale that spans four generations and reveals the humanity, glamour, and seedy underside of a family intoxicated by the quest for wealth, power, and perfection. This book is classic literary satisfaction, a real page-turner. —Nina Siezmasko,actress, The West Wing
We are especially fascinated to slip vicariously into the lives of the rich and privileged yet cheer for the underdog who overcomes obstacles to astound doubters with his success. We are enthralled with the historical sweep of events whose repercussions live on to the present, all elements of this amazing story—which reads like a juicy novel but is a family memoir distilled from nine hundred pages of family accounts from the 1920’s to present. —Steven Hudis, producer, IMPACT Motion Pictures