Monday, March 30, 2015

Sharrie Williams discusses her family and her book on Connie Martinson talks books

During the 1930's and 40's, Tom Lyle, Emery Shaver and Arnold Anderson made up the West Coast branch of the Maybelline Co.  These three men handled the entire Advertising department and produced some of the most artistic photographs of movie stars ever seen. 

Tom Lyle worked with the major film studios, movie stars and ad agency who booked ads in magazines and newspapers seen around the world.  Emery wrote the copy for the ads and created Maybelline's famous slogans. Arnold a creative genius when it came to  touch-up and "before and after" shots, used technicolor to perfect his photos to Tom Lyle's satisfaction. 

Their story is clearly spelled out in my book, The Maybelline Story, but in case you've already read the book and wished for more pictures of Maybelline West, The Villa Valentino and the three men who lived there, here are some rare vintage black and whites.

Portion of Tom Lyle Williams Villa Valentino's garden.
steps leading to the patio.
Tom Lyle and Emery on one of the patios, with the Packard parked on the street.
Tom Lyle, Arnold and Emery with two of Tom Lyle's nieces in front of the Villa Valentino

Maybelline West, The Villa Valentino in
 the Hollywood Hills.

The statue Aspiration overlooking the pool.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Revlon's Charles Revson accused Maybelline of monopolizing the Market

MAYBELLINE GLAMOUR ADS created at Valentno's Villa in West Hollywood during the 1930's, 40's, 50's, 60's.

Tom Lyle Williams in front of the Villa Valentino with his 1940 Packard

       From the Villa Valentino studio in Hollywood came Technicolor airbrushed photos of stars’ faces so flattering and popular that movie studio executives flocked to Tom Lyle to promote the movies their stars were appearing in.  Fox girl,  Betty Grable posed for Maybelline in what became one of the most effective ploys in advertising: before-and-after photos (and a favorite war-time pin-up girl), which Tom Lyle pioneered. Maybelline was also the first cosmetic company to create cosmetic displays in dime and drug stores across the nation. Maybelline became the largest eye beauty retailer in America, provoking Revlon’s Charles Revson to accuse them of monopolizing the market.

Read more about Tom Lyle Williams, the Maybelline Co, and his love of beauty in every form, in The Maybelline Story and the Spirited Family Dynasty Behind it. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Maybelline History: In 1923, Maybell Laboratories was renamed Maybelline and concentrated operations on eye make-up.

Lash-Brow-Ine history, by James Bennett.


Cosmetics and Skin
Copyright © 2011 James Bennett 

Anyone who talks about the origins of Maybelline usually starts with Maybelline’s founder, Tom Lyle Williams, watching his sister Mabel applying burnt cork mixed into petroleum jelly to her eyebrows and lashes after she singed them on the stove. The story goes on to describe how Tom Lyle created an eyelash and eyebrow preparation (using a chemistry set) and a business (after borrowing some money from his brother Noel). However, the product he eventually sold through mail-order was developed by Park-Davies not his chemistry set and the business used to sell it was called Maybell Laboratories not Maybelline.

Maybell Laboratories

The product Tom Lyle got from Park-Davis was a scented cream made of white petroleum with oils to provide sheen. He marketed it through his mail-order business as ‘Lash-Brow-Ine’ a name he selected because of its similarity with other eyelash and eyebrow products already on the market such as ‘Eye-Brow-Ine’ and ‘Lashneen’. The business he started to sell Lash-Brow-Ine he named Maybell Laboratories.

Tom Lyle called Lash-Brow-Ine an eyebrow and eyelash growth promoter. Applying Lash-Brow-Ine to eyelashes and eyebrows would have made them appear darker and thicker but would not have stimulated them to grow. However, a long held belief that oils and petrolatum would stimulate hair growth would have given his claim substance in the minds of many potential buyers. Clearly there was demand as sales reached over $100,000 by 1920.

Tom Lyle registered the name ‘Lash-Brow-Ine’ as a trademark in 1917 but by 1921 it was no longer used in advertising. It had been replaced with ‘Maybelline’, a word Tom Lyle reputedly created by combining his sister’s name (Mabel) with the ‘ine’ of Vaseline. The reason usually given for the change was that the original name proved to be a mouthful. However, this simple explanation is not the whole truth.

In 1920 Tom Lyle was taken to court to settle a trademark dispute with Benjamin Ansehl, the founder of ‘Lashbrow Laboratories’. The outcome of the case was that Maybell Laboratories trademark for Lash-Brow-Ine was invalidated and Tom Lyle was given a court order to remove and destroy any references to Lash-Brow-Ine from that day onward.

Lashbrow Laboratories

Lashbrow Laboratories was started by Benjamin Ansehl in St Louis in 1912. It also made an eyebrow and eyelash growth promoter marketed as ‘Lashbrow’. The similarity between the names Lashbrow and Lash-Brow-Ine was the cause of the trademark dispute.

According to court records Lashbrow consisted of petrolatum, beeswax and powdered willow charcoal. It may have been made to a recipe similar to the one given below:

Vaseline yellow 56 

Beeswax 4 

Lampblack 40 

The mixture of ‘vaseline’ and beeswax is melted by being placed in a warm mortar, and the lampblack is well ground in. The preparation is stored in small pots.

Redgrove & Foan, 1930, pp. 67-68

‘Lashbrow’ was marketed as promoting the growth of eyebrows and eyelashes rather than as a mascara. The product sold well enough for Ansehl to extend sales at the end of 1912 to the rest of the United States through Meyer Bros., a wholesale drug company.


In 1917 Tom Lyle developed a new product for darkening and lengthening eyelashes he called ‘Maybelline’. This product was an early version of what would be later known as cake mascara although Williams did not refer to it as such. It was a mixture of sodium stearate soap and pigment mixed together, extruded into strips, stamped and dried and was applied with a small brush that was first wet before being rubbed over the cake.

Why did Williams call the new product ‘Maybelline’? This was a new line and perhaps after all ‘Lash-Brow-Ine’ was hard to say. However, cake mascara is not vaseline based so that part of the story cannot be true.

A name change

Williams advertised extensively, particularly in film magazines such as ‘Photoplay’. In 1920, while the court case was running, advertisements were taken out for Lash-Brow-Ine and Maybelline. In one version the two products are clearly differentiated by suggesting that Lash-Brow-Ine should be applied at night to ‘nourish and promote growth’, while Maybelline makes lashes and eyebrows ‘longer, thicker and more luxuriant’. However, the advertising copy for that year is not consistent and in another advertisement the two products appear to be equivalent:

Just a wee touch of the little brush over your eyelashes and eyebrows with Lash-Brow-Ine and you will find a new beauty in your eyes. For Maybelline instantly furnishes that delicate touch of darker color so necessary to eyelashes and eyebrows while they are gently invigorated by the little brush.

            1920 Maybell Laboratories Advertisement

     1920 [September] Viola Dana endorsement for ‘Lash-     Brow-Ine’ and ‘Maybelline’.

The lack of consistency in the advertising in 1920 probably reflects the uncertainty generated by the court case. However, it is clear that Lash-Brow-Ine was not renamed Maybelline simply because it was hard to say. Tom Lyle was probably hoping to maintain both products on the market as Lash-Brow-Ine had been a good earner and 1920 was not the best time to lose it. The world was in the middle of a post-war depression that would run through to 1922 so times were tough and as Maybelline was more expensive – it sold for 75 cents compared to 50 cents for Lash-Brow-Ine – there may have been concerns about potential sales. However, the court case forced Tom Lyle’s hand and Lash-Brow-Ine soon disappeared.

In 1923, Maybell Laboratories was renamed Maybelline and concentrated operations on eye make-up. The business flourished, helped by the continued use of extensive advertising and Tom Lyle’s shrewd use of actresses as role models. A liquid form of Maybelline was made available and sales of the “solid form” and “waterproof liquid form” of Maybelline did well, eventually finding their way onto the toiletry counters of drug, variety and department stores.

See also Maybelline

19th April 2010


Poucher, W. A. (1932) Perfumes, cosmetics and soaps, Vols. 1-2 (4th ed.). London: Chapman and Hall.

Quirk, J. R. (1920) Photoplay magazine. Chicago, Ill.: Photoplay Publishing Co.

Redgrove, H. S. & Foan, G. A. (1930). Paint, powder and patches: A handbook of make-up for stage and carnival. London: William Heinemann.

The United States Trade-Mark Association. (1921). The trade-mark reporter. Volume 10. New York: Author.

Williams, S. & Youngs, B. (2010). The Maybelline story and the spirited family dynasty behind it. Florida: Bettie Youngs Books Publishing.

1920 [April-May] Ethyl Clayton endorsement for ‘Lash-Brow-Ine’.1920 [December] Ethyl Clayton endorsement Lash-Brow-Ine and other cosmetics. Note the Maybelline box in the background and the interchange of Lash-Brow-Ine and Maybelline in the copy.

Copyright © 2011 James Bennett 


Vogues in beauty come and go then crop up again in the never-ceasing search for something new.

—G. Vail (1947)


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Maybelline's 1916 Paige Detroit, The most Beautiful Car in America

Maybelline founder, Tom Lyle bought his first car in the Fall of 1916, customised the wheels and fish tailed the back end of the car.

Tom Lyle with his family. in his new Paige Detroit, Chicago, 1917.

 Paige Detroit 1916 H2 6 - 38 Owner Manual Original.

Read more about Tom Lyle's first car and his love affair with
 beautiful automobiles,  in The Maybelline Story and the Spirited 
Family Dynasty Behind it.

visit my new blog

Monday, March 16, 2015

Spectacular Pictures and description of the Villa Valentino, in the Hollywood Hills, 1940

Tom Lyle Williams and Emery Shaver at the Villa Valentino

The white house is a beautiful contrast to the various vivid colors all around the house. The swimming pool is grand! And has all colors in lounge chairs, pillows, tile with lots of colors and varieties of colors in flowers.

My dad, Bill Williams at the pool with his uncle TL Williams

Then came the house. Everything is lovely. After seeing his movie pictures, we had some idea of the layout of the gardens and the house, but not one part in the pictures was as lovely as the actual gardens and home. The whine house is a beautiful contrast to the various vivid colors all around the house. The swimming pool is grand and has all colors in lounge chairs, pillows, tile with lots of colors and varieties of colors in flowers.

Next came the interior of Villa Valentino. You enter the house from the drive on the second floor. George's bedroom and bath are just off the beautiful little patio as you enter the front door. The two bedrooms upstairs, one for Emery and one for Tom Lyle, are furnished beautifully. Emery has a pretty bathroom adjoining his bedroom, but Tom Lyle's bathroom is the most beautiful I have seen, equipped with every imaginable convenience. From the hall upstairs you descend to the library with the dining room to the right of the library, down three steps.

Maybelline founder Tom Lyle Williams at entry to Villa Valentino

The carpeting on the stairs and in the library is almost an American Beauty shade of red. The banister is white wrought iron. The chairs in the library are light wood with light blue upholstering. Magazine rack and tables are hand carved and white. The desk is right by the window in the library, with a large white chair in front of the desk for Tom Lyle while he dictates. The linoleum on the dining room floor is a light blue and the furniture is light wood, modern in design. The wall opposite the large bay window is mirrored, so you can sit facing the window getting a beautiful view of the valley, garden and homes, and you can sit facing the mirror and get the same view reflected in the mirrors. The kitchen is small, compact, orderly and all done in red and white. The small bedroom next to the kitchen is a single bedroom with bath intended for a guest room, but used by Herbert, the cook. The living room is quite large, has a large bay window and a big door opening on the badminton court and gardens.

Emery Shaver and Tom Lyle Williams at the Villa Valentino 

The rug is the same as Tom Lyle had at Wabash Avenue, light rose in color. The grand piano takes one corner. The opposite corner has a Capehart radio and record playing combination. This piece of furniture is very light wood. The radio can be controlled or regulated from two or three different spots in the house and garden. One couch is a light tan with red design. In the by are two beautiful easy chairs with table, lamp and coffee table. To the side of the fireplace is a Duncan Pfyfe loveseat in light blue, with a beautiful coffee table in clear glass. The coffee table in front in front of the other couch is ebony wood with a gold mirror top.

Badminton Court
The drapes in the living room and library are gold, and such beautiful material. They are hung so well that they look like spun glass. In the corner of the living room is a very small door opening into the Rumpus Room. The Rumpus Room is one of the most attractive rooms I have ever seen, and certainly the cutest bar. The decorations are all South Sea Island, with grass rug, wicker furniture and even tall stools to sit at the bar. The room is also equipped with a bathroom. Every night before dinner, we went to the Rumpus Room. George came in dressed in white coat to mix us a cocktail.

Tom Lyle Williams at the Villa Valentino with his 1940 custom Packard Victoria

After our tour, Annette and I had time to unpack and rest before dinner. After dinner the round of entertainment started. First, we went to the theatre to see Victor Herbert's “The Red Hill”. Very good and the tunes were catchy and enjoyable. From the show we went to a night club called “Bublichki Russian”. This club was all Russian both in decorations and music. Celebrated with several Vodka cocktails. Spent a couple of hours listening to the music and sipping our drinks. Got to bed around three, and did we sleep.

Taken from Tom Lyle Williams niece, Jane Allen while visiting the Villa Valentino with her cousin Annette Williams

Friday, March 13, 2015

Beauty And The Dirt review.

The Maybelline Story starts out with fire and ends with fire and the fierce love Evelyn had for the two brothers burned in her until her untimely death in 1978. 

This sounds more like a movie than a real life story, but I guess all the best stories are based on truth. I knew about Mabel and her coal dust and petroleum jelly mix that was the inspiration for mascara. That is where the name Maybelline came from but for all the family drama that ensued well that is now in a book that looks like a must read to me.

Book Synopsis:
One of the first Maybelline posters

In 1915 sister Mabel Williams burned her lashes and brows, Tom Lyle Williams watched in fascination as she performed what she called ‘a secret of the harem’—mixing petroleum jelly with coal dust and ash from a burnt cork and applying 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 twentieth century, the Maybelline company inflated, collapsed, endured, and thrived in tandem with the nation’s upheavals—as did the family that nurtured it.

Tom Lyle Williams—to avoid unwanted scrutiny of his private life—cloistered himself behind the gates of his Rudolph Valentino Villa and ran his empire from the shadows. Now, after nearly a century of silence, this true story celebrates the life of an American entrepreneur, a man forced to remain behind a mask—using his sister-in-law Evelyn Boecher—to be his front.

Stories of the-great-man-and-how-he-did-it serve as a traditional mainstay of biographies, but with the strong women’s book-buying market, a resurgence of interest in memoirs that focus on relationships more than a single man and his accomplishments are more likely to be discussed in women’s book groups. The Maybelline Story combines the best of both approaches: a man whose vision rocketed him to success along with the woman held in his orbit.

Tom Lyle and his siblings

 Evelyn, her son Bill, Sharrie and Tom Lyle)

In the way that Rhett Butler ignored the criticism of his peers to carve his own destiny, Tom Lyle Williams shares similar grit and daring. But Rhett without Scarlet wouldn’t be much of a story. Evelyn Williams provides the energy of an antagonist. Like Scarlet, we sometimes hate her and want to shake her, but sometimes, we must admit that we hold a grudging respect; we get a kick out of her and even occasionally, love her for her guts and tenacity, and certainly because she carved out a life for herself and insisted on having a voice, even if she was a fly in the ointment for others.

The Maybelline story provides other kinds of classic literary satisfaction. 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 The Maybelline Story—which reads like a juicy novel, but is in fact a family memoir, distilled from nine hundred pages of family accounts from the 1920’s to present.

An engrossing and captivating saga that spans four generations and reveals the humanity, the glamour, and the seedy underside of a family intoxicated by the quest for power, wealth, and physical perfection. It is a fascinating and inspiring tale of ambition, luck, greed, 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.
Sharrie Williams: The Maybelline Story is one I am buying now.
Click here for more beauty

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

MAGIC WAND: BY MOVIE STAR MAKEOVER, Maybelline Story interview with author Sharrie Williams

Every single girl in my high school had a tube of Maybelline mascara. It was, to us, the ONLY mascara; plump with promise that your newly enhanced lashes could waft a date your way. There’s a powerful amount of witchcraft in that small magic wand.

When I discovered there was a tell-all memoir about the family dynasty responsible for Maybelline, I dropped everything and read it cover to cover. It’s a compelling page-turner for anyone who loves make-up, Hollywood history, rip-snorting family drama, passionate love stories, and redemption.

When I put it down, I wanted to know MORE! So, being me, I contacted the author, Sharrie Williams (the grand-niece of Tom Lyle Williams, Maybelline’s inventor), and begged her to allow me an interview. And voila! She not only agreed, this dear lady went out of her way to offer me access to any images she could provide to (in her words), make my blog post “fabulous!”

I think you’ll agree that the peek into the world of cosmetics her loving memoir and this very generous interview provides is fascinating. PLUS, I hope you’ll all avail yourselves of an AMAZING offer on that only lasts until the end of the month (June 2012): to celebrate Gay Pride Month, this juicy read is selling for LESS than $2.00! Yes, you read that right. So, scamper over there, snag a few copies (they make GREAT gifts), then come back and read the interview. I’ll wait. Ready? Let’s go!

The little red box that could

K: Your book details so much about the hard work your great-uncle Tom Lyle did to link Maybelline with Hollywood. Let’s follow Maybelline’s timeline and see how Tom Lyle’s vision kept pace with American women and Hollywood’s changing cast of characters.  Right after the Stock Market Crash of ’29, Maybelline ads featured a slinky vamp in white fox furs that encouraged women to “take these easy three steps to instant loveliness”…can you describe those steps? What are the modern equivalents for today’s vamps?

S: Not much has changed as far as what makes a 1929 vamp or a 2012 hottie irresistible…It’s all in the eyes…. The three steps to instant loveliness was, and still is, Mascara, Eyebrow pencil (or powder) and Eyeshadow.  It only takes a few minutes to change from a plain Jane into a Rock Star with Maybelline… a brand your great-grandmother, grandmother, mother and you still trust.

K: Maybelline was always innovative in so many ways, including knowing how to stay aware of social trends and what American women were craving. When society started frowning on the sultry look, Maybelline’s ad campaigns featured a more wholesome, more demure model with Main St. appeal. Tell us a bit more about the evolution of advertising looks used and the stars who were featured in them.

S: Yes, the flamboyance of the 1920′s ended and with it the vamp/flapper look. Maybelline gave the original Maybelline girl a new look, still demure, but now with a marcel wave. 


K: You say that Tom Lyle believed that Maybelline’s gorgeous full color ads kept the “spark of glamour alive” during the dark days of the Depression. One of that era’s Maybelline models was Natalie Moorhead, a “statuesque, sophisticated comedian who wasn’t afraid to be her own woman.” Can you tell us anything about how he came to choose the models he did? Was it reputation of the actress, or was he going for a certain type of woman or style?

S: Both, of course. You see Maybelline was the only eye beauty enhancer on the market at this time and because of its flawless reputation received the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, thus he wanted models who emulated that kind of purity. Yet Maybelline also wanted to hold onto the glamour and sex appeal that women wanted as well. Jean Harlow was the blond bombshell of the early 1930′s and her characters did appeal to the hard-boiled working girl who wanted to make it in the world but in the end hoped for the rich man to save her. That was where the working girl of the 1930′s fit into society and Tom Lyle used that knowledge to bring her into the dimestores to buy Maybelline.  He wanted every branch of society to come in and buy buy buy, so he played to every aspect of the female market.  Natalie Moorhead had sophistication and sex appeal and that too was a now- kind of women emerging during the Great Depression.

K: It seems to me that Tom Lyle (his stunning early profile is below) had a “vision” of the potential enhancement of the women he beautified before he even applied the makeup. Can you talk about that a bit?

S: Yes he was a genius when it came to beauty and perfection. He was almost too much of a perfectionist actually. Every photograph had to be flawless even if he had to retouch until he got what he was looking for. When he looked at anyone, male or female, he envisioned them at their full potential.  It would excite him to realize what could be done with a little mascara, shadow and pencil. Even me at 5-6 years old became a subject of potential perfection. Do you remember reading about how my grandmother Evelyn made me up and paraded me in front of him so he could examine my eyes? He said, “You will someday be a beautiful women Sharrie.” He could see past my chubby cheeks and see my bone structure. That was the secret to real beauty–bone structureas far as he and my grandmother were concerned.

 K: Maybelline, Revlon, Max Factor, Helena Rubenstein, and Merle Norman were rivals in the 30’s and are all still in business today. What do you think has kept these companies alive when other cosmetics companies (like Lydia Pinkham) failed?

S: Maybelline never ever had a rival while Tom Lyle owned it.  Even when he sold it in Dec of 1967 it owned 75% of the market share. However you must remember Maybelline in those days was strictly devoted to Eye Beauty. The other companies didn’t have a chance because Tom Lyle spent more money on advertising than all companies combined. He didn’t squander money like so many young companies do when they see a little profit. He was the most conservative man I never knew. That’s why Maybelline always survived the ups and downs of the economy. The other companies like Maybelline had quality products and of course spent money on advertising so survived. But even today Maybelline New York which now competes in all product areas has a tremendous advertising budget and it shows. Advertising is the secret to success. Today it’s Social Media but still the idea is the same. Reach the greatest amount of people possible and get your message out. Keep the quality and make it affordable to the average customer. Maybelline’s product was quality, yet sensibly priced.

K: In the mid-30s, when frumpiness receded and flirting was back in style, Maybelline partnered with Lilly Dache, the fascinating Parisian-born milliner famed for daring, darling hats. Please share what you know about that wonderful collaboration. LOVE Dache!

IS: It was my grandmother Evelyn Williams who made Tom Lyle realize the potential of Eye Make-up combined with fashion was the modern direction for Maybelline, because young women were becoming fashion-conscious and more discerning than their mothers. Tom Lyle contacted Dache and collaborated on an ad campaign that worked out to be a win-win for them both. My grandmother was delighted to score a couple of beautiful Dache hats in the deal and I remember playing with them as a child.  I have no idea what happened to them (there were terrible fires, you know).

K: One of the loves of Tom Lyle’s life was Alice Faye—what was the appeal of her particular look?

S: She was The All American Girl and Adorable. He liked that personally more than sex queens. But, Alice Faye had an issue with the studio and Betty Grable took the spotlight. Tom Lyle wanted to use Alice Faye’s image in Maybelline Ads, but when the studio announced “Down Argentine Way” and Betty Grable, this is the ad that came out.

K: You quote Dorothy Lamour as saying “Glamour is just sex that got civilized,” and say that Tom Lyle would have agreed, since his “dream was that all women, maiden or matron, would discover glamour through Maybelline.” Can you tell us a bit more about Tom Lyle’s ideas of how an older woman could achieve glamour through makeup?

S: Here’s a portrait of “Dottie” Dorothy Lamour, signed for my great-uncle. My father remembers going with his uncle Tom Lyle Williams to her home to sign a Maybelline contract.  

Older women shouldn’t rely on as much make-up as they did in their heyday youth.  Subdued make-up, tastefully applied is much more attractive than trying to keep up with young girls.  For my taste, having a good hair cut and color, soft make-up and simple jewelry is beauty as we age.  Also the confidence we gain as mature women is sexy–don’t you think? When I walk into a room now, people still look at me, not for my make-up but the air of confidence I exude.  It is ageless and powerful. (Editor’s note: We agree! See Sharrie’s publicity picture below.) 

K: Maybelline never forgot the youth market; they used contests and giveaways to attract “maidens.” Do you have any insider info on one such contest winner: Eleanor Fisher–“Miss Typical America”?

S: Eleanor Fisher won a small part in the film TRUE CONFESSION with Carole Lombard.  She never went on to do much more! 

K: How did Maybelline advertise during WWII? What is the idea of “patriotic beauty?”

S: In my book, I share how President Roosevelt was advised by the Pentagon that there must not be a “shortage” of glamour; that such a loss of beauty “might lower national morale.” So, the effect of pretty pin-up girls on the morale of the G.I.s was part of Maybelline’s ad campaigns of that era. It was a repeat of the idea of “Patriotism Through Beauty,” coined in 1917. 

K: Tell us a bit about what you learned of Joan Crawford and her dedication to looking her best at all times—she switched from Max Factor to Maybelline, during the 40s, right?
S: Joan Crawford was Tom Lyle’s favorite model in the late 1940′s. She actually was Maybelline’s spokesperson until the 1960′s. She did do Max Factor ads up until she contracted with Maybelline and yes, she was fanatical about looking perfect. I don’t want to give the book away but, I will say, she had all her teeth pulled and had dentures made to make her smile perfect

K: I love that Maybelline recognized the need to appeal to different demographics with different spokesmodels—Crawford for the mature sophisticate, and 1947 Tournament of Roses Queen Norma Christopher for the youthful, all-American girl type. Please share some of Tom Lyle’s thinking on that subject.

S: Tom Lyle’s genius was to target all aspects of the female market, teenage to mature.  He also knew when the trends were changing, especially in photography, going from super-glamorous to natural lighting.  When Maybelline ads were seen on TV in the 1950′s, he went back to black and white ads because TV was in black and white. It was all based on impulse buying.  He knew the psyche of the female mind and what they wanted.  

K: In the 50s, Maybelline used a stunning exotic ad campaign model—how did they feel this cool beauty would appeal to the new television audiences?

S: After WWII, the Asian market was ripe for marketing. As you know their car industry grew bigger than our own after the war because America began allowing importing as well as exporting to foreign countries. Tom Lyle capitalized on this…and the fact that Grace Kelly was the cool blonde in films and the bouncy All American girl image didn’t have as much international appeal in the grand scheme.

K: 1950s TV beauty queens like Loretta Young and Lucille Ballintroduced the concept of Hollywood glamour to “everyday housewives”…how did that impact Maybelline?

S: The 1950′s brought in Dior fashion, The Loretta Young Show, and of course, “ I Love Lucy”. This killer combination created a ripe market for Maybelline to explode with the cultural need for glamour even in the kitchen.  Remember Leave it to Beaver’s Mrs Cleaver and how she wore pearls and heels while making dinner? Or Mrs. Nelson dressed to the teeth when Ricky came home from school? Well most likely they were wearing Maybelline, because Maybelline was the most advertised and the most sensibly priced.  Maybelline was everywhere internationally and the # 1 eye beauty product in America, bar none.

K: Rebellious 50s gals wanted heavy makeup, society women and housewives wanted to look like Grace Kelly—how did Maybelline cater to both segments?

S: From the beginning in 1915 when Maybelline was first called Lash-Brow-Ine, Tom Lyle catered to whatever segment of society that was willing to make up their eyes. By the 1950′s, every teenage girl could afford to buy mascara, pencil and shadow for a couple of dollars, for the money she earned for a night of babysitting. That was the trick, making Maybelline affordable to everyone. That’s why Maybelline is still # 1 all over the world today. Incredible advertising and reasonable priced product. The ads targeted both markets and included print and TV ads–to see a charming early TV ad; click here.  

K.You tell a darling story about how you discovered the power of makeup…can you tell us here what happened when your grandmother did a makeover on you at 5 years old? What’s your most vivid memory of that?

S: I hope people will buy the book and read the whole story but in a nutshell, my grandmother Evelyn, took me into the bathroom at Tom Lyle’s home with all the Hollywood lights around the mirror and transformed me into a diva right before my eyes. Tom Lyle wanted to see his mascara on a child’s eyelashes and said when he looked at me, “There’s nothing like Maybelline on virgin eyelashes.”  (Meaning eyelashes that had never been mascaraed.) 

K: How do you feel about the importance of women to feel beautiful? What’s your heritage about women, makeup, and beauty? Do you think your Nana’s philosophy is true: Beauty hurts?

S: Nana always said “Beauty hurts” when I complained about anything. In my family, looking as beautiful as possible was very important, especially around Nana, who was old-school about it. I even made up to go to the beach in the 1960′s and my hair was camera-ready. Nana was so obsessed with beauty and perfection it finally killed her.  After her death I came out of the spell and began to search inside myself for the real Sharrie.  It took years of 12-step programs to finally accept myself, warts and all.  Now when you meet me, you see and feel a real person who feels good about herself, not a mannequin who wants to keep you at a distance and feel lonely and isolated inside.

K: As you looked back and researched to write this fascinating book, what did you learn about women and beauty?

S: Beauty is inner confidence. It’s like Maybelline New York says today: “Maybe it’s Maybelline.”  To me that means, maybe that beautiful glow is her healthy Spirit, but it could be her Maybelline as well. I used to be like my great-uncle Tom Lyle and my grandmother Evelyn, meaning when I met a person, all I could see is how they could look if they did this or that to themselves: a little nose job, an eye lift, a face lift, the perfect haircut, lose some weight, get your brows waxed, etc. Now I am able to see the beauty of a person’s Spirit and that is true beauty. We are all beautiful, but society has brainwashed us to think we don’t deserve love and respect unless we are perfect model material. Very sad to grow up feeling inferior just because we are told we are. Even inrelationships, we allow others to make us feel bad because we can’t live up to their expectations of what they think they deserve to have, based on perfection, air-brushed ads and ultra-thin models.  It’s all a lie, but the society is now too sick to get it. That’s how I see it, now that I have lived it all my life. I now have confidence based on being authentic, not cocky or arrogant but real and present.

K: Tom Lyle believed that “no matter how bleak the economic outlook, women would never lose their desire for beauty and sex appeal, and would always pay for an affordable cosmetic product of good quality.” Do you believe that’s true? We’re in a pretty serious recession right now, but the cosmetics and fashion industries seem to be doing well.

S: I absolutely believe women will still spend their last dime on products that make them look good. The Cosmetic industry is thriving as other industries are dying out.  It’s crazy, but what Tom Lyle started in 1915 is still being sold every 1.3 seconds somewhere around the world.

Many, many thanks to Sharrie Williams for taking the time and effort to discuss her intriguing heritage and share so much with us. Please buy her book and visit her picture-and-information-filled site to learn more:

I'm so lucky to have met Kay...a talented Stylist with an amazing blog called...Movie Star Makeover...Please check it out at and leave a comment. She did an incredible job don't you think...