Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Did Mabel really singe off her eyebrows or is there more to the story?

There has been so much controversy within the Maybelline family about what really happened to Mabel's eyebrows and why she mixed coal dust from a burnt cork with a dab of Vaseline to darken them.  I'm so happy that I finally have the absolute true story from Mabel's very own granddaughters and my cousins Donna and Linda Hughes - from the original Chicago branch of the family.  Here is what happened and how Maybelline actually came into the world.

"The real story of Uncle Lyle's invention is that Mabel thought her eyebrows were sparse and used a preparation that was supposed to thicken them. Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect and bleached them out. She then tried a homemade remedy of applying the ash from a burned match to darken them. Eva also had pale brows and the sisters made a pact that whichever sister died first, the other would come to the funeral home and fill in her eyebrows for her. The story about Mabel burning her eyebrows and lashes actually never happened."

What did happen after that momentous occasion was that Tom Lyle formed a one and a half-inch ad with a picture of a girl who looks very similar to Mabel.  The original "Maybelline Girl" might have been Mabel Williams.

Here is a picture of Mabel, so beautiful, demure and sweet, the perfect image to promote a product with her name on it. Look at those engaging gorgeous eyes, who wouldn't buy an eye beautifier from this girl. Mabel was the face of Maybelline and it was her image that changed the face of American women who now wanted to have "Those Eyes."

This is one of Maybelline's first ads and as you can see the model has a similar look as Mabel Williams. 

I know Mabel was very shy and sweet and may not of wanted any recognition, but I bet Tom Lyle wanted a like-image, someone with an innocent sweet face to advertise his new product to a public who had never dreamed of applying an eye darkener to their eyes.  In those day's vanity wasn't a virtue and it must have been a bit of a challenge to convince women to make-up their eyes like the silent film and stage actresses of the day.  Not an easy sell - I'm telling you that. 

Stay tuned for Maybelline's models throughout the 1920's tomorrow and the rest of the week and read more about Mabel and Tom Lyle in The Maybelline Story.

Trivia:  When Tom Lyle, Noel and Mabel moved from Morganfield Kentucky into a boarding house in Chicago they lived right next door to the Marx Brothers, how cool is that!

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