By and and  on October 9, 2009

When the going gets tough, the beauty industry heads to luxury hotels.

Over the past week, the best and brightest stars in beauty have been awarded, lauded and downright praised by their beauty brethren with a lunch at the Waldorf-Astoria and at dinners at The Pierre and The St. Regis.

Kicking off the love fest was the Cosmetic Executive Women’s 2009 Achiever Awards, held at the Waldorf-Astoria Oct. 2, where Procter & Gamble’s Esi Eggleston Bracey, Christian Dior Parfum’s Terry Darland, Estée Lauder’s Veronique Gabai-Pinsky and Space NK founder Nicky Kinnaird took honors for their achievements.

Eggleston Bracey, vice president of global cosmetics for P&G Beauty & Grooming, accepted her award from presenter and Cover Girl Queen Latifah, who described Eggleston Bracey as “electric, a woman on a mission” and someone who broke barriers when naming her a Cover Girl in 2001, back when “there were no spokesmodels with these real-woman curves.”

Eggleston Bracey said her career at P&G climbed to the next level when she started being more true to herself: After three years at the beauty giant without “co-workers knowing the real me,” she transformed her hair from a prim bob to a natural ’do, dying it platinum blonde, and she bought a red convertible Porsche. “I enjoyed work on a more confident level,” Eggleston Bracey said. In closing, she advised those in the audience to “Keep rockin’ your beautiful,” a mantra of hers.

Pamela Baxter, president and chief executive officer of LVMH Perfumes & Cosmetics NA, introduced Darland, president, North America, for Christian Dior Parfums, as they have been working together for 10 years. One of Baxter’s most memorable moments with Darland was the time during a tedious negotiating session when finally, Darland told a buyer, “Listen, honey, this is the way it’s gonna be.”

Darland has worked in beauty for 30 years, starting as a Clinique counter saleswoman in Kalamazoo, Mich. “I loved selling makeup,” she recalled. Staying on at the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. for the next 20 years, she said she “had the pleasure of working for the best.” Baxter soon became her boss and friend, and advised the audience “to find a mentor.”

Fabrizio Freda, Estée Lauder Cos. president and ceo, introduced Gabai-Pinsky, global brand president, Aramis & Designer Fragrances, Beauty Bank, Idea Bank for the Estée Lauder Cos. Gabai-Pinsky said her mentor was her mother, who once said to her, “the bar is never too high” and to “always be willing to take a leap of faith.” Along the way, one of the most important lessons Gabai-Pinsky said she learned is that success is “all about the details” since “a slight difference in a shade of pink can make all the difference.”

Bloomingdale’s Michael Gould recalled the first time he met Kinnaird — which was in April — and how, after a nice chat, he parted ways by saying, “I don’t know if we’ll ever do business, but I met a friend for life.” Five months later, Space NK entered select Bloomingdale’s, an effort of which Kinnaird said, “They had faith in me and took a chance.” Kinnaird said her success was achieved by “being true to herself” since she built her “passion into a proper business.” Apparently, as a child Kinnaird had to be “dragged out by the hand of perfumeries and pharmacies…as her collection of perfume bottles was quite something to behold.”

Earlier this week, The Pierre hotel served as the backdrop for the Skin Sense Award Gala. On Tuesday, just before slinking on top of a black grand piano, actress Bernadette Peters cooed to the audience, “People ask me how I keep my skin so fair and smooth. I have a little secret: I don’t know how to swim, so I rarely have gone to the beach.” After a pause, she said, “So if you and I are together and you are drowning, you’re on your own.” She later made her way in between the crowded tables to sing, “When You Wish Upon a Star” to Dr. Perry Robins, the founder and president of The Skin Cancer Foundation. The evening, which marked the 30th anniversary of the foundation, honored Rite Aid Corp. chairman and ceo Mary Sammons, and David Greenberg, president of Maybelline New York-Garnier. Rite Aid and Garnier joined forces for a fund-raising effort during September and this month, they donated a dollar from the sale of two Garnier Nutritioniste Skin Renew Anti-Sun-Damage products to the foundation. Sammons, who dutifully slathers sunscreen on her two-year-old granddaughter, said Rite Aid has distributed 765,000 free skin care guides this year. Also, in partnership with the foundation and Aveeno, Rite Aid participated in its second annual The Healthy Skin Tour, a 38-foot customized RV that made 165 stops across the country to screen people for skin cancer.

When Greenberg stepped up to the podium, he said, “While we may forget with age, our skin has an amazing memory.” To lessen the prevalence of skin cancer — the most common form of cancer — Greenberg told WWD, “It’s everyday sun care that’s a big part of the answer.”

The evening raised $650,000 for sun cancer prevention and research.

The St. Regis hotel was also a top spot for beauty royalty on Tuesday. That evening, Donald J. Loftus, president and ceo of P&G Prestige Products Inc., was honored by three top executives as the latest inductee to the Fragrance Foundation’s Circle of Champions.

Camille McDonald, president of brand development and merchandising at Bath & Body Works, started off by noting Loftus is an amateur playwright who has written three musicals and several dramas. “The rest of us sit on a couch and channel surf in our personal time,” she teased. “You make us look bad, but also make us proud.”

Carolyn Tastad, who works with Loftus as vice president of Global Prestige Products, Market Development Organization, P&G Prestige Products, read a glowing letter from Ed Shirley, vice chairman of global beauty and grooming for P&G. Tastad singled out Loftus’ competitive drive (“Don loves to win”), his dedication to building the business, his ability to inspire and lead, his sense of compassion and caring nature and, above all, his natural gift as “a master storyteller.”

The main introduction was delivered by Nicholas Munafo, president of Beauté Prestige International, who had worked closely with Loftus at P&G. He recounted the highlights and lowlights of the honoree’s career, such as when the two of them were on a business trip to Minneapolis as their plane flew into a severe storm. It also happened to be Munafo’s 33rd birthday. Loftus casually mentioned that both Jesus and Mozart died at 33.

But Munafo clearly demonstrated that there were no lingering hard feelings. “Don’s stellar reputation is exceeded only by his modesty,” Munafo said.

Later, during Loftus’ acceptance speech, the honoree had admitted feeling intimidated by industry “superheroes,” particularly the Estée Lauder Cos. chairman emeritus Leonard Lauder, who had received the same honor in years past.

Loftus imagined all of them in a painting, seated around “Saint Leonard” with his palms raised. “I would be in the background serving coffee,” Loftus dryly remarked. He then looked out over the packed room and concluded, “You really are my circle of champions.”

Rochelle Bloom, Fragrance Foundation president and ceo, ended the evening saying, “I think I can speak for everybody in this room when I say we are all the better for knowing you.”

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