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CEW: Picking the Winners

This year, prestige firms went home with the statuettes and the bragging rights at the Cosmetics Executive Women’s annual awards.

NEW YORK — Last year may have been the mass market’s big year at the Cosmetics Executive Women’s annual awards, but this year, the prestige companies went home with the statuettes and the bragging rights.

While last year, Pond’s, Jergens, John Frieda, Crest, Olay and Cover Girl garnered many of the top prizes, this ceremony was dominated by prestige brands, especially Lancôme, which gathered four awards, and Shiseido, which won in three categories. “OK, last year, we thought it was a fluke,” joked Heidi Manheimer, president for U.S. operations of Shiseido Cosmetics (America) Ltd., when she picked up the first of her awards. “But now, we’re getting used to it.” The Estée Lauder brand also carted off two awards, prompting Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, the group president of The Estée Lauder Cos., which oversees the brand, to thank Leonard Lauder for the “spark that formed Pure Color.”

This year’s awards ceremony was different in its timing, as well. Held Monday night at the Waldorf-Astoria, this event marked the first time in the organization’s history that the ceremony was a black-tie affair. Clocking in at a little over three hours —?from the time the first cocktail at the reception was raised to the finish of the last victory speech — the event attracted about 960 people.

Robin Burns, president and chief executive officer of The Limited’s Intimate Beauty Corp. and its Aura Science and Victoria’s Secret Beauty divisions and chair of CEW, noted that this year’s winners were chosen from a pool of 328 entries from 127 companies. The awards themselves are determined by voting by CEW’s 1,700 members, she said. The votes were tabulated and certified by Ernst and Young, added Carlotta Jacobson, president of CEW.

The awards presentation opened on a poignant note, when Ann Curry of NBC’s “The Today Show” was presented with Roche’s Beauty of Giving Award, which honors individuals, institutions and companies that offer support and inspiration to working women living with cancer. After outlining her mother’s and sister’s battles with cancer, Curry asked everyone in the audience who’d had a family member with cancer to raise their hands —?and more than three-quarters of the audience did so, providing a sobering reminder of the impact of the disease. “This is for you, Mom,” she said as she held up her award. But Curry did lighten things up when she imitated her mother’s opinion of her personal grooming: “Ann, fix that short, ugly hair,” she said in a comic parody of her mother’s voice. “You never going to find husband that way!”

The proceedings also were leavened by Danielle Broussard, a stand-up comedian and the evening’s mistress of ceremonies, who wholeheartedly embraced the evening’s estrogen-heavy bent. In fact, in one of her riffs, she cracked that tampon manufacturers should put pictures of “jerky guys on the side of tampon boxes, just like the milk carton manufacturers do with missing children.” She also professed to have more nail polish in her refrigerator than food, and noted that her boyfriend is 10 years younger than she is —“and there’s no way I could have pulled that off without makeup.”

And as it turns out, Broussard has a longtime tie to one of CEW’s leading ladies, Burns, who was Broussard’s first temp boss in New York. “Robin was nice — but I wish she wasn’t, because then I could have written “The Devil Wears Prada” and be on my book tour right now,” she said. Turning to Burns, Broussard said, “Robin, you couldn’t have thrown one latte at me?”

And while in past years, the attire du jour was business suits and Birkin bags, this year the ceremony’s glitz factor was upped to include celebrity presenters such as Maggie Rizer, Roshumba Williams and Patti Hansen — not to mention Academy Award-worthy jewelry. When a photographer complimented Allure editor in chief Linda Wells on her multicarat diamond chandelier earrings right before the dinner, she cracked, “Enjoy them now, because they’re going back tomorrow!” She was there to accept CEW’s Special Recognition Award on behalf of Allure.

While this year’s product award acceptance speeches were heavy on thanks to retail partners and team members, many executives weren’t shy about vocalizing exactly what they were thinking. “My boss is here, but he’s too chicken to come up here with all of these women,” said Jean Hoehn Zimmerman, executive vice president of sales and marketing for fragrance and beauté for Chanel, as she picked up her award for Best Multipurpose Makeup Product. Laura Lee Miller, president of Unilever Prestige, was perhaps even more specific after winning for Best Women’s Scent: “Oh my God, finally!” she said, referring to the fact that her category was the last of the evening. And being at the back of the room could make it a bit challenging to collect your award, as Kiehl’s Since 1851’s Abbie Schiller discovered. “You never think you’re going to win when you’re way in the back,” she said as she collected her award in the Sun Product category for the brand’s All Sport Non-Freeze SPF 30.

And while presenter and MTV makeup artist Kristi Furhman presumably works with makeup every day, she did have a few challenges pronouncing the name of one of the winning products in the eye category, Lancôme’s Flextencils. Not that that bothered a serene Dalia Chammas, senior vice president and general manager of Lancôme USA: “Mascara, as you know, is our pride,” she said as she picked up her statuette.