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When Leslie Blodgett, executive chairman of Bare Escentuals, was seven years old and watching her house burn, she did what any tot would do: She raced back inside to save her favorite stuffed animal. Later, her family talked about her heroic — albeit crazy — act over milk and cookies.

This story first appeared in the December 12, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“It’s a lot like our industry,” Blodgett explained from a podium in the swanky Rainbow Room Thursday morning during the 13th annual WWD Beauty Inc Awards, where she received the Visionary Award. “One minute you’re safe and warm, the next you’re in flames, then you save your bunny and talk about it over a nice meal.”

So how has Blodgett kept her “proverbial house” from burning down? “If I knew a formula for success, I would have used it,” she said. “All I know is, I worked hard.”

Though modest about her achievements, Blodgett is decidedly not shy about how often she’s made people angry. Her best piece of advice she gives to young people is, “If you want to change the world, get ready to piss a few people off,” she said, as most people in the room chuckled in agreement. “As you’ve probably heard before, don’t bother asking for permission because they’re not going to give it to you. Better to ask for forgiveness and hope for the best.”

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Connecting with these young people and her consumers has been a driving force behind Blodgett’s career. On a recent trip to Haiti with Christy Turlington’s organization Every Mother Counts, Blodgett was miffed by a group of snarky teens who refused to participate in the activities. Being the self-proclaimed amazing dancer that she is, Blodgett used her moves to bypass the language barrier between them and, hopefully, make them laugh.

“The only thing I could think of was to dance my ass off,” she said. “All of a sudden, they started clapping and giving me a beat. Then, the leader of the pack who was giving the most attitude came over and, in so many words, asked me to show her how to twerk.”

Dancing skills aside, Blodgett shared the story as proof of the importance of caring about people. “It just reinforces for me the core belief that wherever we are, we have to find the time to connect on a deep, emotional level,” she said. “That’s what’s so rewarding about this business.”

Beauty’s key players braved the frigid temperatures for the event, including Fabrizio Freda, president and chief executive officer of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.; William Lauder, Lauder’s executive chairman; Jane Lauder, global brand president of Clinique; John Demsey, group president of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.; Frédéric Rozé, president and chief executive officer of L’Oréal USA; Karen Fondu, president of L’Oréal Paris; Vianney Derville, president, consumer products division, L’Oréal USA; Carol Hamilton, president of L’Oréal Luxe USA; Deb Henretta, group president of global beauty at P&G; Claudia Lucas, director of beauty merchandising for QVC; Ingrid Jackel, chief executive officer of Physicians Formula; Wende Zomnir, chief creative officer and founding partner of Urban Decay; Heidi Manheimer, chief executive officer of Shiseido Cosmetics America; and Josie Maran, founder of Josie Maran Cosmetics.

Here, the full list of winners.

Product of the Year, Prestige:
Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate (skin care), Benefit Cosmetics They’re Real Push-Up Liner (color cosmetics), Giorgio Armani Sì (fragrance)

Product of the Year, Mass: Sally Hansen Miracle Gel (color cosmetics), Olay Regenerist Luminous Collection (skin care), TRESemmé 7 Day Keratin Smooth (hair)

Retailer of the Year: Rituals Home and Body Cosmetics (specialty), Rite Aid (mass), QVC (prestige)

Digital Innovator of the Year: L’Oréal Paris Makeup Genius App (mass), Sephora’s The Beauty Board (prestige)

Ad Campaign of the Year: Chanel No. 5

Newcomer of the Year: So Cozy Professional Hair Care for Children (mass), Christian Louboutin Beauté (prestige)

Launch of the Year: & Other Stories (mass/specialty), Clinique Smart Custom-Repair Serum (prestige)

Creative Influencers of the Year: Jennifer Balbier and James Gager of MAC

Brand of the Year: E.l.f. Cosmetics (mass), Urban Decay (prestige)

Corporate Social Responsibility:
Cover Girl Girls Can Campaign

Indie of the Year:
Josie Maran Cosmetics

Marketer of the Year:
Sandra Main, global brand president, La Mer (prestige); Ingrid Jackel, chief executive officer, Physicians Formula (mass)

Company of the Year:
L’Oréal USA

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