Rather than a traditional and dry awards ceremony, the Fragrance Foundation’s annual Circle of Champions event — held recently at the St. Regis hotel — turned into a roast of Thia Breen, president of the Estée Lauder brand in North America.
This story first appeared in the October 22, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Last year’s honoree, Don Loftus, president and chief executive officer of P&G Prestige Products in the U.S., led the honors. “The Fragrance Foundation took such delight in the horrific mudslinging that was Nicholas Munafo’s presentation during this event last year…that they decided the event going forward should be more of a roast than a traditional awards presentation,” said Loftus wryly. “As a result, we are here tonight to honor — and dishonor — Thia Breen.”
But finding bad things to say about Breen was difficult, Loftus said. “When I really pushed, the most anyone would say was that at one time she had a really bad potty mouth,” he said. He referenced Breen’s childhood in rural Minnesota — adding that her hometown, Benson (“right out of a Norman Rockwell painting or Stephen King novel,” he cracked), led to her present career.
Breen’s father owned the local drugstore, and “at age seven, Thia became the Bonne Bell buyer, where sadly, she developed her dependency on Lipsmackers and her overwhelming addiction to 10-0-6 lotion.” Loftus also penned a Breen-inspired version of “The Lady Is a Tramp” (she became a “champ” instead) belted out by Laurie Dowley, senior vice president of sales and education for Elizabeth Arden.
A gracious Breen also poked a bit of fun at herself, noting that her grandfather also owned a drugstore — in Scotland, South Dakota — and availed himself of cheap child labor in the summers. “My grandfather stayed open until midnight and said to me, ‘I’m putting you in charge of one of the p’s.” That would be perfume — “the other two were prescriptions and prophylactics,” she said dryly. “I was too young to sell the other two.”