Abstract: Uplifting Makeup: Actresses' Testimonials and the Cosmetics Industry

Marlis Schweitzer


Throughout the late nineteenth century, manufacturers actively solicited testimonials from popular actresses for products ranging from cosmetics and corsets to pianos and patent medicine. By the turn of the century, however, the use of testimonials as a general advertising practice had fallen into disfavor, and while they never completely disappeared, celebrity testimonials were noticeably absent from the pages of most women's magazines for almost a decade. For this reason, the subsequent resurgence of actresses' testimonials in cosmetics advertising of the 1910s raises important questions about the use and desirability of actresses as endorsers, and offers new insight into the cosmetics industry's efforts to alter preconceptions about the use of cosmetics as a social practice. By 1910, actresses had gained a more respectable position within society and were widely recognized as fashion leaders, often appearing in the pages of Vogue and Harper's Bazar dressed in their latest stage clothes. For emerging cosmetics specialists such as Forrest D. Pullen and Helena Rubenstein, as well as for established beauty product manufacturers like the Pond's Extract Company, an association with fashionable actresses was an effective way to promote their product line and, more important, the cosmetics industry as a whole.

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