Episode 156: Doreen Bloch, Executive Director at Makeup Museum

Doreen Bloch, Executive Director of the Makeup Museum, has embarked on a journey back to the world of the 1950s makeup and beauty. She created a time capsule of artifacts and nostalgia that includes not only actual makeup bottles belonging to celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, but also submissions from people who lived through the 1950s to today. In the midst of a pandemic that delayed the launch of her novel idea, she’s maintained composure and positivity.

Dan Hodgdon
AnnouncerWelcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® hosted by Jodi Katz, founder and creative director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.
Jodi KatzHey everybody, it's Jodi Katz your host of WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® Podcast. I am so grateful that you tuned in. I am recording our episodes via Zoom since we are still not back in our office yet. And I have to say, I love that my recordings are like free therapy. So I hope there is helpful for you as they are for me. This week's episode features Doreen Bloch. She is the Makeup Museum, executive director. And if you missed last week's episode, it featured Alicia Grande. She's the CEO and founder of Grande Cosmetics. I hope you enjoy the show. Hey everybody. I am so excited to be with Doreen Bloch. She is the executive director of the Makeup museum. Welcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY®.
Doreen BlochThank you so much for having me Jodi.
Jodi KatzDoreen, I know our listeners can't see the backgrounds behind you. But they can, if they go to our social and they'll be able to see a cute video with you. But it looks like you're giving me a preview of what the Makeup Museum looks like.
Doreen BlochThat's right. I'm so happy that Zoom enables us to update the background so we can have this fun, photo-shoot kind of within the Makeup Museum.
Jodi KatzSo I'm actually using the Zoom background, that's our office in New York, which we miss very much. So you can see what it would be like to visit us at our office. And I can see what it'd be like to walk into the Makeup Museum.
Doreen BlochExactly. It's almost like the real deal. But I can't wait until we can actually do it in person. So we're looking forward to that.
Jodi KatzOkay. I want to talk a lot about the Makeup Museum, because it like brings up incredible things about the history of makeup and beauty in our lives. But let's focus on you first.
Doreen BlochOkay.
Jodi KatzSo we are in week eight or nine of COVID, I think. And you are the executive director of the Makeup Museum. You're also the CEO of a technology company.
Doreen BlochYes.
Jodi KatzAnd probably other things that you didn't even mention. So tell me what it's been like for you on the technology side, and balancing those two businesses and your family.
Doreen BlochI am family too. I have a two-year old. So that has been different since he is not at daycare more hours of the day. But I mean, look, this crisis has upended everything. I was expecting to be in New York with my co-founders of the Makeup Museum, Caitlin Collins and Rachel Goodwin. And of course, the world has been turned upside down. That said, I take all of this with the knowledge that we're healthy, we're safe. So those are the most important things. And I do have a few businesses, and ventures, and projects that I run, which keep me quite busy. And it's also a set of topics that I'm incredibly passionate about.

So what's nice about the core business that I've been running for almost 10 years partially is that we're actually distributed by design. I think it's been a few years now that we haven't had an office. So that was a very seamless transition with Makeup Museum. We were expecting to open on May 1, and of course that has been delayed. But we're still moving things forward in terms of the digital content. And it's been really exciting and rewarding to debut a lot of that.
Jodi KatzSo balancing partially, and the fact that you have to delay the opening of Makeup Museum plus change, of course, like life as a family, you sound very optimistic and very bright. And I think the day that you and I had our intake call, I was feeling really low. I was having not a good day. Has this been something that's tested your emotions the way it's tested mine?
Doreen BlochAbsolutely. Especially in the first few weeks, just the isolation from family, the fact that it's really upended plans that have been in the works, with Makeup Museum for over a year or so. Absolutely at the beginning. And I'm a very optimistic person. And I don't... It's hard for me to dwell with feelings of negativity in any way. So for me, it's been, I think perhaps pretty quick to just move on to, what can we do? What are the positive steps that we can take? And that has actually led to some really amazing and wonderful opportunities. For example, with Makeup Museum as I mentioned, we were expecting to open May 1. That didn't happen. We have no idea when we're going to be able to open. But instead of being pessimistic about it, we've just said, "Look, what can we do that honors the mission that the Makeup Museum has to educate, to celebrate and to inspire?"

And so one thing that had always been on our list was sort of an anthropology project related to the 1950s, which honors the debut exhibition, which is called Pink Jungle. And so we asked people to start submitting stories of their loved ones, whether it's their grandmother, their mother, their aunt, a friend who were using makeup in the 1950s, and to talk with them about makeup. This became such a beautiful campaign. We had dozens and dozens of submissions from all over the world, including photos, video, just text testimonials from people talking about the makeup that their loved ones have used. And it's just such a beautiful way to connect with people when we have to be socially distanced, but doing so around something that we're so passionate about, all of us in this community are so passionate about. As part of that campaign, we also then raised money for Meals on Wheels. So just trying to find the positive moments in all this, and to do our part as much as we can.
Jodi KatzSo let's talk about the origin story of the Makeup Museum. Take us back to when this idea first sparked in your brain.
Doreen BlochI was in the parking lot, driving out of the little health care center where I take my son for his pediatrician appointments. And as I mentioned, I've been working in cosmetics for about 10 years now, and always on the B2B side. So with Poshly may help to provide this context. We're a consumer insights company that supports brands like L'Oreal, they've been a long time supporter of our work, and many, many others in the industry. And also I've been a nerd for all things style and aesthetics. I'm the kid who in fourth and fifth grade, was doing projects on the history of shoes. So this has always been something that I've been extremely passionate about.

But it was about a year and a half ago, driving away from this pediatrician appointment that the spark just went off in my mind of seeing the success of Museum of Ice Cream and a lot of these experiential events and popups, I thought, "Wait a second, how is there not a museum focused on makeup?" And you know, there's definitely blogs and websites that are devoted to vintage makeup and collecting, but there has never before been a multi-brand experience that is focused, in terms of a permanent institution, on the 10,000 years of makeup history.

So I started... My first call was to my friend and former colleague when she was at L'Oreal, Kaitlin Collins, who is also the former editor of makeup.com. I said, "Look, have you heard about anything like this? Has this been tried before and maybe it just didn't resonate with people?" And she's like, "No, this is really neat. We have to see if this has legs." And so from that it started really expanding about people telling their friends, and network in the industry, and even beyond. That's how we then got connected with Rachel, who is a very well known makeup artist. She works with Emma Stone, January Jones, and many others. And here we are. We announced in November, and we're expecting to open as soon as it's safe to.
Jodi KatzDo you think if I asked Caitlin, if I took her back in time to this phone call, do you think she'd be like, "Yeah, I knew at that moment, we're actually going to make this happen,"?
Doreen BlochKnowing me, yes. I'm one of those people that as soon as I birth the idea, it has to happen. So it's been that way with a lot of other projects and ventures as well.
Jodi KatzSo I wonder if Caitlin knew at that moment... We'll have to call her later and ask. Did she know that she was going to be on this ride the whole time?
Doreen BlochThat I'm not sure. But also it's just so... I think all of us have very much a pinch-me moment about this journey so far. And I think what's happened more recently is the realization that this is something that we will be working on for the rest of our lives. And building really an institution that can live beyond us. That is something that we never would have realized a year and a half ago.
Jodi KatzAnd do you not feel that way about Poshly or other work you've done in the past? Like, is that something that you think has an expiration date?
Doreen BlochThat's a very interesting question. I think with especially technology companies, there's definitely more of a typical life cycle with those ventures From my... It's funny, because before I started Poshly, I spent one year in finance. And in particular I was working at a company that was doing private assets sales, including secondary market trading of financial assets, like Facebook stock, for example. Sorry, lots of jargon from those old finance days. But one metric that always stayed in my mind is that the typical time for a technology company to reach an MNA event is seven years, and an IPO event 10 years. So the life cycles are typically not on the order of lifetimes, as opposed to the Metropolitan Museum just celebrated its 150th anniversary. Those are the types of timescales when you're collecting and bringing together an archive and collection of objects that date back... Now the Makeup Museum's collection spans 5000 years. So you're really thinking in a much longer term way then with a technology company.
Jodi KatzYeah. I think it's an interesting notion. Because during my day job at Base Beauty I think about I've been in business for almost 14 years. And our mission has always been the same, but the work we do is completely different. Like the marketplace keeps changing and evolving, and there's probably a point where we are like... There won't be work for us. There'll be robots there'll be AI. And I do think about how much more room is there? How many more years are there before the things that we do, the way that we do them, even though we keep evolving, it just won't be part of the mix anymore. So I do understand that kind of desire and craving to create something with a legacy.

And I do think in the world of marketing, beauty, personal care, household goods. I grew up with brands that had been around for decades. And those heritage brands were really important in the consumer's mind. They stood for something. And the consumer today doesn't have those feelings. Legacy brands are not necessarily immediately thought of as like the most important in their category. So there is a long game for legacy.
Doreen BlochYes. And storytelling as well. I think there's such nostalgia. And even more than that, I think what we've found with Makeup Museum is that it's so much bigger than any... than the founding team, than even the advisory where we have amazing makeup historians, people who are very deep in the museum expertise space, who are advising us. But it's also about showing that beauty is political. It's science, it's art. It's so much more than just this powder, or this liquid in a tube. It's about showing that this private moment of transformation that someone might have in their morning or before they go out at night, does something to their day that changes how they interact with the world.

And so we believe so strongly that there is something so profound about this. It deserves to be studied. And historians generally agree that grooming and cosmetic usage is one of the oldest forms of human ritual. So we need to honor that in a space that has the holiness that museums have.
Jodi KatzSo let's talk about the themes. This launch theme is pink jungle. What does that mean?
Doreen BlochPink jungle comes from a 1958 TIME magazine cover story, that was the first time that TIME magazine really went deep into the beauty industry. And there is one sentence deepen this article that dubs this industry, because of all of the fights between these incredible entrepreneurs like Helena Rubinstein, and Elizabeth Arden, Charles Revson, and so many others, it dubbed the industry, the pink jungle. And we just thought that that was such a perfect way to title the first exhibition, which has focused on the 1950s. And we get asked sometimes, why the 1950s for the debut exhibition. It was between the 1950s and the 1980s, of course, given that I have a consumer insights background, I wanted to go out to future museum goers and ask them, "What would you like to see from the Makeup Museum first?"

And so it was between those two decades. And then we took that back to our advisory board and said, "Between these two, which do we think would work best for the debut exhibition?" And everyone was pretty much unanimous in saying, "Let's start with the 1950s," because there have been in decade incredible innovations that really changed the trajectory of the modern makeup industry. Between the marketing innovations you see. For example, color television debuting in the 50s in a way that became mainstream, that changes everything about how cosmetics is marketed. You have the invention in the late 50s of tube mascara. Most consumers today have never heard of cake mascara. They've certainly never seen one. And so to be able to show people that yes, mascara used to be applied with what looks like a tiny toothbrush, that we believe, especially for the younger generation, is going to be very powerful, and hopefully inspire people to see that they themselves can create an innovate.

I think that's what's so profound about that generation of entrepreneurs. Estee Lauder, Hazel Bishop, Elizabeth Arden, Helena Rubinstein, and many others, in many cases, they were mixing formulas in their kitchens at a time when women couldn't necessarily leave the household to go and work professionally. So that is very inspiring to me. I know it's going to be inspiring to many others who visit and see that in action.
Jodi KatzI did not know this about mascara.
Doreen BlochIt's amazing. And we have a few different brands represented. So there's the classic Maybelline cake mascara. We also have some from Helena Rubinstein, I believe. So there will be a few on display that people can compare. And I think that's another thing that's so exciting about Makeup Museum, is that you can go to the Met or to the British Museum and see a coal eyeliner jar from ancient Egypt. But being able to see these artifacts over the course of time in that linear way is just, it really elevates I think, the topic and seeing that evolution and then that next step of, "Oh, let's see where it might go in another 20 years or 50 years." So very inspiring, educational, and hopefully a lot of celebration too, about how far things have come.
Jodi KatzYou mentioned an artifact that's 5,000 years old. What is that?
Doreen BlochYes. We have a few items that are dated back to ancient Egypt. And those will be on display in the context of the cat eye being of course, quintessential 1950s. But we have a lot of historians that have pointed out that around the early 1900s, starting around 1920 and certainly into 1950, and even into the '60s, you have a lot of Egypt mania happening in the press, a ton of archeological discoveries. So it makes sense that there'd be sort of this reference to some of the ancient makeup looks that then debuts in the '50s and definitely into the '60s with the famous Cleopatra movie as well. So lots of amazing connections to see. And I think, again, it's just so inspiring to see how far we've come and where things will go in the future.
Jodi KatzSo are you the owners of these artifacts? Are you borrowing them from other collections?
Doreen BlochThere's a mix. So the collection is being built through three ways. First, out rates purchase to enhance the Makeup Museum collection. Second is on loan, especially from corporate archives. And I'll get back to that in a moment. And then finally we have received so many different inquiries or submissions for donation. So that has been really exciting to see people from all over the world who say, "Hey, I cleaned out that drawer from my great aunt's house. And there's a few things that may be gems." And so through that, I mean, we've discovered some very early lipstick artifacts, for example, from the Morris Levy days. So lots of different things that we are putting together. And of course it's very important to talk with the experts to date those items properly and validate the authenticity of those items.

So we're going through all of that, but the corporate archives and those loans have also been very profound for the Makeup Museum. One of the key examples of this is our partnership with Erno Laszlo, which is a legacy to your point, kind of a heritage skincare brand. Dr. Erno Laszlo was a Hungarian skin doctor who was supporting the skincare of amazing celebrities and icons throughout the early 1900s; Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Jacqueline Kennedy. It's even said that JFK himself was using Erno Laszlo products. So they have done a remarkable job in preserving and acquiring a lot of items related to their brand.

And on display at the Makeup Museum, there will be items from Greta Garbo and Marilyn Monroe, the actual bottles that were on these women's vanities. That to me, is so cool, and something that just deserves a special place like the Makeup Museum.
Jodi KatzSo I am in the marketing business, advertising. Is there a history of advertising, within this decade?
Doreen BlochYes, absolutely. It's actually the first gallery. So the Makeup Museum lobby area, which is themed like the pink jungle, as you'll be able to see on social, the first entry way to actually start the experience, the visitor will go through the red door. Now, most people may think, Oh, it's just a really neat beautiful red door, but it actually has a very deep history related to the Elizabeth Arden brand. People may recall that the Elizabeth Arden salon was called the Red Door salon. It was so avant garde in those days. If you imagine walking down fifth Avenue in Manhattan, and there's this bright red door, there's nothing else like it on the street, that's going to attract so much attention. And there's also a sense that it was in solidarity around feminism and the suffrage movement. So lots of history to the iconic red door.

And once you go through that red door, we have our gallery that focuses on imagery of the 1950s. And there's a lot of really important things to talk about there. From the explosion of television in that era, to the male gaze, really being used to sell cosmetics, we have some amazing ads where it talks all about how you should use makeup to get a man or keep a man. This was really, really a key to that time period, that postwar time period. And also really broaching a lot of sensitive topics as well around how it's no secret that the 1950s were a time of racial segregation in the United States. There's a lot of... We have a bunch of magazines on display, including from Ebony and jet magazine, which were started in the 40s and 50s that show this really painful moment of segregation. And even looking at advertisements for skin lightening creams. I mean, these are very painful parts of history, but it's important to contextualize that and have the right experts who can provide the knowledge about those moments in time.
Jodi KatzWell, I'm excited. I'm excited to go when I can go. But before we close out, will you tell us, and give a shout out to your partners, since putting this together is no easy feat.
Doreen BlochNo, not at all. So we have... We could not do this without the amazing founding team. So shout outs, of course, to my cofounders, Caitlin Collins and Rachel Goodwin, and also to our advisory team, Gabriela Hernandez from Besame Cosmetics has been an amazing resource. Louise Young in the UK, Natalie Marsh, lots of amazing historians on our staff, and also to our brand sponsors who have helped to fund this experience, and to get this off the ground. So Nordstrom ,our exclusive retail partner, Erno Laszlo, Al Cone company, Sheba Dan, who is actually going to be sending the exhibition. So we couldn't do it without them. We're so grateful, and excited also that all of those brand partners have a very authentic 1950s connection. And, Oh, I almost forgot Conair as well, which was founded in 1959.
Jodi KatzSo full disclosure. Conair is my client, which is how I met Doreen.
Doreen BlochAnd we have some amazing, you can check out on Makeup Museum official's Instagram. We have an incredible conversation with Sophia, who is the granddaughter of Leandro Rizzuto who founded Conair, a visionary in the beauty industry who helped to transform... It's interesting kind of taking it back to where we started in COVID times that bringing the salon home, enabling people to do their hair at home in the same way that they would have at a salon, that was Leandro and Conair's impact. And it is so important historically, but also incredibly relevant today.
Jodi KatzWell, Doreen, this is so incredible. Thank you so much for sharing your story, and the story of the Makeup Museum, and for sharing your wisdom with my listeners.
Doreen BlochThank you so much, Jody. Can't wait to welcome you and all the listeners to the Makeup Museum once we're able to open in New York.
Jodi KatzAnd for our listeners, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Doreen. Please subscribe to our series on iTunes and for updates about the show files on Instagram @wherebrainsmeetbeautypodcast.
AnnouncerThanks for listening to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® with Jodi Katz. Tune in again for more authentic conversations with beauty leaders.

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