Fragrance

By Stef Schwalb

“Don’t talk about it – do it!” is a motto for one of the cosmetic industry’s most charismatic icons, and she has lived that affirmation true to form. Marilyn Miglin is a world-renowned voice of authority on beauty, as an author, entrepreneur, and speaker extraordinaire. She is the founder, president, and CEO of her namesake cosmetic and fragrance business, which she began in a small space on Chicago’s Oak Street in 1963. During her youth as a dancer and model, Marilyn traveled around the globe and to major U.S. cities. When she did so, her friends were always asking her to pick up products for them. Marilyn soon realized that her hometown of Chicago was sorely missing something that she could provide. She sent out 500 pitch letters to assorted companies and 143 responded. She soon set up shop and started selling. But her customer service was a bit more creative than the typical boutique. Instead of strictly offering women just the products that they wanted, she also taught them how to use them. The development of her own products later followed suit.

Her passion for makeup began around the age of 11 when teenage years found her with troubled skin. To ease her awkwardness, Marilyn started wearing the makeup she wore onstage for dancing during the day, and she became an avid “counter hopper” as she searched for the best cosmetics. She is a firm believer that makeup paints one’s soul and empowers any individual who wears it. Sharing this sentiment with those less fortunate has become her trademark. Giving back to her community is paramount to Marilyn. She serves on Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s special committee on tourism, as an officer of the Chicago Convention, the State of Illinois Board of Economic Development, and on the Board of Directors of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. As president of the Oak Street Council, $1 million has been raised to preserve and promote this historic street in the prestigious shopping district of Miracle Mile. She is the founding member of the University of Illinois’ advisory board for the Craniofacial Center, where she is held in the highest esteem for her work with the facially disfigured and burn survivors. In addition, she founded and coordinated the Women of Destiny program, which enlisted 200 of Chicago’s most successful women to serve as mentors for ambitious young women in their chosen professional fields. Her list of achievements and awards goes on.

According to Marilyn, for her “giving is receiving.” Through her tireless charitable efforts, she has gained a new awareness, new knowledge, new acquaintances, and new insight on running a company. She has been afforded the opportunity to meet CEO’s of companies that long ago a woman would never have been able to. She is grateful for this and very humble about her success. To remain a survivor in the industry for as long as she has is an achievement enough—to still be selling strong and helping others find their way is remarkable and amazing altruistic as well.

Originally published August 2003
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