Marketing makeup to women may not sound like a revolutionary idea today, but, back in the early 1900s, it was a challenge. Cosmetics were “left to the theater and the women outside the pale of good society,” Williams said in an interview in 1934 (via Made in Chicago Museum). “Up to comparatively recent times very few women used rouges, lipsticks, eye beautifiers and other quite obvious improvers of facial appearance.” He continued, saying, “Here the real job began, because my capital was very small, and while my product was good, I was faced with the job of selling women on the idea that it was perfectly moral to use eye beautifiers.”
By utilizing silent film stars in his Maybelline advertisements, Williams was able to demonstrate to women what their lashes could look like and, thus, helped makeup extend beyond the cinema. “My job was to make women more conscious of their eyes and the possibilities of making them more alluring; to break down prejudice,” the founder explained, “and of course, to sell my product.” And that’s exactly what he did.