For a long time, the story of Sally Hansen was a mystery. There was no website write-up. No book. No framed portrait proudly gracing the lobby. No one to confirm if she had even existed at all. There was the legend of course, of a glamorous and fearless entrepreneur, a self-made woman whose ideas were far ahead of her time. But there was also rumors of a party girl (who allegedly ran off with her chauffeur). So, who was the real Sally? What was her story? In 2014, a team of investigative journalists was hired to uncover the truth. And after months of failed leads, and hours spent sifting through city hall archives and garages piled with forgotten files, her story is finally ready to tell.
Sally's fearless, independent spirit soon led her to leave her job working for the family business and pursue her dreams of becoming a dancer.
Sally left for Hollywood, California, where she would become a successful dancer and choreographer, landing roles in productions like "Beverly Smiles", "Peggy Ann", and "Spring is Upon Us".
In the midst of the roaring 1920's, she and her dashing, bon vivant husband, Adolf Hansen, would become fixtures on the Hollywood social scene, hosting a stream of star-studded parties at their glamorous Spanish-inspired villa. A villa which Sally, herself designed.
Blonde, petite and fashionable, Sally was famous for her avant-garde style, and her progressive views.
Her sassy and frank voice found a powerful outlet with her column in LA Times, 'Your Candid Mirror', for which she wrote over 91 articles.
So much more than beauty advice or gossip column, "Your Candid Mirror' was a loudhailer for the voice of a strong, independent, self-made woman. A woman with opinions far ahead of her time, who believed in empowering women in beauty, in business and in life.
After her early dance career, Sally took over her parents' cosmetics business, with the help of her husband and brother, reinventing it as House of Hollywood and transforming it into a successful business. This marks the beginning of Sally Hansen, the self-made woman and entrepreneur. Sally wanted to build a line of affordable, innovative beauty products for real women. Beauty that really worked.
By the early 1940's, Sally had turned House of Hollywood into a huge success and expanded it to include a large factory. Here, she was also rumored to contribute to the war effort, processing blood plasma alongside her cosmetics line.
Sally's first marriage was to Eugene Gunther, a man who would turned out to be a violent drunk, and in 1929, Sally filed for divorce on grounds of 'excessive intoxication'.
Sally's second marriage to Adolf Hansen was far happier. But behind the scenes Sally craved for the chance to set out on her own, and on October 1st, 1946, Sally again filed for divorce. They parted amicably.
Sally bravely chose to leave her husband, her friends, and her glamorous Hollywood life, to pursue her dreams of creating her own beauty empire in New York City.
Sally Hansen Inc. was born. Finally, Sally had the freedom to create the company she had always dreamed of. A company in her own name, with a logo modeled on Sally's own signature.
Among its first two trademarks would be the now iconic Hard as Nails, and Sally Hansen would go on to become the number one nail brand in the U.S.A.
Along with peers such as Helena Rubenstein, and Estee Lauder, Sally Hansen challenged the male-dominated world around her and sought to redefine the beauty industry in her own way. But Sally did not come from wealth or privilege. Sally created herself, and her company, all by herself.
In 1947, Sally married Jack Newton, a man 11 years her junior, and the graphic designer responsible for the working on Sally's namesake brand design. Their new life in New York saw her mingling with a more creative, free-thinking crowd - musicians, artists, writers, and drag queens.
Sally Hansen died at age 56, on December 16, 1963, after a 6-month fight with lung cancer.
Her grave is small and simple. A flat plaque in the Hollywood Hills that, until recently, was buried in mud and barely visible.
A humble resting place for a self-made beauty giant.
Today, Sally Hansen Inc. is one of the largest beauty brands in the world. But Sally's legacy is so much more than that. A self-made woman who defied her era, her story is as inspiring today as it was then.