Cosmetics queen comes home

Alumna opens first Indiana makeup counter

POSTED AT 12:00 AM ON Mar. 22, 2006 


Before meeting their

boyfriends, Jean Ford's

sorority sisters always stopped by her room in the Kappa Alpha Theta house.

Ford was a vendor for Holiday Magic Cosmetics, but she said she had more fun giving her friends makeovers and wasn't concerned about making money.

"I was a dateless wonder for the first three years of college," Ford said of her time as a student at IU in the 1960s. "I never went out, but everyone I made up looked good."

Ford and her twin sister Jane went from giving their sorority sisters makeovers to founding Benefit, a cosmetics company with more than 600 counters in 10 countries.

The San Francisco-based company is bringing Jean back home to debut the company's first counter in Indiana Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Sephora in the Keystone Mall in Indianapolis.

"It's about time Benefit got to Indy," Jean said. "I'm excited ... because that's my hometown."

Jean describes Benefit as cosmetics that are not only beautiful, but solve a dilemma. She said the cosmetics, known for their quirky names and whimsical packaging, blend color and trend into a kind of art piece.

"I think beauty ought to be fun," Jean said. "At best, it shouldn't be taken seriously. Smiling is the best beauty cosmetic and I try to bring humor (to Benefit)."

The opening of the Benefit counter Saturday will feature "Dallas," a bronzer product with the tag line, "an outdoor glow for an indoor gal." Jean said the powder personifies Benefit's products in that it's easy to use and gives instant results.

"Everyone can use it and everyone does use it," Jean said. "And the box is so darn cute."

After all, she designed it. Jean received a degree in art education at IU and said that degree and other experiences at IU, such as being a member of IU Student Foundation's prestigious Steering Committee, played a key role in helping her launch her company.

"My degree in art ed and the IU Foundation gave me the opportunity to succeed," Jean said. "I had no idea I would found a cosmetics company that would be global.

While she lived in the Theta house at IU, Jean said the look seen across campus was "Twiggy," after the famous model, with girls peering out from eyes thickly lined with black eyeliner and weighed down with false eyelashes and soft matte eye shadows.

"If I got extra money I'd wear Estée Lauder," Jean said, "but there wasn't a large variety like there is now. There was very high end and then drugstore. But it was pretty cute."

Scott Lundy, color specialist at Sephora, said the store has been busy preparing for Ford's visit and the opening of the counter.

"The response we've gotten has been amazing," he said. "Indiana people love Indiana and Indiana things, including a major cosmetics line."

Ford's visit marks the store's first major event since it opened in October of last year. Lundy said the store has already scheduled 200 appointments for the seven hours the 10 visiting Benefit specialists will be available.

Opening a Benefit counter in Indianapolis is the beginning of Jean's dream to open a Benefit boutique in the city.

"I do miss Indiana," Jean said. "I've been in California for 30 years, but I still feel I'm a Hoosier and I still have a great fondness for IU."


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