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					                                                             today on sunday sunday october 2, 2011   6                                                                    today on sunday sunday october 2, 2011                7




                                                                                                          The beauty of persistence
                                                                                                                       Estée Lauder Cosmetics MD Grace Ban has fought cancer in her own family and championed society’s fight
                                                                                                                                              against the disease. She gets personal with Cheow Xin Yi


                                                                                                                                    the
                                                                                                                                                                         it was her perfectionist streak and her willingness to            industry, they perpetuate (peoples’ insecurities) too — you
                                                                                                                                                                         articulate her views that got her the top position in the         ain’t in the ‘in’ group when you don’t drive that model.
                                                                                                                                                                         company in Singapore. “I always tell my girls, if you want        It’s prevalent across many products.”
                                                                                                                                                                         to be in an American company, you have to be expressive.               Citing Estée Lauder’s research on the cosmetics buy-

                                                                                                                        perspectives
                                                                                                                                                                         If you want to keep quiet ... you might as well work for a        ing decisions of Chinese, Korean and Australian con-
                                                                                                                                                                         Japanese company. Here, the squeaky wheel gets the oil.           sumers, Mrs Ban said that for the Chinese woman it is a
                                                                                                                                                                         Otherwise, you don’t get noticed.”                                statement of confidence and arrival — “(her) motivation
                                                                                                                                                                              She rose through the ranks, as a Clinique brand manager      for buying cosmetics is about status and power, because

                                                                                                          T   he first thing that draws Grace Ban’s gaze as she steps
                                                                                                              into LaBrezza at The St Regis Singapore are the abstract
                                                                                                          paintings on the restaurant walls.
                                                                                                                                                                         before moving to the group’s premium Estée Lauder brand
                                                                                                                                                                         in 1992. She became the group’s managing director in 2000.
                                                                                                                                                                              Ms Ban felt the burden of running both the opera-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           I can afford it. Is she a victim? No.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                In the more mature markets in the West, women are
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           starting to look at products holistically, such as whether
                                                                                                               She self-deprecatingly calls herself an amateur art       tions of a multinational and a family in 2004, when her           they are damaging to the environment. “The China con-
                                                                                                          collector. As she examines the works by local artist Lim Joo   mother was diagnosed with a bone marrow disease.                  sumer, on the other hand, has only been around 10 years,
                                                                                                          Hong, the managing director of Estée Lauder Cosmetics          Then, six months after her mother’s death in 2006, her            at most 15 years. Does she care that she pollutes the en-
                                                                                                          Singapore — elegantly dressed in a custom-made Peter           husband of almost two decades was diagnosed with                  vironment? That level of consciousness is not yet there
                                                                                                          Kor black dress matched with a bespoke bag — gives a           nasopharyngeal cancer.                                            when you are going from a society of communism to
                                                                                                          lively rundown on how she once had a hunch about the                “My husband had two nurses round the clock looking           consumerism.”
                                                                                                          works of an up-and-coming Chinese artist, Fang Xiang.          after him and we had another domestic helper at home.                  Ms Ban notes that Estée Lauder uses wind power in
                                                                                                               Her attraction to his work solidified at the gallery as   So you run (the house) like you run an office,” she says.         manufacturing its products and the company is making a
                                                                                                          she watched a regular client pick out five pieces by him.      “I told all (my employees), my husband is sick, so some           concerted effort to cut down on packaging. But, she adds,
                                                                                                          “It was my birthday, and I told myself, ‘You are allowed       days I might not be a nice person and they would need             the company does that because it values sustainability,
                                                                                                          one painting’ ... And then later, he went on to win awards.    to understand. They all chipped in when I needed help             not because it wants to impress. “We don’t even talk
                                                                                                          So now, the art gallery has offered to buy the painting        in the office — it was a good place to be.” Her husband           about it ... We’ve been doing so much on breast cancer ...
                                                                                                          back! It means you’ve got something good.”                     passed away recently.                                             I really don’t think we need to harp on sustainability as
                                                                                                               As we sit down to dinner, Ms Ban remarks that this             Ironically, Ms Ban first began her fight against cancer      a brand differentiator.”
                                                                                                          is her third business meal of the day. It’s a good thing       15 years ago, as brand manager at Estée Lauder. With its
                                                                                                          she is a keen foodie, who has dined at the chef’s table at     US parent company supporting a burgeoning movement
                                                                                                          places like Iggy’s (whose owner she has known since he         in breast cancer awareness since 1992, she decided in
                                                                                                          was a waiter). She also loves working her own kitchen          1995 to start her own awareness campaign in Singapore.
                                                                                                          magic whipping up fare like shark’s fin omelette and roast          This year, with Estée Lauder Singapore’s committee
                                                                                                          chicken — recipes she inherited from her mother-in-law         successfully persuading The Singapore Flyer to be illumi-
                                                                                                          back when she and her would-be husband were dating.            nated in pink yesterday to mark the start of Breast Cancer
                                                                                                               “She was a very good cook. So before I got married,       Awareness month, Ms Ban said the local movement has
                                                                                                          I ‘apprenticed’ myself in her kitchen,” she quips.             come a long way. “I remember when I first approached the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       What Grace Ban had at LaBrezza
                                                                                                               As one of the most powerful names in Singapore’s          Cancer Society in 1995 to back our cause, and they said,
                                                                                                          beauty industry — overseeing 18 beauty brands from Estée       ‘we look after all cancers, no such thing as a dedicated                               Insalata verde
                                                                                                          Lauder and Clinique to MAC — Ms Ban, who is in her mid-        special month for breast cancer’. I felt my tail between my                     Mesclun salad with tomatoes,
                                                                                                          50s, readily admits to her “domestic side”. The mother         legs as I went back to the office — no one took it seriously.”                  onion and lemon vinaigrette
                                                                                                          of two boys has just returned from a trip to Melbourne              But her doggedness paid off. The next year, the society                        Gamberoni alla griglia
                                                                                                          where her 22-year-old son has started university term,         decided to support the company’s effort. “Sometimes, you                    Grilled king prawns served with baby
                                                                                                          to help him clean his apartment and make sure he knows         have to be very persistent. When you are turned down,                        romaine with lemon butter sauce
                                                                                                          how to cook. Her second son, 18, is in a polytechnic here.     never say die. Go back again.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Total: S$60
                                                                                                               Her love for food comes from her East Malaysian roots.         Breast cancer is the most common cancer among
                                                                                                          After she moved to Singapore when she was two, she spent       females, who are the bulk of the company’s customers,
                                                                                                          long holidays in Sabah where her family owned farms and        she notes. “Everybody has a friend or a relative who has
                                                                                                          plantations and “there was nothing to do but eat”. Back in     had it. My cousin had breast cancer three years ago. She
                                                                                                          Singapore, she pestered the amahs at her uncle’s home to       detected it really early during a routine check ... she’s now
                                                                                                          teach her to cook. They put her to plucking bean sprouts       clear. That’s why we are so enthusiastic: If you detect it
                                                                                                          and shelling crabs. “So now, I can really pluck taugeh and     early, and it’s localised ... the survival rate is 98 per cent.
                                                                                                          take the crab meat out really cleanly,” she says proudly.      So why be careless about this?”

                                                                                                          BE THE SQUEAKY WHEEL                                           MORE THAN SKIN DEEP
                                                                                                          After getting her degree in business administration here,      Ms Ban is also a great proponent of women making
                                                                                                          she landed marketing and advertising jobs with an engi-        informed consumer choices about beauty and skincare
                                                                                                          neering firm and department store Metro before starting        — which is why she pooh-poohed the criticism that the
                                                                                                          her 30-year career at Estée Lauder Companies.                  beauty industry exploits women’s insecurities.
                                                                                                              While she was “never ambitious”, Ms Ban reckons                “It’s a little bit unfair to say that because in the car




Ms Grace ban at the st regis singapore. Photos by Jason ho

				
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posted:10/6/2011
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