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Q&A: Kelly Bensimon sits with John Demsey, president of Estee Lauder

John Demsey, president of Estee Lauder

John Demsey, president of Estee Lauder Credit: John Demsey, president of Estee Lauder (Getty Images)

You grew up exposed to the cosmetics world. Do you think people should stick to what they know, or try something else? My family knew Charles Revson of Revlon and my cousin was in the fragrance industry with Jovan musk oil. I always did what I loved even though when I was younger a boss told me I'd never make it in the beauty business. I've spent the lionshare of my life here at Estee Lauder.

What do you have in your hotel room when you travel? I always have every newspaper and magazine: fashion, culture and gossip ... and I watch MTV from the area. I always drive around to see the elite neighborhoods and the underground areas. I want to get a read on the culture as a whole. I'm interested in their art, fashion, beauty, music and entertainment. We hold over 250 MAC-sponsored fashion weeks all over the world. It's important to support the global market - that makes a brand sustainable.

What do you think of the global homogenization of Starbucks and American brands? It's nice to know a venti latte tastes like a venti latte anywhere.

What was the shift in your career that really turned you into a cosmetics forecaster? When I made the move to LA with Estee Lauder, I looked to Asia to build the industry up there. We changed the strategy from promotional to aspirational in China.

If New York is the center of the universe, what do you like about it? I read every New York paper in a specific order ... I like the "Real Housewives of New York" and the youth culture ... and street blogs like and I also love the restaurants from the Four Seasons, Bill's, Viand Coffee Shop, Sirio's and Fred's, the Beatrice Inn and Da Silvano. I also like how you can know everyone here ... yet be invisible.

What should someone starting out in the business wear? A crisp white shirt and a black suit, [and for women] they should always look neat and fit.

Is there a place in NYC that is special to you? [The] Central Park Zoo with my daughter and the sea lions.

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