Highland, Indiana seems a long way from Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. But after talking with Georgette Mosbacher, CEO of Borghese Cosmetics and Republican fundraiser, one gets the impression that you can take the girl out of Indiana but you can’t take Indiana out of the girl. Smartly dressed in black slacks and top and wearing monogrammed black flats, Georgette proudly says, “I’m a redneck who lives in Manhattan. I didn’t go to an Ivy League school. I love country music. I’ve lived an extraordinary life for someone who lost her father at seven and was raised by a single mother, grandmother and great-grandmother in Highland, Indiana.”
“Extraordinary” is the operative word here. The beautifully decorated Fifth Avenue apartment aside, Georgette has lived a life that has had Cinderella-like moments. Her former husband was the late Robert (“Bob”) Mosbacher, best friend to President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of Commerce in his cabinet. The Mosbachers attended 14 State Dinners at the White House, met nearly every major head of state during the Bush Administration including Margaret Thatcher, Brian Mulroney, Francois Mitterrand, Helmut Kohl and Lech Walesa. “I’m not sure we have that kind of leadership any more,” laments Georgette.
Reminiscing about Thatcher, Georgette mentions the time she “houseguested” at their Washington home where Thatcher proved the perfect guest: Her only request was to have a hairdresser available. As Georgette notes, “Margaret Thatcher was incredibly confident in what she believed. The recently released movie, The Iron Lady, does a good job of portraying her. “
Georgette’s marriage to Mosbacher served to introduce her to the social and political elites in Houston, Washington and New York. Looking back on her days in Washington, Georgette praises the tone and civility of President Bush’s Administration. “The White House under President Bush along with James Baker (Chief of Staff), Nick Brady (Treasury Secretary) and Bob Mosbacher was the last White House of the true gentleman.” She explains, “These men never wore jeans at the White House, they always wore a tie, and never referred to the President as ‘George.’” On a more personal level, Georgette remembers “during our 15 years of marriage, Bob never failed to pull out the chair for me at the breakfast table.” The marriage ended in divorce but Georgette remained friends with Mosbacher until his death from cancer two years ago. (Photo above, from left, James Baker, Georgette Mosbacher, President George H.W. Bush, Robert Mosbacher).
These days Georgette is a busy cosmetics company executive and a major fundraiser for the Republican Party. A morning person and self-described loner, Georgette is up at 6 a.m. every morning answering emails and correspondence before heading down to her office in the mid-30’s. She tries to avoid emailing throughout the day and likes to return to her apartment by 3:30 or so to make phone calls and to play with her dogs. Midway through our meeting, I had the pleasure of greeting her copper-colored King Charles spaniel, Lady Guinevere, as she scampered into the living room. Georgette points out that the dogs (there are two others) get plenty of exercise because of her 12 foot long hallway, where they are free to run and play.
Most evenings one can find Georgette home with a good book. (She just finished the Steve Jobs’ biography). If she is out to dinner or a party, she is, as she puts it, “always the first to leave.”
Given society’s emphasis on beauty and youth, Georgette describes her beauty routine as one that includes “a salt scrub in the shower every day to help exfoliate.” She also mentions her “good genes” evidenced by her 80-something year-old mother who lives in Nashville, Tennessee. And given her role at Borghese, she says, “I love what cosmetics do for women and of course I use and wear what I make. “ But, she is quick to point out that the best beauty tip she can give women is to smile. “There’s no product that I can sell you if you don’t feel good about yourself. Smiles are pretty irresistible.” (Above photo, Georgette with Valentino).
She also keeps busy traveling to such places as China, where one-third of her business is based, Afghanistan and Iraq, where she visits the troops and annual trips to Kenya to visit close friends who own a ranch there. “I also take a lot of little vacations that afford me the chance to sail,” she says. Georgette loves the water so much that she can imagine someday living on a boat.
As a businesswoman, Georgette worries about the toll heavy regulation takes on her company and believes the government is making it increasingly difficult for businesses to create jobs so that “people can make their mortgage payments.” She has clearly defined political views. In Georgette’s view, governments should be limited and only do two things: “protect us and do every thing they can to empower businesses to create jobs.”
While Georgette’s views won’t resonate with everyone, she does speak with passion when she notes, “I worked my way through college waiting tables and ironing shirts. There’s a real freedom and liberation that comes from having to do things for myself.” She laughs and says, “I don’t need to call a plumber or electrician when I have a problem.”
Aside from her day job, Georgette has been a long-time fundraiser for Republican candidates. Given the upcoming election, she shares her thoughts on the 2012 Presidential race. “President Obama is beatable but it will be hard. I’m confident that Mitt [Romney] will be the nominee for the Republicans but the process is going to take longer than it should.” As she offers, “Mitt’s run a business and the Olympics and has a breadth of experience both in and out of politics; this gives him a resume well-suited to become President.” She mentions as possible Romney running mates governors Chris Christie (NJ) and Bob McDonnell (VA) and General David Petraeus (current CIA head). And, in perhaps defense of Romney’s wealth, Georgette argues, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. I’ve never apologized for being rich.”
Given her charmed life, what I ask is her most memorable time and moment? Without hesitation she points to her four years in Washington when her husband was Commerce Secretary—and to one specific evening. She and her husband were having dinner in the White House private family quarters. The only other guests were the Queen of Thailand and her two children. President Bush had to leave the dinner before dessert was served to go to Madrid for a meeting between the Israelis and Palestinians. As she and her husband waved good-bye to the President from the White House terrace and with the Queen of Thailand and her children standing next to her, Georgette thought, “How did a girl from Highland, Indiana, and on the edge of poverty, get here?”
Woman Around Town’s Six Questions
Favorite Place to Eat: The Greek diner around the corner from her Fifth Avenue apartment. For dinner parties, a favorite is beef bourguignon with mashed potatoes.
Favorite Place to Shop: Online and I like Ralph Rucci’s clothes
Favorite New York Sight: The Intrepid
Favorite New York Moment: Flying into NY and seeing the skyline at any time takes my breath away
What You Love About New York: It’s the crossroads of the world. You’ll find everything here.
What You Hate About New York: Honking horns.
Borghese products are sold at Bloomingdale’s and at Lord and Taylor.