For 20 years, Carolyn Murphy has served as a—if not the—face of Estée Lauder, imbuing her all-American looks and charm into the heritage beauty brand’s iconic campaigns. “We’re in New York where it all began,” Murphy told Vogue last night inside French restaurant Majorelle on 63rd street, where Leonard and Aerin Lauder hosted an intimate dinner in honor of the milestone anniversary. “When I did the test shoot 20 years ago, I knew as soon as she walked in, and after speaking to her and seeing her beauty, that she was the perfect face,” recalls Aerin, creative director of Estée Lauder, of their first meeting. “20 years later, she still is.”
Beautiful, elegant, strong, and wise are just a few of the words that Aerin used to describe Murphy as guests—including Jessica Stam, Paloma Elsesser, and Paul Andrew—began arriving to toast the veteran supermodel. “She embodies all of that and grows into the role more and more, which is quite extraordinary,” she continued, adding that she’s cultivated countless memories with Murphy over their two-decades-long friendship, from surfing in Costa Rica to sipping martinis at the Beverly Hills Hotel and vintage shopping with Steven Meisel in L.A.
“Every single person here has played a huge part of my life personally and professionally,” said Murphy, wearing a sleek black Jonathan Simkhai dress with polished blonde waves swept over one shoulder, as she emphasized the relationships she’s built with both Aerin and executive group president Jane Hertzmark Hudis. And while Murphy’s over 30-year career counts many highlights, from major couture catwalks to unforgettable editorials, her partnership with Estée Lauder continues to be a pinnacle for her as a woman, mother, and philanthropist.
“I grew up with the brand and have had all these rites of passage throughout my life,” said Murphy of her long-standing ties to the house that Estée built, from playing with her nana’s gold tubes of lipstick to stealing her mom’s White Linen perfume, to eventually starring in the Beautiful fragrance ad campaigns she once poured over as a teenager. “I had worn Beautiful since I was in high school and remembered the ads with Paulina Porizkova….and then there I was in them all a sudden,” Murphy, who made sure to send each guest home with a bottle of sparkling floral Beautiful, reminisced with a smile. “There are so many markers throughout my life and with the brand. It’s still a pinch-me moment. It always feels like a dream come true.”