Anita Roddick, the founder of the Body Shop and environmental campaigner, lost her fight with Hepatitis C on September 10, 2007. The British businesswoman embodied the spirit encapsulated in her signature products – social consciousness with feminine ease.
Like the title of her 2003 book, A Revolution in Kindness, Roddick desired compassionate business solutions to international problems. As an eternal optimist, she let clients know that the world could and should be a better place.
Roddick developed skin and hair products with natural ingredients, like her Brazil Nut Conditioner. She firmly rejected the practice of animal testing and steered clear of the chemicals typically infused into beauty products.
“The Body Shop,” she said, “is part of the social responsibility movement that came out he 60’s, out of the activist movement and business practices in Scandinavian countries.”
Born Anita Lucia Perilli on October 23, 1942, she lived an idyllic childhood in Littlehampton, West Sussex. Originally set on teaching Humanities, Anita embraced the bohemian ardor of the 1960s, quit her job and began to travel the world.
The aromas and sensations she encountered in her travels later influenced Anita’s beauty products.
Anita met her husband, Gordon Roddick, at a nightclub and the couple wed in 1970. Gordon told Anita that he planned to fulfill his lifelong dream of riding horseback from Buenos Aires to New York. Anita accepted his quest, despite the fact that it would take two years to complete, away from her and their two young daughters.
During her husband’s hiatus, Anita dreamed up the vision of the Body Shop. The first store opened in Brighton in 1976 with 25 naturally based skin and hair products. It was a bold move. Anita admitted, “I had no training or experience.”
Gordon returned and helped develop the business structure of the company. With his help, The Body Shop realized its great potential.
By 1990, Anita Roddick was the fourth richest woman in the United Kingdom.
The Body Shop was sold to L’Oreal Cosmetics for 130 million pounds in 2006. Roddick donated 30 million pounds to her self-named foundation, believing that her money should be spent on work of social value.
Anita Roddick publicly announced her contraction of Hepatitis C in 2007. She had acquired the disease from an infected blood transfusion when giving birth to her second daughter, Samantha. She only discovered the Hepatitis C nearly thirty-five years after the transfusion took place.
In her last year, Anita Roddick encouraged everyday people to lend a helping hand to others in need, including those with AIDS and other life-threatening diseases. She patronized the Hepatitis C Trust and a host of other charities.
Anita Roddick advocated a “new language” for social responsibility. She was a superstar truly equipped with a new language, letting people know they could make a difference. To Ms. Roddick, this was the power and beauty of humanity.
Written by Ilana Fried