Bijou Candles take their names from women from history and pop culture who inspire us. Growing up as queer women, we often found ourselves looking to these icons for comfort and strength. More rarely would we even find ourselves represented on screen. For the work these women have done to lay the path for us to walk, we like to light a candle in their honor.
We spent a year and a half developing the fragrances for the first seven candles of the Starlet Collection. We began referring to them as "she" and saying things like "omg she smells like a cozy day in bed!" They really started to have personalities to us. It became our plan pretty early on to name all of our candles after women. We've always been very inspired by women in history and pop culture and aesthetically, the candles have a very Old Hollywood glam vibe to them, especially with the gold rim, so it was sort of a no brainer to name them after classic Hollywood actresses.
Lena Horne is the inspiration behind our Lena • Lavender & Chamomile Candle.
Lena was a black actress, singer, dancer and civil rights activist, born in 1917 in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. When she was 16, she joined the chorus line at Harlem’s Cotton Club, a whites-only establishment that featured black performers. At 21, she starred in her first film role, The Duke is Tops. Soon after signed with MGM and appeared in such films as Panama Hattie and Adelaide Hall. She was never featured in a leading role and her scenes were shot so that they could be cut when they were shown in the South, since most theaters in the South wouldn’t show films that cast black actors in any roles that weren’t subservient to white actors.
Horne lost the role of Julie LaVerne in the 1951 version of Show Boat to Ava Gardner, a personal friend of hers, due to a ban on interracial relationships in films. MGM executives wanted Gardner to sing over Horne’s recordings in the film, which offended both Horne and Gardner.
Lena was discouraged by Hollywood’s overt racism and focused on her jazz singing career. She established herself as a premier nightclub performer, Broadway star and appeared in many television specials. She was the first black woman to be nominated for the Tony Award for “Best Actress in a Musical” for her part in Jamaica. She was also the first African-American elected to serve on the Screen Actors Guild Board of Directors.
Lena was a long time activist in the Civil Rights Movement. When entertaining the troops during WWII, she refused to perform for segregated audiences or for groups in which German POWs were seated in front of African American servicemen. Upon seeing that the black soldiers were seated behind German POWs she promptly walked off the stage and performed only to the black soldiers with the German POWs behind her. 👏🏼
She was at the March on Washington and spoke and performed on behalf of the NAACP, SNCC and the Nation Council of Negro Women. She also worked alongside Eleanor Roosevelt to pass anti-lynching laws. She was awarded the Spingarn Medal, an award given for outstanding achievement by an African American, by the NAACP in 1983.
Lena Horne was not only an incredible talent, she was a trailblazer, an activist and an inspiration, and did all of this in the face of adversity. For all of these reasons and so many more, we light a candle in her honor.
Hedy Lamarr is the inspiration behind our Hedy • Ambre & Tubereuse Candle.
Hedy Lamarr was born in Austria in 1914 and was known as an American film actress and inventor. She made her start with several film roles in Europe, including the infamous film Ecstasy, which featured an 18 year old Hedy simulating an orgasm. This was highly controversial at the time, and while the film had gained artistic notoriety, it was banned in America and Germany.
In 1937 she met Louis B. Mayer, the head of MGM, in London and he brought her to Hollywood. Mayer began promoting her as “the world’s most beautiful woman” and she was quickly cast in Algiers. She went on to work in several films, being typecast as the glamorous seductress. Some of her notable works are Boomtown, Tortilla Flat, and White Cargo, among many others.
In addition to her huge success as a film actress, Hedy worked in her spare time as an inventor. Some of her early inventions included an improved stoplight and a tablet that dissolves in water to create a fizzy drink (Lamarr called this one a failure). She was close friends with Howard Hughes, who knew of her inventiveness, and she was the one who suggested he change the shape of his airplanes from square shaped to more streamlined.
During WWII Lamarr wanted to join the National Inventors Council, but was told that she could better help the war effort by using her celebrity status to sell war bonds. In spite of this, Hedy studied radio controlled torpedoes and learned that they could be set off course by jamming frequencies. Upon learning this, Hedy invented a frequency hopping technology that could not be jammed or tracked. She and composer friend, George Antheil, created a device using this technology with a miniaturized player-piano mechanism, which they patented. This frequency hopping technology was the first of its kind and is still used in modern day technology, most notably WiFi.
Hedy’s technology was not used by the military until 1962, at which point her patent had expired and she did not receive credit for it. In 2014, Lamarr was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for frequency-hopping spread spectrum technology.
Being touted as “the most beautiful woman in the world” was almost a curse for Hedy, as she lived out the rest of her days in seclusion as she grew older. She was known for her physical beauty, not her brilliant mind, and this was something she struggled with until she passed in 2000.
We admire Hedy for her intelligence, perseverance and the path she created for women inventors. (Also, thanks for the WiFi!) For these reasons and so many more, we light a candle in her honor.