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One On 1: Georgette Mosbacher Entertains Without Fear

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Georgette Mosbacher's world now includes business deals, fundraising and hosting salons at her Upper East Side apartment -- a stark contrast to her small town upbringing in the Midwest. NY1's Budd Mishkin filed the following "One On 1" report.

Georgette Mosbacher occasionally finds herself in moments that would have seemed inconceivable growing up back in Indiana. Moments such as hosting the former prime minister of Pakistan at a dinner at her Fifth Avenue apartment, with a dining room table all set for Halloween.

Budd Mishkin: Are the Pakistani officials big Halloween fans?

Georgette Mosbacher: I'll probably have to explain what jack-o-lanterns are. But he will be when the dinner is over.

For the cosmetics executive and Republican party fundraiser, it's been quite a journey. She grew up poor in a one parent home in Indiana, was a regular guest at the first Bush White House and now entertains New York, national and world leaders at parties and salons.

"I tease my friends and say I'm a redneck who lives on Fifth Ave but I really am a redneck who lives on Fifth Ave...and I don't have a problem with that. I'm proud of where i came from," Mosbacher says.

At her day job, Mosbacher is the CEO of Borghese, a multi-million dollar cosmetics company whose products are sold both at Bloomingdales and Costco.

As a businesswoman, she cares about her products' appearance, and her own too.

"I know that the women's libbists will beat me up for this. But so be it because I think that they've lied to women for a long time, Mosbacher says. "And to pretend that appearance is not important is not to tell the truth."

Mosbacher first worked for Faberge, and then in the late 80's and 90's ran a company called La Prairie. One of her mottos is never go anywhere without lipstick, even on a trip to visit the troops in Afghanistan.

Budd Mishkin: I guess if you can't put on lipstick in 120 degree weather, you can.

Georgette Mosbacher: I've been doing this for a living for a long time. If I can't do that under any circumstances, then I have failed my mission.

New York has a lot of cosmetics executives, but not many who travel to forward bases in war zones and raise millions of dollars for Republicans.

"Here it's so polarized automatically, they think I'm a right wing wacko because I'm a Republican. I don't see myself that way," Mosbacher says. "The minute they find I'm a Republican, they've made a judgement about me. That's unfortunate."

Mosbacher says she has many Democratic friends with whom she can find common ground, including one actress whose politics could not be more different -- Rosie O'Donnell.


"Rosie and I are the odd couple, but we're good friends and she gave me one of her Emmys and had it reengraved for my birthday," Mosbacher says.

Mosbacher's ability as a fundraiser is serious business, for causes like the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, and for Senator John McCain's presidential runs in 2000 and 2008. Despite the entrée that comes with her wealth and political connections, she says she still fights the "dumb blonde" syndrome.

"Glamour and beauty can not be compatible with intellect," Mosbacher says. "I'll go to a conference and see that I ask a question in a discussion on Afghanistan. 'Why is she talking?' I still get that, and it still surprises me and still bothers me."

When she was just a young girl, a tragedy changed the course of Georgette Mosbacher's life forever.

"Having come home one day from school seven years old to find out my father was dead. To see the turmoil in what my mom was going through and have these three younger siblings. From that moment on I'm going to take care of this family," recalls Mosbacher.

Mosbacher was raised by her mother, grandmother and great grandmother in Highland, Indiana.

"There was never any going back and saying if only daddy had lived, There was never any of that. It was 'This is the way it is, now build your life and make the best of your life,'" Mosbacher says.

She helped pay her way through Indiana University by ironing shirts, waiting tables, and even working as a switchboard operator. The goal was simple -- providing her family with the things they didn't have growing up.

"Own car, my mom having her own house. Those were the things. Really material things I thought of first," Mosbacher says.

since then, Mosbacher's life has been filled with peaks and valleys.
After the breakup of her second marriage, she began her career as a cosmetics executive.

Her third and longest marriage, to former U.S. commerce secretary Robert Mosbacher, made her a frequent guest at the first Bush White House, even sitting at the president's table at a state dinner.

"He said 'Georgette let's go dance.' That casually. We knew each other that well," recalls Mosbacher.


Mosbacher says she commuted from Washington, D.C. to her cosmetics business in New York and was clearly not your typical cabinet wife. She got a lot of attention, much of it unwanted.

"The press would treat me in some cases like I was a freak or somehow it was a negative as opposed to being positive," Mosbacher says. "Took me a while to figure that out but it was painful."

And there was more pain, like the 1997 phone call she got from Mosbacher, saying he was leaving her. She says all of her husbands were older men with families of their own, and by the time she focused on having children, she couldn't.

"It was a choice that was taken from me and there was nothing I could do about it. It was one of those periods of time, I don't have a choice here so I have to go on and build my life without that," Mosbacher says.

For the past decade, she’s run the Borghese cosmetics company, lived on Fifth Avenue and the Hamptons, and clearly realized her childhood dream of providing material goods for her family and herself.

“Once I got it, it didn’t have that same excitement. It’s inanimate, it was the relationships and experiences that make my life so exciting and so rich, not the dress I have on," Mosbacher says. "But it’s easy to say that because I have that dress. Many of those hanging in my closet.”

Mosbacher says she prefers a night alone at home or on a boat with a good book. But entertaining at her apartment has become one of her calling cards.

Despite the luxurious surroundings, she says she still embodies the same values taught to her a lifetime ago growing up in Indiana.

“I don’t apologize from where I came from," Mosbacher says. "If you have a problem with the fact that I like country music or that I didn’t go to an Ivy League school, that’s your problem, not mine. I feel like I’m living a dream.”

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