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Anita Roddick, 64; Founder Of Activist Cosmetics Firm, Diagnosed Late with HCV
 
 
  By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 11, 2007; Page B07
 
Anita Roddick, 64, founder of the Body Shop and Britain's leading female entrepreneur, whose cruelty-free cosmetics and environmentally sensitive packaging helped change the worldwide skin-care industry, died of a brain hemorrhage Sept. 10 at St. Richard's Hospital in Chichester, West Sussex, England.
 
Ms. Roddick announced in February that she had cirrhosis of the liver, caused by hepatitis C she acquired during a blood transfusion 36 years ago when she was giving birth to her youngest daughter. She didn't find out about the infection until two years ago.
 
Anita Roddick launched the Body Shop in 1976, just as the environmental movement was taking off.
 
"At first, I wasn't that worried; after all, I'd had the disease for 35 years without even knowing it. But then, last year, the hep C turned into cirrhosis of the liver.. .. I have realized that I might not have that much time left, and I want to make the most of it," she told Newsweek in June.
 
Dramatic and energetic, the 5-foot-2-inch Ms. Roddick described herself as a flower child of the 1960s who launched the company in 1976 to support herself and her two children. Her nature-based cosmetics, such as pineapple facial wash, jojoba moisture cream and elderflower eye gel, came out just as the environmental movement took off.
 
The Body Shop's promotion of recycling and its use of suppliers among indigenous people in developing countries made the British company a phenomenon, growing from a single store to more than 2,100 stores in 55 countries within 30 years. The company was purchased in 2006 by L'Oreal of France for $1.2 billion.
 
Ms. Roddick, the public face of the firm, devoted significant hours to globalization protests, rainforest preservation marches and Take a Daughter to Work days. The anti-corporate crusader, who once famously said, "I hate the beauty industry. It is a monster selling unattainable dreams. It lies. It cheats. It exploits women," became a favorite of singer Sting and Princess Diana. Queen Elizabeth II made her a dame commander of the British Empire in 2003.
 
"I came out of the womb as an activist. I'm part of the 1960s; it's in my DNA. So the idea of dying with loads of money doesn't appeal to me at all. I want to use the last years I have to get my hands dirty working for civil change. I want to be able to see the positive difference that money can make by giving away what I have," she said in June.
 
Anita Lucia Perella, the daughter of Italian immigrants in seaside Littlehampton, England, was attracted to activism after reading a book about the Holocaust. She graduated from Bath College of Education in 1962, taught school briefly, then spent a year in Paris clipping newspapers for the International Herald Tribune. She spent another year in Geneva working for the United Nations, then hit the hippie trail.
 
She sailed to Tahiti, New Hebrides, New Caledonia and Australia, ending up in Johannesburg by way of Madagascar and Mauritius. Running afoul of apartheid laws by going to a jazz club on a "black night," she was deported by the South African police.
 
Back in England, she met and married a Scotsman, Gordon Roddick, and with him opened a restaurant and a small hotel. Within a few years, the restaurant closed and her husband took off on an epic horseback journey from Buenos Aires to New York, with her blessing.
 
Then 33, Ms. Roddick borrowed $8,000 from a bank, using the hotel as collateral, and contacted an herbalist found in the Yellow Pages to help with her unusual list of ingredients. She painted the walls and shelves of her backstreet Brighton store emerald green and started with 15 products in small, plain bottles. If customers brought in their own container to refill, all the better. The business took off, and within six months, she opened a second store. Her husband, whose horse fell down a ravine in the Andes halfway through his trip, returned and took over the financial end of the business.
 
From the start, it was a social cause masquerading as a highly successful business. Franchisees had to agree to support some local community or environmental project. Products could not be tested on animals, and such nonprofit groups as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth were strongly encouraged to customers. Body Shop trucks sported slogans, including Ms. Roddick's favorite: "If you think you're too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito."
 
In 1984, the Body Shop went public, and shares rose more than 50 percent on the first day. But 10 years later, the company's stock price began to languish. It was slow to enter the U.S. market, and competitors stepped into the breach. In 1997, the Roddicks unsuccessfully tried to take the Body Shop private with the aim of turning it into a charity. Ms. Roddick stepped down as chief executive the next year, and she and her husband stepped down as co-chairmen of the company in 2002. She retained a role as consultant after L'Oreal bought the firm.
 
She had, however, started a trend. Natural cosmetics, which hadn't even shown up in industry figures when she began, by 1992 accounted for about 4 percent of the $16 billion U.S. cosmetics market.
 
Ms. Roddick wrote a number of books, including "Business as Unusual: My Entrepreneurial Journey" (2000), "Take It Personally: How to Make Conscious Choices to Change the World" (2001) and "Body and Soul: Profits With Principles -- The Amazing Success Story of Anita Roddick and the Body Shop" (1991).
 
"I have a deep sense that to accumulate wealth is obscene," she told Time in 2004. And when the community gives you your wealth, I have a strong belief that you give it back." One of her returns was a donation of $1.8 million to Amnesty International for a "school of activism" at the organization's new Human Rights Action Centre in London.
 
Survivors, in addition to her husband, include two daughters.
 
 
 
 
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