Where does the name of your new fragrance, Désirable, come from?
“For me, desire represents the most exciting part of love. Before wanting to please, one wants to feel desired. Desire precedes conquest. It affects your senses and your mind. In my opinion, Désirable – into which I have put a lot of myself – is all of that.”

You have been married to the same man for 20 years. What advice do you have about keeping desire alive?
“Everything depends on your partner. Some couples like to be playful, to abandon themselves completely or to resist. If a man is used to easy conquests, he will probably appreciate some resistance. For another man, the magical moment of that first meeting is enough to win him over – you don’t have to pretend to be indifferent or unavailable. In the end, there is no magic formula.”

You wanted to become a concert pianist but got into TV instead. How did that happen?
“At 18, I developed a terrible case of pleurisy [a lung disease], which totally bowled me over. I didn’t have enough muscle strength left to play the piano! Another incident – this time, a fortunate one – led me into TV. I went with a friend who was auditioning for a commercial, and they chose me!”

How did your gig as a TV host prepare you for the beauty industry?
“I conquered my shyness and learned to not always aim for perfection. I saw what a huge effort that demands – and how it totally deprives you of spontaneity. TV was really therapeutic for me. I met a lot of women, and I wanted to understand them better.”

Did that experience inspire you to open your first beauty institute?
“Definitely. I felt that by surrounding myself with specialists in clothing, beauty and lifestyle, I could find the answers to women’s questions – questions that I, too, had. Also, I couldn’t bear a director insinuating that I owed my success to him! So I opened my first institute, without having the slightest understanding of business. I wanted to help women come into their own. After all, you can learn to be a woman! Every time a student felt that magic, I felt that I had accomplished something, even if the days ended late in the evening.”

Was that sense of duty sometimes a burden?
“Not at all. Not at that time! [Laughs.] I was so passionate. Only later did things become more complicated: financial woes, problems with the banks, near bankruptcy, a fire…. I overcame all those obstacles. Fortunately, I have also known success! I launched the makeup line and the first aloe vera products in 1972 -I was inspired after visiting Mexico, where aloe vera was considered a miracle healing plant. But my biggest coup has been the fragrance Neiges. It’s my personal favourite, and it’s still a top seller across Canada.”

Image courtesy of Lise WatierIn the ’70s, your catchphrase “You are a woman, you are beautiful” democratized beauty before anyone else did.
“That was my goal: to make beauty accessible to every woman. That’s why, even in my first makeup collection, I chose products with a range of colours that were pleasing to all women, regardless of their age, social milieu or budget.”

How have things changed since you sold your company [to a private equity firm] last May?
“I still feel the same devotion as before but without the financial pressure and the worries that flow from that pressure, although I’m working harder than ever now! I’m overseeing three house renovations – I love giving old houses a fresh look and furnishing them with things I’ve collected from around the world. As passions go, renovation takes a lot of time, especially with business and family obligations. I also make time for my poodle, Simba.”

What’s in your makeup bag?
“I always carry my red Wow lipstick and my lipliner, which is indispensable. Mascara and kohl eyeliner are always at hand – without them, I’d hardly recognize myself!”

Your products are sold around the world, from Russia to Saudi Arabia. What have you learned about women and beauty?
“Women’s concerns are universal. Every woman lives with insecurity at some point, regardless of where she comes from. She wonders ‘Am I the best I can be?’ or ‘If I were a blonde or a brunette, would that change my life or my prospects?’ Women don’t buy products for who they are. They buy products for who they could be – for the potential to create beauty: glowing skin, full lips, a sense of well-being. Beauty is a way of bringing out personality.”

Greatest hits: The top five Lise Watier launches
1. Neiges Eau de Toilette Spray ($55 for 50 mL) Launch 1993. Details With notes of jasmine, orange blossom and hyacinth, it has been one of Canada’s bestselling fragrances for the past 15 years.

2. Eye Glitter Liner ($17) Launch 2004. Details With colours ranging from peacock to cognac, this smudge-proof liner is credited with attracting younger customers.

3. L’Expérience Morning Potion Power Creme ($62) Launch 2008. Details Packed with nutrients like calcium, this moisturizer helps firm mature skin.

4. Base Miracle Pore Minimizing Primer ($28) Launch 1999. Details This soothing primer minimizes oil and leaves skin with a matte, silky finish.

5. Portfolio Professional Correctors ($29) Launch 1998. Details Still a bestseller, this was the first concealer palette on the market.

Lise’s favourites
Book365 Dalai Lama: Daily Advice from the Heart. It’s an amazing source of inspiration and reflection.”
Musician “I really like Kent Nagano, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra’s musical director. He always performs with incredible intensity and sensitivity.”
Fashion finds “I have some vintage Roberto Cavalli and Thierry Mugler pieces that I really cherish.”
• “Grace Kelly. She was the epitome of beauty, elegance and poise.”
Ultimate indulgence “Chocolate or a good massage.”
Getaway “Any new destination. It’s all about discovery.”

Image courtesy of Lise Watier