The Estee Lauder CEO has been fired from a $10 million job over racist meme claims he feels like he’s “under house arrest” in his six-story New York City home after becoming the poster boy for “white privilege.”
- John Dempsey, 67, was forced to leave the cosmetics company in February 2022 after 31 years, amid mounting public pressure.
- He shared a Sesame Street-themed joke, which contains a racial slur, about the coronavirus on his personal Instagram account.
- Dempsey, who has been dubbed “the White Privilege,” spoke up for the first time and said, “I made a mistake.” He has maintained that he misinterpreted the meme
An Estee Lauder executive who was fired after he posted racist memes has claimed he feels “under house arrest” in his $9.2 million six-story home in New York City.
John Dempsey, 67, was forced to leave the cosmetics company in February 2022 after 31 years, amid mounting public pressure.
He shared a Sesame Street-themed joke, which contains a racial slur, about the coronavirus on his personal Instagram account.
It showed Big Bird at the sick Mr. Snuffleupagus’ bedside and read: “You got n***a Snuffy on ‘rona at Chingy’s concert’.”
Dempsey, who has been dubbed “the White Privilege,” spoke up for the first time and said, “I made a mistake.” He has maintained that he misinterpreted a meme that was initially shared by rapper Chingy.
Dempsey was first suspended without pay by Estee Lauder CEO Fabrizio Frieda and Chairman William Lauder, but was soon let go of his $10 million-a-year job.
He resigned as part of a legal agreement after he was called racist for sharing an offensive meme.
“I felt like I was the victim of my identity being stolen,” Demsey told the New York Post.
“I made a mistake and I corrected it. But the life I had before this happened just doesn’t exist anymore.
He has spent most of his time in the six-story East Side townhouse he shares with his 14-year-old daughter, Mary Helen, eight dogs, and two cats.
His home, valued at $9.2 million, is filled with art, furniture, and nearly 600 photographs, including historical prints by Henri Cartier-Bresson and stills from Demsey’s many campaigns for MAC.
Dempsey, who is divorced, detailed his feelings of anger and depression over the past 18 months.
He’s spent some time working out and lost 35 pounds but is mostly stuck with the house he bought in 2018.
“I feel like I was under house arrest,” Demsey said. “And when I go out, people act as if they’re sitting on me.”
The former chief executive officer at Estée Lauder Companies admitted his actions were “stupid and reckless” and prompted by his excessive use of Instagram during the pandemic.
“I was posting about 20 or 30 times a day,” he said. “People really responded to it and it became that kind of thing.”
He added that the meme appeared on his Instagram account at random and insisted it read “n***a” as “nanna”.
“I’ve never used that word in my life,” Demsey said, referring to the racial slur.
But it was deemed a liability and “cancelled”.
“I was a bit of a undertaker,” he claimed. “And those companies and the people that I’ve supported have been so successful because that’s just the way I was.”
Creative director John Ambrose defended Dempsey, saying, “But just because you’re special doesn’t mean you’re racist.”
“Sure, John’s act was sloppy, but I thought he’d be stopped and then Loder would get over it.”
He revealed that he was disappointed with friends who failed to support him publicly after he left Estée Lauder.
Demsey said it has become more difficult because he considers the Lauder family his extended family.
“I loved the family, especially (honorary chairman) Leonard Lauder because I felt their values were diametrically opposed to what other companies do,” he added.
He doesn’t want his legacy to be defined by “just three hours” on social media.
“I don’t want him to be known as ‘the abolitionist’,” he said.
He plans to return to the social scene he once had in his heart.
The former CEO hosted a birthday party at his home in June for Ambrose. It was attended by actor Zachary Quinto and executive director Bergdorf Goodman Linda Fargo.
“I’m not finished — not at all,” he insisted. “I have a lot in me, a lot to say. The world is still a very exciting place.
His father died in June 2022 and he moved his mother, who was battling cancer, to New York from Ohio to take care of her.
Demsey helped transform Estee Lauder from a privately run family business into a publicly traded behemoth that was valued at $100 billion at its peak.
He joined in 1991 when the company bought the Canadian cosmetics company MAC.
He also oversaw the small brands Too Faced and Smashbox. The ousted CEO transformed MAC into a global brand and rose to the position of Group Executive Chairman in 2015.
Demsi has been praised for bringing black celebrities such as singers Mary J. Blige, Sawetti, and Rihanna to the MAC brand. Demsey also launched the MAC Viva Glam Campaign, which has raised $430 million to fight AIDS/HIV.
Still under partial clause but has taken on a senior advisory role with the private equity firm L Catterton where he will help find new business opportunities.
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