Helayne Angelus - A Character With Character
...because interesting people are more fun to work with
I have a diverse background; I am a Greek American who married a Jewish man, Mike, and raised children in reformed Judaism. I speak English, Spanish and Greek. I can attest to the fact that Greek and Jewish guilt are the same thing. I was born in Boston, then lived the first eight years of my life in three countries. I was going be like my Dad and go into the foreign service to save the world for democracy, but instead I worked in government and then decided to sell soap as one of the first women Procter & Gamble (P&G) hired in sales. I signed up on an all-male P&G interview schedule at Columbia University (I went to Barnard which was all women) and the interviewer fell out of his chair when I showed up. I was hired, and climbed up the sales ladder to VP at P&G. I met and married Mike, who worked at P&G with me, and we had our children, Mariel and Zach, and had dual careers with travel for over 25 years. We lived in New Jersey, Cincinnati and in Caracas, Venezuela before returning to Cincinnati 14 years ago. I left P&G four years ago and formally joined Kalypso a couple of years ago.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Living life to the fullest and seizing every day. This includes spending time with my family - my husband Mike, our daughter Mariel, her significant other Adam and our son Zach along with extended family and my close friends. “Being in the moment” means I have fun doing yoga, zumba, working out, swimming, skiing and hiking. I have completed three Susan G Komen 60-mile walks to fight breast cancer; I will do my fourth this year. I love to shop – ask any Saks associate and check out my “closet” - I do believe in retail therapy.
I also believe in the principles of karma and helping others. My personal passion has been to found the Network of Executive Women (NEW), and further their mission, which is to attract, retain, and advance women in the consumer products and retail industry through education, leadership and business development. As a founding officer I still am very involved in NEW and lead three committees. Every day I try to live my personal mission statement, which I have had for over 22 years.
Who are your heroes in real life?
My grandmother, “Yiayia" Eleni. She was a Greek immigrant with little formal education who had a difficult life. Yiayia lived with us most of my life and was an accomplished business woman and pioneer. She ran a shoe shine, cleaners and tailor shop as a widow when most women were not running a business. She was a role model of strength, hard work, overcoming obstacles and loyalty to family. Yiayia taught me that you can achieve whatever you set your mind to do, and to be true to yourself. She bought commercial real estate without an education and was a shrewd judge of character and finances; she collected rent herself by knocking on the door if you were a day late. She refused to speak English to me so I learned Greek. My family and friends still tell Yiayia stories fifty years later.
What is your motto?
"Seize the Day! Take Some Risks!" The photo above is me overcoming my fear of heights by ziplining with my son Zach last fall. I was hyperventilating and tree hugging the first few ziplines, but as you can see at the end of ten ziplines I am “falling back” (I did this without any happy pills).
If you were a geographical feature (think estuary or escarpment), which feature would you be and why?
I would rather compare myself to a statue - my favorite is Athena, goddess of war and protector of Athens. I like that she is stronger than the male gods, is smart, has a weapon and fights for a greater cause (the Greeks could use Athena’s powers and protection today).
When were you the most embarrassed you’ve ever been?
Thirty years ago I was one of the first women district mangers at P&G. I once dressed up as Orphan Annie as part of a marketing tie-in to sell my number one customer, Pathmark, a big Annie promotion. The receptionist called security and my peers held an emergency meeting to “deal with Helayne.” I got a call the same afternoon from the VP at Pathmark who I tried unsuccessfully to meet for months and he said he "wanted to meet anyone who is 'gutsy' enough to dress up as Annie right away." The rest was history - we shipped record years at Pathmark, built the business and market share. I got promoted two years later. Sometimes you have to take some calculated risks, be bold, and do something no one else will do to break out of the pack; at the time, though, I was not sure I would stay employed at P&G.