The Meme That Derailed an Executive’s Career

John Demsey made diversity Estée Lauder’s corporate pitch. An Instagram post with a racial epithet cost him his job.

John Demsey, the beauty executive who became an industry goliath by turning MAC Cosmetics into one of Estée Lauder’s biggest subsidiaries, spent much of the first year of the pandemic in his home doing things that befit a high-flying corporate executive: Zooming with colleagues, bringing home a goldendoodle, adding to his collection of Audemars Piguets and Rolexes.

He also posted voraciously on social media. That was where the trouble began.

Working in an industry that generates huge profits while remaining fashion’s quieter stepsister, Mr. Demsey, 66, was unusually well known,

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