A black baroness? Yes. But Baroness Monica von Neumann is more than just a title. She is an entrepreneur, having launched Baroness von Neumann Candles in 2010.
Detroit-born and L.A.-reared, Neumann was named a baroness when she met and married her soul mate, becoming the first African-American woman to gain this honorable title. Neumann, who danced and toured with the likes of Nina Simone and the pop rock band Devo, met her would-be husband, the wealthy Baron John von Neumann, while attending an annual event in Palm Springs.
And being a baroness is a serious matter. To learn all the formalities of royal tradition, she attended a Swiss finishing school, studied with private tutors and mastered the language of her new husband’s country — Austria.
To say she has lived the lush life would be an understatement. She’s overseen an international staff of more than 20 people who maintained the couple’s residences in Geneva, London, Monaco, St. Tropez, Palm Springs, Bel Air, as well as their 100-foot yacht.
Now a widow after losing her husband of 26 years to cancer, Neumann didn’t want to spend her free time lunching with the ladies. Instead she donates a significant amount of time and money to charity and has launched her own business. The Baroness, who now divides her time between Los Angles, New York and Geneva, developed four candle collections that capture scents from around the world: Savon, a floral scent including rose and Lily of the Valley; Atlas, containing a mix of spicy Ceylon cinnamon and Zanzibar clove; Fete made with Navel orange and Norwegian Pine; and Modena, a men’s scent with crispy citrus, highlighted by Neroli Bigarade and Italian lemon.
According to the National Candle Association, candles are good business. U.S. retail sales of candles are estimated at approximately $2 billion per year and candles are used in seven out of 10 U.S. households. If Baroness von Neumann has her way, her candles will be in every American household.
Baroness von Neumann spoke with us about her life and business.