Jolie Gabor Biography

Jolie Gabor, an entrepreneur and socialite, led a remarkable life and career that spanned over a century. Born into a successful Jewish family of jewelers, she carried on the family legacy by opening her own crystal and porcelain shop in the 1930s. Despite facing adversity during the Nazi occupation in 1944, Gabor managed to escape to Portugal, leaving behind her grandmother and younger brother who tragically perished in a Nazi labor camp. Undeterred, she relocated to America and rebuilt her jewelry empire, establishing stores in New York City and Palm Springs, California. In her later years, Gabor became a passionate advocate for female empowerment in the business world. Additionally, she raised three daughters with her first husband, all of whom achieved moderate success as actresses.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Jolie Gabor, Countess de Szigethy, Janka Tilleman
  • Died At Age: 100
  • Born Country: Hungary
  • Socialites
  • Died on: April 1, 1997
  • Place of death: Palm Springs, California, United States
  • Cause of Death: Natural Causes
  • City: Budapest, Hungary

Family Members

  • Spouse/Ex-: Howard Peter Christman, Odon Szigethy, Vilmos Gábor
  • Father: Josef Tilleman
  • Mother: Franceska Reinherz
  • Siblings: Dora Tilleman, Janette Tilleman, Rosalie Tilleman, Sebastian Tilleman
  • Children: Eva Gabor, Magda Gabor, Zsa Zsa Gábor

Childhood & Early Life

Jolie Gabor, originally named Janka Tilleman, was born on September 30, 1896 in Budapest, Austria-Hungary. However, there is some controversy surrounding her actual birth year, as some sources state it as 1894. She was born to Jewish parents, Jona Harsch Tilleman and Chane Faige. Gabor was the third of four children, with two older sisters named Janette and Dora, and a younger brother named Sebastian. Her parents were well-known jewelers and operated “The Diamond House.”


In the 1930s, Jolie Gabor began her entrepreneurial career by opening Crystello, a shop in Budapest that sold crystal and porcelain ornaments. During this time, she also opened another shop called Jolie’s, which sold handmade costumes and jewelry. With her success, she eventually opened a second location in Gyor and had a total of five shops throughout Budapest, becoming the most well-known jeweler in the city.

Unfortunately, her booming business came to a halt when Nazis occupied Budapest in 1944. Along with several other family members, she fled to Portugal. After regaining her footing, she moved to the United States in 1945 and decided to open a business in New York City. In 1946, she opened Julie Gabor, a shop that sold costume jewelry. She later moved the shop to Madison Avenue and opened a branch in Palm Springs, California.

In 1975, Gabor made a career change and became a motivational speaker, focusing on the relationship between beauty and female empowerment. She continued to be an active socialite and philanthropist until her death in 1997.

Major Works

Although Jolie Gabor was primarily known for her jewelry empire, she also published two books. Her first book, “Jolie Gabor’s Family Cookbook,” was published in 1962 and co-written with Ted and Jean Kaufman. It contains over 300 recipes covering the spectrum of Eastern European cooking. Her second book, “Jolie Gabor,” was published in 1975 and co-written with family friend Cindy Adams. This memoir delves into the more personal aspects of Gabor’s life, although Adams has stated that many details were staged for the publication.

Personal Life & Legacy

Jolie Gabor was married three times. Her first husband was Vilmos Gabor, whom she married in 1914 and divorced in 1939. They had three children together: Magda Gabor, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Eva Gabor, all of whom became successful actresses. Her second marriage was to Howard Peter Christman in 1947, but they divorced in 1948. Her third and final marriage was to Odon Szigethy in 1957, and they enjoyed a successful marriage and business relationship.

Gabor was widely known as an advocate for female empowerment and often shared her views in candid interviews. She believed that women should be able to earn their own wealth, setting her apart from the common aspirations of being a trophy wife among her peers.


Gabor’s younger brother Sebastian tragically died at a labor camp during the Holocaust. She also made a guest appearance on the show “What’s My Line?” in 1957.

Leave a Comment