By Maya Allen
If you know beauty, you know Bobbi Brown. The 62-year-old pioneer made major waves in the makeup industry in the 1980s when she decided to divert from the flashy makeup looks every other artist was focused on, and use makeup to enhance a woman's natural beauty, instead. Her idea to create a simple line of 10 lipsticks evolved into a billion-dollar business, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, the company she founded and led for more than 25 years. After writing nine beauty books, raising a family, and leading a business, Brown decided to walk away from her namesake brand in 2016 and start fresh. We caught up with the cosmetics maven and health and wellness advocate after a panel with Lenscrafters on the importance of self-care. Here, she shares her views on that, plus her incredible career journey and the importance of shade inclusivity.
On Being a Makeup Artist in the '90s
“I started as a freelance makeup artist. I fell madly in love, got married, then moved to the suburbs of Montclair, New Jersey, the day I got back from my honeymoon. I was a New York makeup artist, living in the suburbs while being a mom and working in the fashion industry for top magazines like Vogue. It was an interesting time.”
On Founding Bobbi Brown Cosmetics
“I got the idea of a lipstick to sell because I always was in awe of people’s natural lip color but I could never find a lip color that was their natural color. This is how it all started. I never thought it was going to be anything more than just selling lipsticks. I cannot believe that when I left Bobbi Brown cosmetics, it was a billion-dollar business.”
On Championing Shade Inclusivity Since the Beginning
“To me, [shade inclusivity] is like telling someone that it’s a trend to be nice. If you have a makeup range, you should have colors for everyone’s skin. That even means the very, very fair, pinkish-white skin that comes out of the U.K. Everyone needs a shade. I don’t think I ever got credit for what we did at Bobbi Brown. I remember being hired to do makeup for CoverGirl years ago, and the model was a beautiful girl with the darkest skin I’ve ever seen on anyone. There was not a foundation available I could use to match her. When I created my foundation range, I insisted we had a number 10, which we called 'Espresso.' Unfortunately, consumers used the shade for contouring, which I wasn’t a fan of.
It was unbelievable how many times we had meetings, and marketing would say we had to cancel it because it doesn’t sell a lot. I’d say: 'Absolutely not. I cannot have a woman come to my counter and not find her foundation.' I carried this over to the concealer, corrector, and every other product I created. It’s not brilliant, it just makes sense—end of story.”
On Life After Leaving Her Namesake Brand
“I raised three sons while building up the brand, and have been married 30 years. Those are the things I’m most proud of. I’ve been gone two-and-a-half years now, and have reinvented my life and myself. I haven’t quite figured out a hobby, which is why after I left the company, instead of relaxing and picking up tennis or golf, I started five new companies. It’s just who I am. I’m a very creative, busy-minded person.
My newest range of wellness products Evolution_18 launched at Walmart. I’m excited because I have a whole new, giant audience to help and teach about health and wellness. As excited as I am about selling products, I’m even more excited about helping people change their lives. I wear mostly clean makeup now, I use only clean products at my house, and I went back to school to become a health coach. I’m using all of my knowledge to give back and help.”
On Her Simple, Yet Profound Way to Prioritize Self-Care
“It’s the little things that make the difference. Get off the subway and walk a couple of extra blocks. Telling yourself you’re going to drink more water. You slowly start adding this in to your lifestyle, and it becomes a part of your routine.”
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