“Be who you are. This means everything from learning to love your lines to appreciating your unique features.” This is the mantra that has driven Bobbi Brown to carve a niche for herself in the vast ocean that is the cosmetics industry. Through a journey that is just shy of 15 years, she has embraced the wisdom of inner beauty and conveyed its message to all. She speaks to Sharon Carvalho about the definition of beauty and her beauty pet peeves
Describe the woman you create products for?
When I look at a woman I don’t see what’s wrong with her, I see what’s right. That’s why I’m troubled by today’s definition of beauty that favors a cosmetic surgery-enhanced, cookie-cutter look. Women who look like the ones I grew up admiring (women like my grandmother, Helen Hayes and Jessica Tandy) are nowhere to be found. Makeup should empower women. Since the beginning my philosophy has remained unchanged—to bring out the individual beauty in every woman. It’s really about giving women the right knowledge, tools and product to help them enhance their unique beauty.
How did you go about launching your own brand?
After getting a degree in theatrical makeup from Emerson College in Boston, I moved to New York City in 1980 to work as a freelance makeup artist. My first big break was doing a black and white exercise story that was shot by Bridgette Lacombe. After years of travelling around the world for my job, I got to the point where I wanted to work and be closer to home. I had the idea to create my own line of makeup around the time I was pregnant with my first child. I worked with a chemist in 1990 to create 10 super-wearable lipstick colors and in 1991; I launched them at Bergdorf Goodman.
What is your definition of beauty?
There’s something incredibly beautiful about a woman with lines in her face and I think we should start using the phrase ‘living’ instead of ‘aging’. Being beautiful isn’t about having flawless, cookie-cutter looks. It’s about having self-confidence and playing up the qualities that make you unique. If you feel confident, you’ll project that and, as a result, you’ll always look beautiful. My beauty secret is to focus on what you like about yourself, instead of what you don’t like. Self-confidence is keyit makes a person glow from within.
What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
When I first started in the cosmetics industry I couldn’t find shades or colors that looked natural. I also wasn’t crazy about the way they smelled. So I started mixing my own shades to create makeup that would truly match and complement women’s complexion. I realized that not everybody loved neutrals, so I thought about ten different women I knew and what colors would look good on them. My vision was a lip collection that included all tones and could be mixed and blended to create any color correct lip shade. When I first started Bobbi Brown, I encountered some skepticism—not many people thought the world needed another lipstick. In the eighties, pale, white faces were in vogue, so lots of clients weren’t interested in the concept of skin-tone correct foundation. But from the beginning, I was really passionate about the products I’d created, so I never let the negativity deter me. I surrounded myself with the people that really believed in me – my family, friends and co-workers.
How do you go about creating new products?
While I don’t believe in following every trend, it’s important that our products are always driven by women’s needs and concerns. I’m always talking to friends, family and coworkers to give our customers exactly what they’re looking for. It’s important to me that I create products with integrity. Rather than creating a product and telling a woman she needs to buy it, I believe in finding out what a woman needs and filling that need.
What advice would you give to upcoming makeup artists and entrepreneurs?
I was a sponge, learning and experimenting. I read and studied every fashion spread. You need a unique idea, you need to be passionate, and you have to be willing to work hard. And most important, you need to trust your gut. I’ve listened to my gut from the very start and I think that’s why we have maintained our integrity as a company. Our product launches have always been driven by women’s needs—and not by market research.
Here are my five best pieces of advice, for the beauty industry or just for life.
1. Follow your dreams and passions. This may seem cliché, but I really believe that having a vision of where you want to see yourself and figuring out a course of action are powerful techniques.
2. Don’t take no for an answer. If one door closes, look for a back door or a side door. If you believe in yourself, you can accomplish anything.
3. Make sure you have a long term and short-term vision of what and how you want to accomplish your goals. Don’t get overwhelmed or discouraged—it won’t happen overnight.
4. Work on your craft, network, and always be nice. Hard work and niceness come back to you.
5. Listen to your heart, not always to your head. I think instinct always leads us in the right way.
What Bobbi Brown product should be a staple for every woman? /strong>
Concealer – it’s my desert island cosmetic. It’s an instant pick me up. It’s the one product that I feel most dramatically improves the way you look. When applied correctly, it instantly makes you appear awake and refreshed – like you’ve had eight hours of sleep.
Eyeliner or mascara?
Blackest black mascara makes eyes pop and makes me feel instantly polished.
Blush or bronzer?
Blush is the epitome of instant pretty. A tip for finding the most natural look, go for a shade that looks like your cheeks after you’ve just exercised. Putting on blush is the easiest way to look pretty, happy, healthy and radiant.
Red lips or nude lips?
Lipstick trends come and go over time. Sometimes women gravitate toward pale lipsticks, other times
bold red is the color of the moment. But I’ve found that women will always reach for a lipstick shade that matches, or slightly enhances, their own natural lip color. That shade never goes out of style.
Contouring or strobing?
I like to enhance natural beauty, and contouring is the antithesis of that because it is impossible to change your facial structure with makeup in a way that looks natural. We all have natural contouring, and what it looks like depends on how the light hits you, so if you don’t like a certain feature, play with the light and highlight another feature you do love. If you hate your nose, play up your eyes.