In the beauty industry, Bobbi Brown reigns as a woman that took her passion as a makeup artist to building a celebrity brand of cosmetics that would eventually be acquired by Estée Lauder. At the time, her appearances on TV shows illustrating her work as well as being a fixture in the backstages of NYFW paved the way for Celebrity Makeup Artists and other talents in the beauty industry. We took a moment with Bobbi to talk about her career, the moves she made in the industry and how she continues to be a trailblazer.
ATHLEISURE MAG: What was the moment when you realized that you wanted to work in the beauty industry?
BOBBI BROWN: I had just left my second college, and was feeling very confused because I didn’t really like school and I wasn’t happy where I had been. I was speaking with my mother and she said to me, “If it was your birthday and you could do anything in the world, what would you do?” and I told her “I’d go to Marshall Field’s and I’d play with makeup.” So my mom said to me “Then go to school to be a makeup artist.” I found Emerson College and they allowed me to create my own major, which was theatrical makeup, and I fell in love.
AM: You started as a makeup artist, what projects did you work on during that time prior to creating Bobbi Brown Cosmetics?
BB: After graduating college, I moved to NYC and went through the yellow pages calling every photographer, makeup artist, and hair stylist I could find, offering my assistance for free. I would travel wherever I was needed offering my services and learning as much as I could. Some of my favorite projects that I did during that time were my first Vogue cover shoot with Naomi Campbell (it was Naomi’s first Vogue cover as well,) working with designers like Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, and Tommy Hilfiger, and doing makeup for Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones.
AM: What inspired you to create Bobbi Brown Cosmetics?
BB: After being on all of these sets, I found I could not do the makeup that was in style correctly. I didn’t want to cover and hide women’s features and there was no skin tone correct makeup available at the time. I would mix together what colors I could to try to create a formula that accentuated rather than disguised how the women looked. It was at that time that I met a chemist in an elevator and was telling her what I wanted to do, and she said, “I’ll make the colors for you.” That relationship started the creation of my original 10 lipstick shades.
AM: You were known for a natural aesthetic with an array of amazing pink shades of lipsticks, why was that look important to you and the brand?
BB: They weren’t pink shades as much as they were pink, brown, orange, red – those colors that naturally exist within a woman’s lip. All of them natural looking because I believe that makeup should make a woman look and feel her best. That was my intention when I created Bobbi Brown Cosmetics and still is today.
AM: How did you incorporate being a Beauty Expert on the Today Show as another portion of your brand as a MUA and a founder of a cosmetic line?
BB: At a public appearance I was at, I took a question from a woman in the audience. She later told me that she was the grandmother of Jeff Zucker, the Executive Producer of The Today Show at the time. It had been my dream to be on The Today Show, and when she introduced me to Jeff, he and I created monthly segments that allowed me to teach women the correct products to use and the right way to apply them, allowing each woman to essentially become her own makeup artist. It was an amazing time in my life and I truly believe it catapulted the business of the brand to where it is now.
AM: Estée Lauder acquired Bobbi Brown Cosmetics and you stayed on with the brand, what was the transition like for you and as many of our readers own their own brands, can you share the process you went through in terms of coming to the decision that this was right for your brand and yourself?
BB: In 1995, I met with Leonard Lauder and he quickly became one of the greatest mentors in my life. He promised me that the integrity of the brand and its purpose would never be lost with me at the helm. I remained in complete creative control, while being lucky enough to benefit from the resources that the Estée Lauder companies provided. I stayed on as Chief Creative Officer until 2016, where I made the tough decision to leave the company to start another.
AM: Being a multifaceted person, we have enjoyed seeing you wear a number of hats such as being the Editor in Chief of Yahoo Beauty from 2014-2016, how have you been able to maintain your hat in various spaces while continuing to expand your platform in the beauty industry?
BB: I have an insatiable curiosity and love to learn and discover new things. Ultimately, I am a creative at heart and love to develop content across a multitude of platforms in order to share what I know. I make it a priority to hire really great people who can help me translate my vision across these platforms to the best of my ability.
AM: We loved when you partnered with Safilo to release a line of eyewear, what initiated this venture and do you foresee doing something like this again?
BB: I am a glasses person. I wear prescription glasses and sunglasses on a daily basis. I find that eyewear is an extension of makeup to a degree, in that the style and color you choose says a lot about yourself and what look you are trying to convey. It was a natural fit for me. I’d love to explore doing this again in the future.
AM: You have written 9 books on makeup and beauty, what was it like writing your first book and what is the process like in general from concept to release?
BB: My first book was very cathartic for me. It was taking all of the knowledge that I had learned and perfected over the years, and articulating that as best I could for everyone to read. Even though I have written 9 books, I still don’t know how to type. My process varies but consists of lots of handwritten notes in the back of cars, and swatches of color done on paper. I work very closely with my writers and my publisher from start to finish. I have been very fortunate to work with the best of the best in that regard.
AM: Will there be another book that we can expect to see from you?
BB: Never say never. I don’t know if it will be a traditional book or one that has a digital component to it. We’ll see what’s in store.
AM: We’re fans of JustBobbi.com as well as EVOLUTION_18 as we love your approach to beauty from the inside out. Why did you launch the site as well as the beauty brand and what can we expect to see from them as we continue throughout the remainder of the year?
BB: My lifelong philosophy has always been that beauty, and confidence, starts with what you put inside your body. The launch of my lifestyle inspired wellness line, EVOLUTION_18, is a natural extension of beauty from inside out. After spending 25+ years talking to women about their health and wellness challenges, I became a certified health coach and learned what it is women need to know in order to look and feel our best. EVOLUTION_18 is a collection of highly effective simple formulas that target a wide range of beauty concerns. They are made with clean, high quality ingredients that give you everything you need for a beauty boost from within. Justbobbi.com is a modern lifestyle platform for all things wellness, beauty, and everything in between. It’s a platform that aims to educate and inspire how you live your life through never-ending exploration and storytelling.
AM: With so many successes in the beauty world, you launched another amazing venture in a new vertical – hospitality. Tell us about The George and why did you want to do this?
BB: The day I left Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, my husband called me and asked if I wanted to be a part of a new project – The George Hotel. It is a historic property that he completely restored into a 32-room boutique hotel. I became the Creative Director of the hotel, and it was my mission to create a design-minded boutique hotel in the heart of Montclair where we live, that offered guests a unique and one of a kind experience.
AM: In addition to Athleisure Mag, we have a podcast network – Athleisure Studio which has 4 shows and we know that you have a podcast show, Long Story Short with Bobbi Brown – what can we expect on this show and who have been 3 of your favorite guests on this show?
BB: Long Story Short allows me to talk to some of the most accomplished people in the world who are true masters of their craft. The podcast offers a glimpse into their journeys, discussing both their highs and lows in order to get the essential takeaways of a life well lived. Everyone has a story and I love finding out what that story is. Three of my favorites are Mickey Drexler, my mentor, Elvis Duran, one of my best friends, and Jen Atkin.
AM: What philanthropic efforts are you involved in that you would like for us to know about?
BB: I am on the board of Reaching Out Montclair, in my hometown, which provides essential needs for underserved children and their families in our community.
AM: What are 3 beauty musts that you think that we should have with us when we travel?
BB: First, a good moisturizer – preferably one that contains an SPF. Protecting your skin from the sun is of the utmost importance. And when you’re traveling, especially on a plane, your skin can dry out easily, so make sure to keep skin moisturized in order to keep it looking hydrated and plump. Second, a probiotic beauty starts in your gut. Taking a probiotic daily will help with your digestion which in turn helps keep your microbiome balanced and your skin clear. Third, a cream blush – I like to travel with multipurpose products. A cream blush is perfect to give you a nice healthy glow and can be used on your lips as well.
AM: When it comes to your legacy, what do you want people to take away in terms of your impact on the beauty industry and just embracing life’s opportunities?
BB: Be a sponge, be kind, and work hard.