Following her resignation from her eponymous make-up label last year, Bobbi Brown is back to tackle a different side of the beauty industry. She talks about her new health and wellness book, her fitness regime and her revolt against contouring
Not even a minute has passed since I began my phone conversation with Bobbi Brown, but I already understand why hers is one of the most recognised names in the beauty industry. Aside from the fact that it is plastered across glossy black blusher palettes, eye gels and lipstick capsules that line the shelves of most department stores (and fill the make-up bags of most women), Brown's steely focus, characteristically American ‘can-do’ attitude and no-nonsense approach are a shoo-in for a business coup.
That’s not to mention her knowledge of the beauty world, which she now knows like the back of her hand.First starting out as a budding make-up artist in New York, Brown quickly caught the eye of fashion dignitaries with her preferred natural aesthetic – an antonym to the heavy 1980s look that was circulating at the time.
" I started using make-up as a way to feel prettier, and it worked”
“I always wanted to be prettier,” she says candidly as she explains her first brush with make-up. “I never thought I was, and now when I look back at pictures I was actually really pretty, but I didn’t feel it. I started using make-up as a way to feel prettier, and it worked.”
She took this USP and applied it to others, making “people look better” with a more natural approach to make-up. It was this that led her to create her eponymous label in 1991, starting out with a line of 10 lipsticks that came in a variety of natural shades to suit all manner of skin tones. A range of foundation sticks came out the following year, and by 1995 Brown had garnered enough interest to sell her brand to Estée Lauder Companies Inc. She maintained creative control until 2016, when she stepped down from her role as chief creative officer.
Now the brand is a household name and, if the stats on Estée Lauder’s website are to be believed, it employs 5,200 make-up artists worldwide and sells not one but two of its Long-Wear Gel Eyeliners every minute. Brown herself is seen as an authority in the industry and so, having made her fortune teaching women how to enhance their appearance cosmetically, it comes as somewhat of a surprise to learn that her first venture post-Estée Lauder champions the beauty within.
A new book, Bobbi Brown’s Beauty from the Inside Out, highlights the roles played by wellness, nutrition and exercise in our appearance, as well as offering beauty tips and advice on achieving the ‘natural’ look. “It has been an evolution of what I have always believed and what I have always practised, which is what you eat and how you take care of yourself affect the way you look,” she tells me. “I’m not an expert, but what I am is really curious and I know the things I’ve done that have made a difference in my life. There are a lot of reputable experts in the book and I talk a lot about what really works for me and what doesn’t.”
Juice cleanses and fad diets, she tells me, are the things that don’t work for her; instead, she champions “lifestyle changes”, such as walking more, drinking more water and increasing the amount of vegetables one eats. The book is divided into tips for nutrition, fitness, mental wellness, how to achieve clear skin and, of course, make-up. One section offers recipes for clean eating, while another waxes lyrical on the correlation between low stress and a clear complexion. As someone who has worked flat out for the past quarter of a century but still looks at least a decade younger than her 59 years, what are her secret stress-busters?
“First of all, I look really good on vacation,” she laughs. “I am a type-A, very high-functioning person so I am absolutely drinking more water and trying to breathe more, which – believe it or not – helps.
“I love funny TV shows and funny movies, and I love a good cocktail. All of those are great stress reducers,” she continues. “Modern Family is just mindless and funny; I feel I know all of the characters. I also watch an enormous amount of news. It seems to calm me down and not stress me out, I don't know why.”
Indeed, she is chirpy when I speak with her despite the snowstorm that has grounded her flight to London and messed up a week’s worth of diary dates – but I imagine that, after 25 years at the helm of one of the world’s biggest beauty brands, it doesn’t take much to phase the make-up mogul. I am poised to get the gossip on her departure, but Brown says simply that it was time to move on; there’s no bad blood between her and her former employer, and she speaks highly of the brand that she’s left behind.
“Growing this brand based on confidence, wellness and self-esteem through make-up was so amazing"
“Growing this brand based on confidence, wellness and self-esteem through make-up was so amazing and probably ahead of its time,” she says. “I’m very proud of what the brand is and how it really does help so many women feel good about themselves, but now I’m pretty excited about my new journey.”
In an article she penned for lifestyle website Refinery 29 shortly after her resignation was announced, Brown highlighted her concerns over the rising trend for contouring and encouraged people to use make-up as a tool to enhance their appearance, rather than cover it up. “I plan to be a part of this new revolution of beauty again, just as I was nearly 30 years ago,” she wrote at the time. Her book, it seems, is the first stage of Brown’s revolt, encouraging people to think more about what they put into their bodies in order to achieve the best results externally.
When she’s not staging a protest or penning a new book, Brown is busy designing the interiors of a 32-room hotel due to open this autumn in her hometown in Montclair, New Jersey. Along with this, she’ll be over in the UK in the summer to celebrate the launch of her new book, and will be continuing to develop her range of glasses under her label, Bobbi Brown Eyewear. When I ask her what the future holds, it doesn’t sound like relaxation is high on the agenda, but she assures me that’s just the way she likes it: “As long as I am creating, whether it’s products or content or anything, I'm happy.”