She didn’t know it at the time, but back in the eighties Bobbi Brown was already a beauty trailblazer. As a makeup artist who couldn’t find the cosmetics she needed, she made her own, which ultimately blossomed into her eponymous beauty empire. Along the way, she challenged industry status quos and empowered women to embrace their natural beauty. We chatted with her about championing inclusivity, aging well and shifting her focus to wellness.
You were a pioneer of the natural beauty movement back in the eighties. Did you realize you were starting a revolution?
I had no idea I was starting a revolution in the industry; I was and still am a naïve person and consider it a strength. As a makeup artist in the eighties, I always believed that a natural look was just prettier. Of course, we don’t exactly think of natural beauty when we look back on the eighties. But regardless of what was popular at the time, I followed my gut.
And it was out of necessity — not being able to find a lipstick that looked like lips — that you started your eponymous beauty brand, right?
As a makeup artist, I spent a lot of time mixing different products to get the results I wanted. One day, I met a chemist at a shoot and told him that I couldn’t find the right lipsticks on the market; I had to mix them myself. My ideal lipstick would be creamy and odorless, last a long time, and actually match the natural color of lips. He said he’d make it for me. So I mixed a taupe eye pencil and a blush — there was not a single lipstick in there — and sent him the swatch. Eventually, we developed a line of 10 lipsticks for people of all
different skin tones, and I named them Bobbi Brown Essentials. I figured that’s all you needed.
Seven years into your career as a makeup artist, you achieved your goal of working on a Vogue cover — which also happened to be Naomi Campbell’s first Vogue cover. Looking back, why was that a significant milestone?
This was an important milestone because it was a clear goal that I set for myself and I didn’t give up until it was achieved. At the time, seven years felt long. There were moments when what I was doing really didn’t feel easy. When I first started my career, I didn’t know anyone in the city and I heard “no” a lot. But I kept going, and I got that cover.
You have long championed inclusive beauty, with products designed for a wide range of skin tones and ad campaigns featuring diversity. Why was that important for your brand?
We didn’t have Google or Instagram in the eighties, so when I was working on a set, I didn’t know what the models would look like; I just had to be prepared to match any skin tone or feature. It’s a no-brainer that women of all tones should be able to find the right makeup and that women of all tones are strong and beautiful. It was clear to me then, and it’s still clear to me now.
Confidence was part of your mantra decades before it was a trendy buzzword. What does confidence look like?
Confidence means feeling comfortable with who you are. The point isn’t to just look good, but to feel good. The quickest way to get there is to stay true to yourself. Makeup can help along the way.
After 25 years, you left your namesake cosmetics brand and shifted your attention to wellness, even becoming a certified health coach. What inspired that change?
When I left my namesake brand, I decided to tackle looking and feeling your best from a new angle. I launched my lifestyle-inspired wellness line, EVOLUTION_18, as a natural extension of my book Beauty From the Inside Out, which is all about how health enhances beauty. After spending more than 25 years talking to women about their health and wellness challenges, I became a certified health coach with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. This transition was a great opportunity to pursue something I’ve always been passionate about.
What does the idea of beauty from the inside out mean to you?
Looking and feeling your best goes beyond just makeup; it also matters how you treat your body. Usually to start, I suggest easy little changes anyone can do, like switching out soda and drinking more water. Personally, I like to eat a lot of delicious, colorful foods, stay serious about hydration and move my body every day. I take business calls on my walks.
How would you like to see American standards of beauty evolve?
My hope is that beauty’s future will continue to be more and more inclusive and will be about enhancing the features you have — not applying a full face of makeup. I also hope there will be a greater emphasis on how beauty truly begins within and that what you put in your body affects your overall well-being. Maybe one day brands like my supplement line will be found in the beauty section. And by the way, all makeup should be clean.
You turned 63 earlier this year. What are the secrets to aging well?
I certainly don’t feel 63. I believe the best way to age well is to take care: eat what’s good for you, move your body every single day and drink a lot of water. Plus the right moisturizer is essential; I love the Rich Cream by Augustinus Bader. If that’s outside your budget, a bottle of organic apricot kernel oil from Whole Foods will do the job. I also believe that stress shows on your face, so I take two EVOLUTION_18 Chill Gummies every day to stay calm and focused.
What advice do you have for young women and men trying to discover their own beauty?
Sometimes I see photos of myself from when I was in my early twenties, and I can’t believe how gorgeous I was. But I didn’t see it then. Really, all you have to do is be yourself. It sounds simple, and it is. Young people, you’re already beautiful.
Read this article as it appears in the magazine.