Founder and Editor of RESCU.com.au
Bobbi Brown was enthralled by makeup from a young age; watching her mother apply her face in the vanity was one of her guilty pleasures. Decades later, the makeup mogul has built her empire around a pretty powerful beauty world and produced game-changing products for women worldwide. Her products are now sold worldwide, and you can be certain everything that hits a Bobbi counter has been supervised and signed off by Bobbi herself. It’s that personal investment – the care and dedication that goes into her company – that makes her a standout in today’s beauty market.
I was lucky enough to request a private audience with the woman who instigated my breakup with bright pink lips.
RESCU: What’s business advice would you give to your younger self?
BOBBI BROWN: To follow you gut and be authentic and to just stick to what you believe in. Don’t think of what you think might work, just do what you think should work.
RESCU: When you did your first collection of lipsticks, that was kind of avant-garde at the time, the shades that you released… did you get knock-backs?
BOBBI BROWN: I think I got a lot of women not understanding why the lipsticks weren’t in bright colours…
RESCU: And is that when you really had to trust your gut, to know this is actually going to look better on you?
BOBBI BROWN: You know I’ve always been quite naïve and just always have believed what I believe.
RESCU: Which living businessperson is a source of great inspiration for you?
BOBBI BROWN: There’s a few; Leonard Lauder is one, Richard Branson is another one, Mickey Drexler from J.Crew is also another one.
RESCU: What is it about them separately, or collectively, inspires you?
BOBBI BROWN: Collectively they’re all… not rebels, but trailblazers. They just do what they think is right, and they don’t follow anyone’s advice.
RESCU: When you started in the cosmetic industry, and you started as part of the Estée Lauder family, you brought back an excitement and theatre to counters that hadn’t been seen before. Did you think of it, or did you just do what felt right to you?
BOBBI BROWN: No I never thought of making excitement at a counter. I’ve never been one to think about it, I just do what makes sense. I think about a person who comes into a store and what they experience and what chair they sit in and how they’re greeted – it’s the human touch that’s always been important to me.
RESCU: And it’s still the Bobbi experience that you get.
BOBBI BROWN: Yes I hope so, and there’s always room for improvement!
RESCU: Can you describe or remember a time when you really felt in your gut that you’ve made it? Like the dream or the vision you had for yourself had actually manifested?
BOBBI BROWN: Well there’s been a bunch of those moments, and they’re only moments because then I go onto the next thing. But I remember in Paris sitting at café with my husband right across the street from my first store, and I sent a picture to my Dad. And here I am in Paris and I’m staying in this fabulous hotel. It was kind of a big pinching moment. Having dinners in my honour at three different embassies was kind of an amazing moment and going back to Paris and emailing the ambassador saying that I’m in town and he says ‘Oh yeah come on over!’ That was pretty neat. There have been a lot of those cool moments.
RESCU: You’re travelling at the moment for Business Chicks, and it was interesting when received my invitation to come and see ‘Bobbi Brown, the woman who’s become a billionaire out of the cosmetics industry.’
BOBBI BROWN: [laughs] I haven’t become a billionaire, the company’s become a billionaire. There’s a very big difference!
RESCU: So for me it was interesting because of all the things you’ve achieved, I wouldn’t have even thought to have called that out.
BOBBI BROWN: Yes, I am not a billionaire!
RESCU: If there was a thing that you wanted to be elevated for – who you are, what you do now, what would it be?
BOBBI BROWN: By elevated, I would like people to think I was 5”7! Honestly I have a pretty vast role in the company, I do anything that touches the consumer so it’s a combination of the creative side and the business side.
RESCU: Is Bobbi University still going?
BOBBI BROWN: Bobbi University has been internal, it’s not external, and so it’s running internally. Someday I will launch it externally.
RESCU: Amazing. One of the things that, to me, was a game-changer coming into the industry was ‘Pretty Powerful’. That campaign and that philosophy from a cosmetic brand really flipped the whole conversation on its head. What was the inspiration for that?
BOBBI BROWN: It was very organic, everything you ask me about I could tell you an organic story. I was shooting my teen book – Beauty Rules – and we were shooting at my studio in Monte Clare and all of the ads for the season were retouched models, and it was during a downturn in business. I was looking at these young girls on the screen on the photographer’s camera with and without makeup and I’m like ‘Oh my god, the difference a little concealer makes, a little foundation, a little blush… It would be amazing to do an ad campaign which showed real women with and without makeup’. And it just became pretty without makeup, but you become pretty powerful with a little bit of makeup. It became the campaign for the moment and it’s now the DNA of this brand.
RESCU: When I first met you, I think I was 27 years old, and I’d been doing my makeup a certain way for the ten years or so that I’d been wearing makeup. And I asked you, ‘What would you do to change my makeup?’ And I remember I was wearing this crazy fuchsia lipstick, and you introduced me to the joy that is Roseberry, and I’ve never stopped!
BOBBI BROWN: You know why? Because the crazy fuchsia lipstick is what people see when they see it, and now they see you.
RESCU: It was actually revolutionary, I do remember that moment, it was great…
BOBBI BROWN: Aww!
RESCU: Is there a favourite makeup trick that you have that can transform a face?
BOBBI BROWN: I think it’s a combination of makeup and moisturiser. Honestly people don’t realise how much just putting a good moisturiser on top of your makeup makes you look so much better. Because makeup can sometimes drain you if it’s not the right texture, not the right colour, so moisturizer on top is an amazing trick. And don’t leave home without your corrector and concealer, because when you get stressed, you get tired in the afternoon and the darkness comes back, so just that touching up and pinching your cheeks is really transformative.
RESCU: You have been quoted as saying, ‘Concealer is the secret of the universe’ and I do tend to agree as a working mother! Is there at tip or trick you have for finding the right colour? If you’re not able to get help at a counter, do you have a rule?
BOBBI BROWN: Well you need to choose a concealer one shade lighter than your natural skin tone. But that said, concealer is not enough. I created corrector because concealer only does so much, but it’s really the depth on the inside that corrector lifts. And it even works if you put concealer on and need to refresh, you can do the corrector on top. It just really brightens and lifts, because right here [under the eye] it’s depth, and it just lifts. And if that doesn’t work, you’ve got to get a good pair of glasses.
RESCU: Is there a makeup trend over the past couple of decades that has made you squirm?
BOBBI BROWN: Probably the one that’s happening right now which is ‘I woke up like this’. So even at the runways, the designers won’t let you put any concealer or corrector on the models. They’re calling it a ‘nude face’ but under the lights it looks like a sick face. So I think that trend has to go.
RESCU: You’ve created quite a lot of nude options, so if you want to keep the nude look…
BOBBI BROWN: But what is the nude look? That’s the problem… some people think Bobbi Brown is all-natural. Well guess what? There’s colours. There’s bright colours, there’s some some dark colours, right? People think it’s just a washed out look but it’s not. If you use the wrong colours, it’s a washed out look. Nude makeup is not barely there, nude makeup is colours that are right for your skin. Once you have colours that are right for your skin, you could be a Las Vegas showgirl and only wear Bobbi makeup, and still have plenty of makeup on. You just need the right colours for your skin tone.
RESCU: Well that’s excellent advice. If you had to put together a perfect little kit to keep with you in your office, what would it be?
BOBBI BROWN: Well this is my travel kit… [empties bag] This is the greatest thing in the world: it’s an empty palette we sell. I keep in it foundation, corrector, concealer and blush. So that’s one. Bronzer. A light eye shadow to go with it. Then we’ve got blushes, the natural blush and then a pop. Of course you’ve got your moisturiser, and then a gel eyeliner.
RESCU: I launched this in Australia, it’s still the best…
BOBBI BROWN: Lip gloss from the Illuminating Collection.
RESCU: It’s almost pink… Number 9.
BOBBI BROWN: And then you’ve got to get a black and a brown pencil with long wear. A lip pencil.
RESCU: In a nudey shade, right?
BOBBI BROWN: Yes. And a couple of eye creams. And that’s my kit for the week.
RESCU: And this will take you from day to night, wherever you’re going? You’ll be wearing it to the cocktail party tonight?
BOBBI BROWN: Absolutely.
RESCU: I love it, I always love knowing what’s in Bobbi’s personal kit. And one last question: You’ve started using some amazing models; you’ve been working with Katie Holmes and now the gorgeous Kate Upton. That was quite a new direction for the brand, and fun!
BOBBI BROWN: Really fun. And it wasn’t a targeted move, it was just I met Katie Holmes at a tea in New York and I was struck by how pretty she was, and I was really proud of how she was starting on her own. Everybody was kind of curious and she was a great spokesperson for a couple of years. And then we thought we would just go back to models, and then I met Kate Upton. I wasn’t sure before I met her, but I went to meet her and fell in love. I thought ‘here’s this cool woman who is genuine, who is sweet-as-can-be, pretty as anyone’ and her body is like a woman who’s got bigger bones and is very open and talks about how her weight changes on a daily basis, and she just seemed like the perfect role model. So that’s been really fun.
FAST TWELVE WITH BOBBI BROWN:
Favourite Holiday Destination: The Bahamas
Book on Your Bed stand: Brooke Shields
Teenage Music Crush: Davey Jones
Favourite Lipstick Shade: Brownie
Gloss or Lipstick: Gloss
Foundation or Mascara: Both
Pink or Red: Pink
Favourite Room in Your Home: Bedroom
Tea or Coffee: Coffee – Espresso!
Madonna or Beyonce: Umm… No it’s not a hard one. I would say… Kanye
Cats or Dogs: Dogs
Cashmere or Cotton: One of each
BOBBI’S BUSINESS RULES
David Jones welcomed Bobbi Brown to Australia during her national tour with Business Chicks with an intimate cocktail party at David Jones’ Elizabeth Street store. Here’s what I learnt from the makeup master:
1. Work Hard and Work Smart: It’s not about working late but you have to work hard to get the best results.
2. Be Nice: It’s always so much easier to tell someone something when you don’t like them with a smile on their face
3. Be Fearless: Don’t say you’re going to do something, just jump in and do it.
4. Never Stop Learning: Just read a lot, open your mind.
5. Stay Positive: Even if you’re in a bad mood, you have the power to turn it around.
6. Keep on Reading: I’m so inquisitive and such a sponge, there’s so much more I want to learn.
7. Surround Yourself with Great People: Good energy, people who make you laugh, people who boost you up, people you enjoy being with.
8. Be Grateful: Just say thank you. Thankful for what’s been given to you, thankful for what someone’s done for you, and just make sure you say thank you.
9. Be Open: You never know who you’re going to meet, and when
10. Have Fun: That’s really important to me, and that’s something that I could do better at. That really came on my list when one day I was invited to a very small concert by the rapper Flo Rida – I happen to love rap music – and I went to his concert with my 15 year old son and met him backstage, I had tequila and a martini beforehand. When he called my name at the concert ‘Where’s my gal Bobbi Brown?!’ I dropped my bag and ran up onstage, and he put his gold chains on me and my 15 year old looked at me like ‘Are you kidding…’. By the time I’d got in the car my entire family and nephews and students were like ‘Did you see her?’ So it on YouTube and I’m going to admit to everyone I sure cannot dance.