Woman Made: Bobbi Brown

She built a billion-dollar empire by giving women the tools to enhance their natural beauty. Now, she’s inspiring women to feel as good as they look.

In a new series, VIOLET GREY profiles female beauty entrepreneurs who are considered industry game changers for their individual approach to business. Each one entered the conversation in her own manner and maintained a steady, if not unparalleled, trajectory with her indomitable spirit. Here, we speak with the pioneering makeup mogul Bobbi Brown.

Written By PUNCH HUTTON

I once had a boss who hated makeup. Or so he thought. The first and only time I showed up to work wearing nothing on my face but moisturizer, he asked if I was feeling okay. Oy. I had a dilemma.

At the time, my makeup bag was filled with my mom’s out-of-rotation products — lots of Lancôme, some Clinique, and a few personal staples such as Maybelline liquid eyeliner (subtle), MAC tinted lip gloss, and the big splurge, Guerlain bronzer.

But once I became a working girl in New York City, it was time to look like a professional. One morning I was mesmerized by a segment on The Today Show. A nice-looking woman was giving an on-camera makeup tutorial while applying a neutral palette to a youngish lady’s face. The look was accessible. It was natural. There was foundation, a concealer stick, eye corrector, lip pencils, nude lip gloss, and — OH MY GOD — she had me at the gel eyeliner. It was waterproof and could transition your look from day to night. After work I hustled straight to the makeup counter at Bloomingdale’s in search of the bounty.

Bobbi Brown changed my life. She also changed my look — for the better. And I’m just one of hundreds of thousands of Bobbi Brown fans who would say the same thing.

Bobbi Brown is in a league of her own. She has served the masses without ever compromising quality or brand identity or integrity. She created a global beauty empire and reigned supreme as THE go-to makeup-artist-cum-mogul who sold her company to Estée Lauder in 1995 — just four years after launching it — but stayed on to run the show. Leonard Lauder, then CEO, who reportedly bought the company for more than $70 million — not too shabby, considering Brown started the business with three others, including her husband, who collectively put in $10,000 — told her, “We want to buy you because you are beating us in all the stores, and what you’ve done is amazing, and you remind me of my mother when she started….And I want you to continue doing what you’re doing.”

Brown was one of the first celebrity makeup artists to become a celebrity herself. She was on Oprah. She was a constant on The Today Show. She served as editor in chief of Yahoo Beauty. She was regularly featured in magazines such as Allure, InStyle, Vogue, and Elle. She authored eight books (now nine — see below!). She did former First Lady Michelle Obama’s makeup. And the list goes on.

In 2016, after her company celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary, Brown made the emotional decision to depart her namesake brand. But lest you think she has packed up and tucked away into the well-earned comforts of holidays and leisure pursuits, she is about to make a big splash in the lifestyle and wellness arena. A longtime devotee of living well (not materially speaking), she launches her newest book, Bobbi Brown’s Beauty From the Inside Out (Chronicle Books), this week. It’s symbolic, in a way, as it heralds her next chapter. “This book is about three things: makeup, wellness, and confidence. Honestly, the better you feel, the better you look,” Brown explains. “There is more to beauty than just appearance. Beauty is supported by lifestyle habits. And as you age, it becomes increasingly important to focus on what you put inside your body and how you take care of yourself, because it shows on the outside.” The book is chock-full of recipes — Brown is a total foodie who has always been obsessed with eating well — fitness routines and restorative yoga, skincare regimens, and, of course, makeup tips and techniques. “Everyone always wants to know how to line their eyes,” she notes.

In addition, Brown has launched justBobbi, her first concept shops in Lord & Taylor, nationwide. They are filled with her favorite products and accessories, such as bkr water bottles, Apa Beauty, Theory sweaters and T-shirts, Joe’s Jeans, and more.

This fall, she and her husband will open The George, a historic inn they have restored, in Montclair, New Jersey. Brown designed the entire space, with the exception of the library and the lobby, which were conceived and outfitted by One Kings Lane.

Bobbi Brown knew how to make us look good, and now she’ll inspire us to feel good, too. Beauty — from the inside out.