Bobbi Brown is one of the most recognizable names in the beauty industry. You probably own some of her beauty products in their minimalist black packaging, emblazoned with Bobbi's name in its signature font. Or you've at least stopped by her aisle at a Sephora and gazed upon all the jars and compacts and sticks in every velvety skin tone imaginable. Hers is an empire built on following your instincts, regardless of how crazy they may seem to the people around you.
When Bobbi started out as a makeup artist in the '80s, the trendy beauty look was over the top (as we all know from dressing up for one too many lazy Halloweens as "a person from the '80s"). It involved as many colors as possible, intense rouging of the cheeks, and bright lipsticks — a lot of fuchsia and coral. Bobbi was not a fan of that excessive look, so she simply did not indulge in it. Instead, she stuck to her ideal of unadorned beauty and found success — see Naomi Campbell's first-ever American Vogue cover, for which Bobbi did the makeup. She also started working with the photographer Brigitte Lacombe, who is known for portraits that capture subjects in natural light. By the '90s, the artificial look went out of style, and a more stripped-back, bare version of beauty emerged, just in time for Bobbi to turn her aesthetic into a full-fledged business.
But the most important thing about Bobbi's vision of beauty is that it is not defined by white, blue-eyed, blonde models. She did not see herself reflected in them when she was young, and when it was time to develop her makeup line, she was one of the first to go beyond "beige," "peach," and "tan" colors, offering alternatives for Asian and black skin tones. We spoke with Bobbi over the phone about tequila, making mistakes, and how turning down a dream job opened up the opportunity for her empire.
Laia Garcia: You're celebrating your company's 25th anniversary this year. What do you think has changed the most in the beauty industry since you launched?
Bobbi Brown: Oh, my God, so many things. I believe I was a pioneer of teaching women to feel good about themselves, to be comfortable in their own skin. To really discover what makes them look and feel their most beautiful. When I started, the way that people sold makeup was to tell you what's wrong with you: "You're too pale. Your nose is too big. Let me show you how to change the shape of your eyes." From day one, I would teach women to do makeup based on the natural colors in their skin.
LG: I love that on your website, you have the makeup lessons tailored for individual skin tones and ethnicities. How involved are you in the day-to-day operation of your website? Do you come up with the content yourself?
BB: I'm completely, 100 percent involved in every little aspect. I forget that I actually sold my company over twenty years ago, and a lot of people don't even know that, but I still think I own it. I'm able to change things when I don't feel they're going in the right direction. I have never felt happier and stronger and more clear that my original message of 25 years ago is the biggest message of the next 25 years, which is "Be who you are." It's empowerment. It's confidence.
LG: I think it's incredible that so many companies are still struggling with being more inclusive, and you've been doing it since the beginning.