Meet the Powerful Beauty
Bobbi Brown needs no formal introduction. Her name and eponymous cosmetics empire have been front and center in the industry for years. Bobbi’s most recent launch, the Pretty Powerful campaign, aims to teach everyday women how to apply the right products and shades to go from simply Pretty to Pretty Powerful, Pretty Amazing and Pretty Beautiful.
How has your brand has evolved since you created it in 1991?
I never thought that my company would be this big, and if I even thought there was a chance, I never would have done it. My proudest achievement is building Bobbi Brown Cosmetics – from 10 lipsticks at Bergdorf Goodman, to a global business that’s sold in over 45 international markets.
Having my own business has given me a great deal and has allowed me to help many people through the charities I sponsor. When you are well-known, you can pick up the telephone and call anyone you want. This is important for the charity work that I do including Dress for Success.
How did your education in theatrical makeup factor into your commercial endeavors?
My early passion in beauty led me to learn the art of theatrical makeup at Emerson College in Boston, then onto New York City to work as a professional makeup artist. I tackled challenges that face any novice in the industry – building a portfolio from scratch, making contacts – but my biggest frustration was the lack of flattering makeup products. It was impossible to find makeup that looked good on the skin, and I almost always had to ‘fix’ the products I bought, blending shades together until I got something that looked natural. My experiences gained at college and the challenges I faced on a daily basis led me to create my first set of lipsticks that didn’t smell, were not dry or greasy, and looked like lips, but only better!
Tell us about the concept behind Pretty Powerful.
Pretty Powerful symbolizes my belief that all women possess natural beauty, and with the right tools, are empowered to a higher level of pretty…Pretty Powerful, Pretty Amazing, Pretty Gorgeous, etc. Through testimonials, videos and before-and-afters I wanted their individuality and inner beauty to shine through.
Could this campaign be the start of a cultural shift, celebrating a more realistic ideal for women?
After so many years of seeing a similar ‘cookie-cutter’ beauty and fashion images in the media, I do hope that we will start to see a cultural shift towards a more realistic potential for all women. I have always said that beauty is about embracing what you have naturally – not conforming to an unobtainable standard or looking exactly like everyone else. I think it’s time for all people to use the right tools and makeup knowledge to celebrate their own inner confidence – and look and feel their very best in the process.
How do you think women feel pressured to look and fit with a ‘perfect’ ideal?
Everywhere women look, they are confronted with the same kinds of fashion and beauty images – ones that showcase a perfectionism that’s not realistically achievable. Between long hours at the office, family responsibilities, and endless to-do lists, it’s not feasible for women to spend hours in front of the mirror trying to emulate an airbrushed photo. But it’s very real to feel this kind of pressure.
How will this Pretty Powerful campaign empower women?
Pretty Powerful is a way for women to take a step back, press the ‘reset’ button, and truly think about what is important to them. I believe that makeup should be fun, simple and expressive – it should not be rocket science! It’s a way to help women feel and look their best, whether it’s for a day at the office, an evening soiree, or a night out with friends. It’s about finding what works best for you and then experimenting from there. I’m hoping that Pretty Powerful will inspire women to embrace their own inner confidence so that they shine from within.
You’ve always said you can find beauty in every woman – but most women can’t see it for themselves. How can women use cosmetics to discover and optimize their own natural beauty/prettiness?
I believe that every woman is beautiful, and the key to bringing out that beauty is confidence. Unfortunately, many women have trouble tapping into their own confidence. While makeup shouldn’t be considered a one-step prescription for self-confidence (that has to come from within and be developed over time) – I believe that with the right tools and knowledge, makeup can help all women achieve that little ’boost’ for looking and feeling our best.
You once said that, as a teenager, you were desperate to look like Cheryl Tiegs, until you discovered Ali McGraw and were able to appreciate a different kind of beauty. What do you say to women who feel they’d like to look like someone else?
It’s simple advice, but I always tell women to be who you are. This means everything from learning to love your lines to appreciating your unique features. I think we should start using the phrase ‘living’ instead of ‘aging’. Lines are proof that we’ve lived life. We get them when we show emotion, when we laugh, and when we express ourselves.
It’s also really important to live in the present. We spend a lot of energy feeling bad that we don’t look like we used to, or that we don’t look like someone else — instead of appreciating what we do look like. I hated my arms when I was a teenager and often wore long-sleeved shirts. Now I look back on pictures from those days and I think that my arms looked fine. I would have saved myself a lot of adolescent angst if I had made the best of what I had at the time. So start appreciating yourself now.
Do you think the cosmetics industry as a whole has a duty to celebrate ‘real women’?
I believe strongly that the cosmetics industry should celebrate all women. Models are certainly beautiful, but they represent such a small cross-section of women that it’s unrealistic to expect everyone else to conform to their standards. I think women can gain a lot of confidence by seeing realistic, beautifully natural images celebrated in the media.
When you meet women at personal appearances and events, what is their most common ‘complaint’ and how do you empower them to make the most of their own natural beauty/prettiness?
Women often tell me is that with all their commitments, they don’t have time to look and feel their best. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for our crazy schedules. But makeup doesn’t have to take hours – all you need is 10 (or even 5 minutes) to create a fresh, quick look. Also, I tell women to take charge of themselves. Instead of fighting the body you have, accept it and make the most out of it. Focus on being healthy, strong, and fit. Commit to making smart food choices and exercise regularly. This requires work and it’s not a quick fix, but you’ll look and feel better over the long term.
What are your desert island beauty products?
A face moisturizer with SPF, Bobbi Brown Creamy Concealer, and Eucalyptus Shampoo & Conditioner from Golden Door Spa.
Are you a mom?
Yes. My family – my sons and my husband – is my biggest happiness. They complete me and give me perspective.
What’s your favorite bag?
My chocolate brown Birkin bag!