Bobbi Brown's Secrets For A Kick-Ass Life

She's an entrepreneur, beauty pioneer, wellness acolyte, and hip-hop aficionado. Yep, Bobbi Brown is the living definition of a well-rounded (and ever-evolving) woman. You probably already know the makeup artist as a powerful force in business — her eponymous beauty company sells over 21 million products a year and she’s on the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiation to boot. But, here's the thing: Bobbi is also just plain cool. At 56, she wears motorcycle boots, loves Jay Z, and believes in tequila. Here’s a woman who revolutionized the beauty industry with the simple ideas that makeup should look natural and that individuality should be celebrated.
Since 1991, she’s gone from makeup artist to mogul, while raising three boys and cultivating a reputation for being nice. (I can attest, having coauthored two books with her.) Bobbi is direct, authentic, and full of sage advice. Also, she seems to magically not age, which is a full-on ad for the green juice and superfoods she lives on. Here, in a candid interview, she reveals why she thinks street smarts matter, her thoughts on plastic surgery, and why she's loving her own "F*ck It" decade. Oh, and she's sharing her killer smoothie recipe, too. Read on to meet the Bobbi Brown you don't know — yet.

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Photographed by Alice Gao.
From the outside, it seems like you have the world’s best dream job, but what’s the reality?
"I have a very eclectic, rich life, full of incredible experiences, meeting phenomenal people, with things that you would never expect to happen. But, I'm really lucky because I also have a really normal, comfortable life at home with my kids, my neighbors, my clogs, and my big, comfy sweaters. There are two sides of me, and it’s really fun to have both."

Yves Saint Laurent blazer, Zara top, Genetic Denim jeans, Yves Saint Laurent heels.
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
Does that feel like you’re two different people? The beauty/glamorous side and then the clogs/suburban side?
"I honestly feel it’s the same person doing both. I go into my office wearing jeans, Vans, motorcycle boots, sweaters, or T-shirts. When I meet with my team, sometimes there is music, sometimes there are dogs, often there is a manicure. If I am being photographed, then there is a blowout, makeup, higher shoes, and some bigger jewelry. But, it's the same person. As soon as I’m done with the photo shoot or event, I take off the jewelry and the high shoes, and I go right back to being comfy Bobbi. It’s almost like I’m a Barbie doll: There’s Comfy Bobbi and Bobbi Goes Out."
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
From the caverns of Bobbi's mind to the surface of her desk: a selection of her makeup creations in her Montclair, New Jersey office.
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
So, what are some of the experiences that you never expected to happen that are part of your life now?
"Here’s a girl who got Ds in math, and I have my business and I’m on the U.S. Trade Commission. Who ever would have thought? I walk through the White House a couple times a year and the President says, 'Hey, Bobbi! Michelle, look who’s here.' Or, I get invited to a luncheon by the First Lady and I meet Reese Witherspoon and we become buddies. Then Reese and I both put our sneakers on, walk out of the White House, and go our separate ways to our families. And that’s really a modern woman. I try to take it all with a grain of salt."  
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
You started out as a creative person, but you’ve had to evolve. Was the business aspect harder?
"I never took a business class. I never took marketing or whatever you take when you’re getting an M.B.A. But, it’s so simple to me. I’m not sure if my business role models got M.B.A.s — Mickey Drexler (J.Crew), Richard Branson (Virgin Group), and Howard Schultz (Starbucks). But, these are guys that whatever their vision was, they followed their gut and they did it their way. Richard Branson, he always thinks about the experience of the person. I always think about what someone feels when they buy, when they order, or when they are with a makeup artist, so I get that. To me, street smarts are more important than degree smarts."
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
In Bobbi's office: black-and-white photographs, pink roses, and Diet Coke. (The Karl Lagerfeld edition, of course.)
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
The creative life: art books, art supplies. (Nope, those are not eyeliners.)
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
The Studio in Montclair, New Jersey.
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
You are in your 50s, but you do not age! Some of that is your vibe, and some of that is your look. What’s your secret?
"I think it is a combination of both things. I have good genes. I eat really healthy, though I am sipping on a mini Diet Coke right now. My food thing is to eat healthy 90% of the time."

Genetic Denim jeans, Prada heels, L'Wren Scott sweater, Zara top.
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
So, what are the indulgences? What’s 10%?
"I try to make the best possible choices. I’m fanatical about it. I like to have a cocktail, so I have tequila or vodka on the rocks with lime juice, no sugar. I love chocolate, so I’ll eat a darker chocolate that has less sugar. I love sweet potato fries. My last meal on earth would be toast with butter or cheese. I read every ingredient — if there is something I don’t know, I don’t eat it. I’m a foodie, by the way. I just spoke at an event with [chef] Marcus Samuelsson and I ate every fried green tomato, everything he made. I did see Marcus at the gym at 6 a.m. the next day, so that’s why he stays in such great shape."
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
Do you feel like there is a lot of pressure to not age in an industry that celebrates youth?
"I don’t feel the pressure about aging. I feel very lucky that I feel as good as I do at my age. And, it’s not just a gift, it’s something that I have worked on. It has taken me a long time to know what works. I love superfoods. I take liquid vitamins. I would love to do a line of supplements in a potato chip or something a woman would eat! Instead of trying to be what you think you’re supposed to be, if you kind of work with who you are, that’s a good strategy. Like, I’m not going to give up my espresso in the morning — but I do add coconut milk."
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
How do you feel about plastic surgery?
"I think that lasers are so incredible; there are so many great things that they do. Trust me, there are days when I look in the mirror and I see my two lines, but I say, 'Oh my God, what’s the big deal?' I just won’t do it, because I’ve seen so many not-attractive things. I think when you start to fill in little teeny things, there is an imbalance in your face, and I notice it on people. I always find that I want to do something when I’m really tired.

"So, my advice is to look at yourself on vacation. Everyone always does things when they are tired and don’t feel good. I look at women who are 70 and older, and the ones that look so good have a very rich life, and it’s not from money. It’s a rich life with people they love, with a lot of happiness, and that’s the secret. I can’t compete with someone taller, younger, prettier, thinner, so I might as well just be myself. I can compete with people who are not nice. I win on that."
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
This is one message we can get behind.
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
You just celebrated your 25th anniversary with Steven Plofker. You’ve said it was love at first sight with him. How did you know he was it?
"I was 30. I had just gotten out of a 12-year relationship, and it was one of those nights — hair in a ponytail, flat shoes, bad outfit. I went out with a couple of friends and we met. I came home and lay in bed staring at the ceiling all night. I woke up and I called my dad and said, 'I think I just met the man I’m going to marry.' And, he said, 'Right.' I couldn’t explain it. He hadn’t even asked me out yet."

Genetic Denim jeans, Prada heels, L'Wren Scott sweater, Zara top.
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
Wait. You thought you were going to marry him and he hadn’t asked you out?
"That’s what was crazy! After dinner, we were on the street talking for an hour."
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
So, there was smooching.
"No, there was nothing! I didn’t know anything about him! I didn’t know his last name, what he did for a living, or where he went to school. The next day, I found out two out of three things were great: He graduated from Harvard, he’s a nice Jewish guy, but his last name was Plofker. We got engaged three months later."
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
Wasn’t Steven the one who found your new-media center, 18 Label Studios [in Montclair, New Jersey]? "Yes, he bought this amazing old industrial building and asked me if I wanted to use part of it. I was like, 'How about all of it?' I knew how often we are renting studio space in the city and how much it costs. I also know that Montclair is full of producers, directors, and photographers in film, television, and magazines who would want to rent out the space. Our very first client was the Food Network and they built a shooting kitchen. As the client needs come up, we build it. It’s an amazing creative space."
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
Bobbi starts each morning with a vitamin-rich smoothie. Good news, folks: She's sharing the recipe, and it is delicious.

YSL cardigan, Zara top, Genetic Denim jeans, and a scarf purchased in London.
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
Bobbi's Coconut-Kale Smoothie 1 cup ice
1 cup coconut milk
¼ cup cocoa powder
2 tablespoons chia seeds
2 scoops of chocolate protein powder
½ frozen organic banana
A handful of frozen organic cherries
½ to 1 cup of kale, depending on personal taste
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
Add all ingredients to blender (a Vitamix is recommended) and blend for one minute. Pour and serve.
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
Dream kitchen, much?
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
Bobbi's a huge believer in the power of superfoods — and, judging by her energy level, we're definitely going to be eating our veggies.
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
Every time I walk into 18 Label, you always have the best music blasting. Who is on your iPod now?
"Kanye, Flo Rida, Jay Z, Bruce Springsteen, and Mick Jagger — those five. I’ve been very lucky. I’ve danced with Flo Rida. I spent a day with Bruce at the 12-12-12 concert, because I did his wife’s makeup. I’ve hung with Mick Jagger at Fashion Week. I saw Kanye in concert. Jay Z? Well, I saw him from afar at a basketball game."
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
On the 18 Label bookshelf: tomes about Audrey Hepburn, Jackie O, and Yogi Berra.
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
Table space at 18 Label, the future home of Bobbi Brown University.
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
You’ve described your 50s to me as the "F*ck It" decade. Explain.
"Well, the 40s were 'Oh sh*t,' and the 50s are 'F*ck!' Which means, what happened? How did this happen so quickly? It’s funny: I was with my husband at an event in the city, and there were all these people who clearly had just let it go. They stopped taking care of themselves, stopped coloring their hair, stopped exercising. And, I said to my husband, 'I want to write a book on aging called Don’t Let Go.'"

Genetic Denim jeans, YSL heels, Zara top, BLK DNM leather jacket.
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
That’s hysterical, but I remember it being 'F*ck it, I’m not going to give energy to things and people that don’t matter.'
"It’s both things. 'F*ck it' is when you finally realize what’s important. You can’t spend too much time being with people that are energy drains. I need energy, and I happen to get it from being around young people. My staff, my kids — I walk on college campuses and I am infused with energy. I love asking questions, sharing stories. I just gave a speech at Twitter this week and it was so much fun. I love being around young people. I don’t like being around people who all they do is complain, whether it is about how old they are or how tired they are or whatever. If there is something wrong, fix it! So what? Now what? That quote by Liz Murray is written on my wall at work."
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
You’ve been credited with changing the perception of what’s beautiful — making beauty more subtle and natural, more about expressing who you are. Do you think it still needs to change?
"Women still need to understand what they put in their body is as important as what they put on their face. I also think women have to learn the power of nude makeup. It doesn’t mean washed-out, it means the colors that are right for you. Another thing is that you don’t have to be cutting-edge with makeup. You can be cutting-edge with fashion or jewelry, but not with makeup."
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