Bobbi Brown: I’m Ready To Start Another Revolution

Photographed by Ben Ritter.
Bobbi Brown, makeup artist, author, and founder of her namesake cosmetics line, has decided to leave her company. In this letter, she reflects on the last 27 years, and looks forward to her next chapter. In February 1991, Bobbi Brown Essentials launched at Bergdorf Goodman on a small table in the middle of the iconic New York City makeup floor. My husband Steven and I, with our founding partners Rosalind and Ken Landis, created a company with one purpose: to teach women just how simple makeup could be. But it actually started a few years before that. Recently married and pregnant, I moved out of the city and decided that I didn’t want to travel as an editorial makeup artist anymore. I had a simple idea for a lipstick that actually looked like the color of women’s lips and, thanks to my years of experience on set, I knew that no two were the same. I designed 10 brown-based shades in a color collection that was creamy, matte, odorless, and could be mixed and blended to create unique, individual hues. It was a simple concept, but one that seemed revolutionary at the time. I sold them out of our house by mailing or hand-delivering them to people who had heard about them through word of mouth. Back then, the lipsticks were packaged in manila envelopes with ingredient cards placed on the inside. When Leslie Seymour, a beauty editor at Glamour, wrote about them, that’s when the phone started ringing off the hook. Then, after a random encounter with a Bergdorf Goodman cosmetics buyer, we sold our first lipstick on counter in February of 1991. Four years later, we sold the company to Estée Lauder and I remained involved as chief creative officer.
Photo Courtesy: Bobbi Brown
The 10 lip colors that started it all.
But there was so much more to it all than makeup. Over the next two decades, I had the privilege of sharing my philosophy of beauty with women all over the world. “Be who you are” has been my mantra, and I am most proud of the way this message has resonated among women of all ages. As a makeup artist myself, I realized I was happier and more confident when I didn’t compare myself to the models I was lucky enough to work with – among them, Cindy, Naomi, Christie, Linda, and Helena. I didn’t look like them and the rest of us shouldn’t feel bad because we don’t look like them either. Instead, I preached the importance of being the best, most authentic version of yourself. I guided women toward creating smooth, even skin with foundation that disappeared on your face (thanks to my yellow-toned formula). Instead of severe blush shapes, I gently pushed people to embrace a flattering, just-came-back-from-a-run flush. I helped women’s eyes stand out — in whatever beautiful shape they were born with. I’m humbled to say that I didn’t just teach people about makeup; I started a movement of confidence and self esteem. In recent years, it’s been amazing to see so many young beauty entrepreneurs emerge and flourish — just as I was able to early in my career. But it’s also a bit disheartening to see trends like contouring, which make young women feel like they need to be something other than who they are.

I’m humbled to say that I didn’t just teach people about makeup; I started a movement of confidence and self esteem.

I hope that women realize that makeup is meant to enhance, rather than to cover up, and true beauty lies in your health and vitality. And, I plan to be a part of this new revolution of beauty again, just as I was nearly 30 years ago. Writing this letter, I am overwhelmed with emotion: sadness for leaving my company, and excitement for new avenues of spreading my message. But most of all, I feel lucky, grateful, and more optimistic than ever of what’s to come. Stay tuned…. Bobbi

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