Bobbi Brown about how she founded Bobbi Brown Cosmetics and her new book “Pretty Powerful”

Bobbi Brown first arrived on the beauty scene in 1991 with the launch of Bobbi Brown Essentials, and changed the face of makeup with a handful of 10 brown-based lipstick shades created to fill a void in the market of simple, flattering and wearable makeup. Today Bobbi Brown Cosmetics is a global brand, having expanded beyond lipstick to a full range of color cosmetics, fragrance and skincare with a presence in more than 1,000 doors in 57 countries and 18 free-standing stores and she is also launching her seventh book “Pretty Powerful Beauty Stories to Inspire Confidence”.

Leaders in Heels: It is quite amazing to hear that you launched Bobbi Brown in 1991 with a range of 10 lipsticks and 4 years later Estee Lauder decided to acquire your brand. Obviously it must have been a great success. How did you manage to create such a strong brand? Tell us your story.

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Bobbi Brown: I saw a major void in the cosmetics industry that I knew I could help address. My vision was to create a simplified cosmetics line that looked natural and would match and complement women’s complexions. I started with creating lipstick shades that made lips look like lips, only better. I was incredibly passionate about my idea and how it could help women.

Leaders in Heels: How did you find out that Estee Lauder was interested in acquiring Bobbi Brown? And how did it feel?

Bobbi Brown: In 1995 we were approached by Leonard Lauder with an offer to buy. We weren’t for sale, but we were going through growing pains and knew we needed help if we wanted to take our business to the next level. Maintaining the integrity of the brand was top priority and I told Mr. Lauder I would only sell if I retained complete creative control. He agreed and the rest is history.

Leaders in Heels: You have always been committed to empowering women of all ages by providing generous financial and in-kind support to The Broome Street Academy in SoHo and Dress for Success. What message do you want to pass onto other women? How can we all contribute?

Bobbi Brown: The reason I do what I do is to empower women—and that’s what I hope I’m remembered for. I’ve been very fortunate in my life and I’m at a point now where I’m able to give to others. There are many different ways for all of you to make a difference on a daily basis from volunteering at a local organization to donating gently used clothes. Remember that anything and everything you do helps.

Leaders in Heels: What change would you like to see in the world?

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Bobbi Brown: 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.

I think we are starting to see a cultural shift towards a more realistic potential for all women but there is still more work to be done. My philosophy has always been “be who you are.” This means everything from learning to love your lines to appreciating your unique features. To help spread this message I launched the Pretty Powerful campaign to show women how pretty they are and what can be done with the right makeup, knowledge and tools. This isn’t power as defined by someone else (and that includes me). It’s about knowing what’s right for you and following your own path to being who you want to be.

Leaders in Heels: As a makeup artist you meet lots of celebrities, politicians and other public figures on a daily basis. Who do you love working with and who inspires you the most?

Bobbi Brown: Over the years I’ve worked with countless women who I’ve loved working with and who most importantly have inspired me. Beyond makeup, we’ve talked about life-altering events; everything from the joy of being a new mom to dealing with homelessness and divorce. With each conversation, these women have shown that when you have the will and the heart, almost anything is possible—and that’s what Pretty Powerful is all about.

Leaders in Heels: What is the next big thing you are working on?

Bobbi Brown: To celebrate my new book Pretty Powerful and Pretty Powerful campaign that aims to show women how pretty they are and what can be done with the right makeup, knowledge and tools – I’m traveling to Chicago, LA, Dallas and Miami in October and then to Beijing and Hong Kong in November.

Leaders in Heels: Tell me about your new book “Pretty Powerful Beauty Stories to Inspire Confidence”

Bobbi Brown: Pretty Powerful is a new kind of makeup guide that starts with who you are, rather than how you look. The book is about conversations and transformations with more than 70 incredible women. It also includes my top makeup tips and tricks and personal stories to help women be their best, most authentic selves. Writing Pretty Powerful was an unforgettable experience. I had the honor of working with an amazing group of women who are full of energy and confidence, and whose celebration of life is truly inspiring. My hope is to help women everywhere understand that being who you are is the secret to lasting beauty — and that all of us can be both pretty and Pretty Powerful.

Leaders in Heels: What makeup tip would you give to women in business?

Bobbi Brown: Work makeup doesn’t automatically mean subdued or conservative makeup—it’s about doing what’s right for where you work (and your style). For example, someone who works at an ad agency or special events company probably has more leeway to have fun with their makeup than someone who works in a more corporate environment. However, office makeup is about looking polished and pulled-together. Like many women, I often do my makeup when I’m en-route to the office so my routine is quick and takes just a handful of products: Creamy concealer covers dark circles and instantly makes you look well-rested; stick foundation can be spot-applied just where skin is red or uneven; cream blush doubles up as a cheek and lip color; and a few coats of the blackest black mascara makes eyes pop even if you’re not wearing any other eye makeup.

Leaders in Heels: Leaders in Heels is all about empowering women. What advice can you give to my readers to create successful careers and lives for themselves?

  • Follow your dreams and passions. Have a vision of where you want to see yourself and figure out a course to take you there.
  • Don’t take no for an answer. If one door closes, look for a back door or a side door. Don’t hang with pessimists!
  • Have long term goals and mini goals. Don’t get overwhelmed – it won’t happen overnight.
  • Work on your craft, network, and always be nice. Hard work and niceness come back…
  • Do things with integrity and always look people in the eye when you talk to them.