Why beauty mogul Bobbi Brown is eyeing India after working with Michelle Obama and Oprah
YSWeekender recently had the opportunity to catch up with Bobbi Brown, iconic makeup artist and founder of her eponymous brand Bobbi Brown Cosmetics. She tells us how she fell in love with makeup as a little girl, her journey in beauty, and her plans for the future
The first India Make Up Show was held this April. Curated by Mumbai-based entertainment startup Brothers Incorporated, which is founded by Rahul Tuljapurkar and Ninad Shah, the show managed to rope in a woman who could be called the high priestess of makeup.
Bobbi Brown, makeup artist turned beauty mogul, joined the lineup of beauty experts, which included Cory Walia, Bianca Louzado, Mariana, Mehera Kolah, Namrata Soni, Vipul Bhagat, and Savio John Pereira from India. She stood out.
The American professional makeup artist and founder of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics is no stranger to making a mark. She launched Bobbi Brown Essentials at Bergdorf Goodman in 1991.
The makeup style that included moderate and natural tones was an instant hit, and she sold it to Estee Lauder just a few years later, in 1995, retaining creative control of the makeup line. Along the way, she authored over nine books on makeup and beauty, was consulting editor for many magazines, sold her cosmetics in more than 50 countries, and worked for the likes of Michelle Obama, Katie Holmes, and Oprah Winfrey.
In late 2016, 25 years after she started her namesake brand, Bobbi announced that she was moving on. Not one to rest on her laurels, she soon pivoted into several new careers - hotelier, health coach, wellness brand founder, and podcaster.
The indomitable 62-year-old now has her sights set on a new market: India. In an email interaction with YSWeekender, Bobbi Brown speaks about how she fell in love with makeup as a little girl, her journey till now, and her plans for the future.
Edited excerpts of the interview:
YS Weekender: Why did you choose India and what attracted you about the market?
Bobbi Brown: India is so rich and beautiful. I have wanted to come to India for a long time. The people, the history, the culture, and of course, the food.
I am open to absolutely anything. I’m excited to have an opportunity to share my tips and career story at the India Make Up Show. I find that the makeup worn by women in this country ranges from over-the-top colours to a traditional, cleaner and more modern look. It is a diverse mix of looks and trends.
YSW: How do you see the market grow and evolve?
BB: I see the makeup moving into a clean and natural space. Women want to use good products on their skin. I am open to experiencing all that India has to offer. Everyone looks so beautiful here. Priyanka Chopra is someone I would definitely like work with when in India. She is one of the most beautiful women on the planet, and seems very down to earth and cool.
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YSW: What are your plans for India and the coming future?
BB: When I get back to the US, I’ll continue to work on my various projects — the hotel, EVOLUTION_18, my podcast Long Story Short, and on creating content for JustBobbi.com. They keep me busy.
YSW: How would you describe your journey to becoming a legend and icon in the world of makeup?
BB: I fell in love with makeup and beauty as a young girl. I have vivid memories of watching my mother getting ready to go out and doing her makeup. When I was asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, I kept coming back to makeup. I studied theatrical makeup in college and then started working as a freelance makeup artist. I learned so much assisting other artists and from being on set.
When I was starting my family, I realised I didn’t want to be travelling all time. I came up with a simple idea for a shade of lipstick that actually looked like the colour of a woman’s lips.
It was simple, but seemed revolutionary for the time. The Bobbi Brown Essentials line of lipsticks debuted at Bergdorf Goodman in New York City in 1991. I expected to sell 100 lipsticks in the first month and ended up selling 100 on the first day. Four years later, we sold the company to Estée Lauder and I worked at the brand as chief creative officer. I was in a unique position that allowed me to show women how simple makeup could be while also encouraging them to be confident in their own skin.
YSW: Tell us about the challenges you faced. How did you overcome them?
BB: When I left my brand after 25 years, it was with a mix of sadness and excitement. It gave me time to reflect on my experiences of being an entrepreneur, creative, beauty expert, health and fitness advocate, author, and editor-in-chief. In doing that, I saw an opportunity to create all of these new ventures.
Now, I have a hotel, The George Inn, in my hometown of Montclair. I started a brand of supplements, EVOLUTION_18, which is about beauty from the inside out. And I’m sharing the best of beauty, wellness, travel, and style on my lifestyle website, justbobbi.com. It’s opened a new chapter of my life and, so far, it's been an exciting ride.
YSW: What are the challenges of being a woman entrepreneur and how did you overcome them?
BB: It can be easy to feel intimidated, but it’s important to always go with your gut. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind, ask questions, and make changes when you need to. I reminded myself that every experience is an opportunity to learn and it made me less afraid to make mistakes.
YSW: What advice would you give other young women entrepreneurs?
BB: Be open. Be a sponge and absorb everything. Work hard — and for free if you have to — when following your dreams. Keep at it, don’t let failure stop you.