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KKB TALK: What beauty means to an industry icon

bobbi brown

bobbi brown Credit: Bobbi Brown

Midwest-raised Bobbi Brown is the Founder and CCO of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics.  Bobbi first arrived on the beauty scene in 1991 and caught the attention of the cosmetics empire Estée Lauder, which acquired Bobbi Brown Cosmetics in 1995.

Her cosmetics, fragrance and skincare brand has a presence in more than 1,000 doors in 60 countries and 30 free-standing stores, but her impact extends well beyond the beauty and fashion industries. Committed to empowering women of all ages, Bobbi supports The Broome Street Academy charter high school and the non-profit Dress for Success by providing generous financial and in-kind support on a year-round basis. In 2010, Bobbi was appointed by President Barack Obama to the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiation, and was invited by First Lady Michelle Obama to participate in the White House’s leadership and mentoring program for young women.

In spring 2013, she further amplified this message with the launch of The Pretty Powerful Campaign for Women & Girls, the brand’s first-ever global charitable initiative aimed at empowering women and girls with education, resources, job skills and work experience to help them “be who they are.”

From her office in SoHo, the mother of three talks to us about beauty and her new venture into eyewear.

How did you start your own makeup line?

When I first started in the cosmetics industry, I couldn’t find shades or colors that looked natural or were truly skin tone correct. I wanted to find lipsticks that looked like lips. So I started mixing my own shades to create makeup that would truly match and complement a woman’s complexion. Then, a chance meeting with a chemist at a magazine photo shoot changed everything. In 1991, I launched my first 10 natural, wearable lip colors at Bergdorf Goodman. I guess you can say the rest is history.

Why did you choose to start with lip color?

I’ve always loved a more natural beauty look which is what inspired my original 10 lipsticks and it’s what my brand is built on. I wanted lips to look like lips and shades that looked good on all women. I love products that are flattering and look good the moment you put them on. I started with one color nd quickly realized not everyone had the same lip color.

What was your most terrifying job as a makeup artist?

Never knowing what my next job would be.

What was the Bobbi Brown fragrance inspired by?

I wanted something clean and fresh but that would make me feel good when I put it on. It’s all a matter of personal preference, but I feel sexiest wearing fragrances with clean, green notes.

Who is your favorite model?

Ali MacGraw has always been an inspiration of mine. As a teenager, I wanted to look like supermodel Cheryl Tiegs, blue-eyed and blonde, but I couldn’t have looked any more different. I spent a lot of time feeling bad about what I wasn’t. It was then that I saw Ali in "Love Story" and I finally saw the possibility of my own beauty. She was a brunette with brown eyes and beautiful.

What’s your idea of beauty?

I believe that beauty comes in all ages, colors, shapes and sizes. It’s not about looking like someone else, or trying to be someone you’re not. It’s about figuring out what works for you, and making the best of what you’ve got. Loving yourself and being who you are is key, and the right makeup can help you get there. Ultimately, confidence is beauty.

How do you balance kids and work?

As a working mom, it’s important to find a healthy and happy balance between your family and career. Know that you can’t do it all and the the key is to prioritize. Take moments to step back to clear and refocus your perspective. If you know what’s important to you, you will always make the right decisions. And don’t beat yourself up. You will have to make sacrifices and it is okay -- it doesn’t make you a bad employee or mother or wife/partner. I personally try to never miss out on the big things, and family comes first almost always cause I have learned that there are once in a lifetime moments that are fleeting and pass by all too quickly.

What are your new projects?

I just launched eyewear because I really want to take the mystery out of finding the right frames -- similar to what I did with makeup. Finding frames that look good on you can be tough, so I wanted to simplify that process and create glasses that compliment your face shape, skin tone, and overall personal style. My sunglasses are available at Solstice and my optical frames launch in February. On top of that, I am getting ready for Fashion Week again, heading to London to work with L’Wren Scott, who I also just launched a limited edition collection with featuring a beautiful palette inspired by her Spring 14 fashion show. In April, my eighth book comes out focused on eye makeup tips that women are always asking me about, and I’m relaunching my iconic Foundation Stick in March. There is never a dull moment, but it is all very exciting. You can keep up with me on my blog EverythingBobbi.com, which I also edit myself almost daily.

What are your go-tos in your wardrobe?

A great blazer -- I love Rag & Bone, YSL, Chanel and even Uniqlo—J Brand jeans, Vince and Alexander Wang tees, and a statement necklace or earrings from Lulu Frost, Shorouk, or J.Crew

What’s your favorite New York restaurant?

I love Balthazar -- it’s a block away from my office and there’s always good people watching. I also just went to Rao’s and had the best time

Any advice on how to be Bobbi Brown?

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 powerful.

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