Even as a young girl, Bobbi Brown was enthralled by makeup. “I remember watching my mother apply her white eye shadow and black liner in her blue gilded bathroom–she was glamorous, but fresh-looking.” And as soon as she was able to work, Bobbi raced to the small cosmetics store in town, where she got her first taste of formal training.
Bobbi’s education continued at Boston’s Emerson College, where she earned a B.F.A. in theatrical makeup. Upon graduation, she moved to New York City to make it as a professional makeup artist. She showed her ever-growing portfolio to anyone who would look at it, slowly built up contacts and experienced the challenges typical of most freelance makeup artists trying to make it in Manhattan.
But despite the ups and downs, her talent and drive earned her coveted gigs with top magazines, photographers and models. Bobbi began her collaboration with photographers Bruce Weber and Arthur Elgort for American Vogue, as well as with the late Francesco Scavullo for Cosmopolitan and Self. A seven-page spread of full-face beauty shots of supermodel Tatiana Patitz–shot by Wayne Maser–also put Bobbi’s work front and center.
Bobbi’s big breakthrough was her first American Vogue cover. The image was shot by famed photographer Patrick Demarchelier and featured the soon-to-be-supermodel Naomi Campbell, made up by Bobbi Brown. Seven years after arriving to New York City knowing no one, Bobbi was part of the club. The industry took notice.
As a successful makeup artist with access to everything in the market, Bobbi found nearly all products looked too artificial, making it impossible to create a gorgeous, no-makeup look.
Ten years into her freelance career, a chance meeting with a chemist at a magazine photo shoot changed everything. “I had the idea to create a lipstick that didn’t smell, wasn’t dry or greasy and looked like lips, only better–and I told the chemist about it,” she says.
The chemist made the lipstick following Bobbi’s unprecedented specifications and the result was Brown Lip Color, a pinky-brown shade. Nine other brown-based lipstick shades followed soon after, and Bobbi’s set of lipsticks was complete.
In 1991, her 10 lipsticks debuted at the Bergdorf Goodman under the name of Bobbi Brown essentials. Bobbi was expecting to sell 100 in a month. She sold 100 within the first day.
The message was clear: women wanted makeup that was simple, flattering and wearable.
Word spread quickly. Bobbi’s unique approach to cosmetics was a long-awaited gift for women who wanted a more natural look. The magazine industry’s most prominent beauty editors got behind Bobbi, and her small, insider brand garnered big time buzz.
The range expanded beyond lipstick. Bobbi’s foundations were yellow-based, not pink, revolutionizing face makeup as it’s known today. And, before long, she showed that she was as adept at neutrals as she was at bright and bold colors.
This sea change in the beauty market caught the attention of cosmetics empire Estee Lauder, who bought Bobbi Brown Cosmetics in 1995, just four years after the company’s inception. Today, Bobbi Brown retains creative control of the brand.
In addition to running her company, Bobbi continues to pursue her craft by creating the runway looks for New York Fashion Week. A permanent fixture backstage, she works with the industry’s best designers including Rachel Roy, J. Mendel, Erin Fetherston, Tory Burch and Cynthia Rowley.
Bobbi often does how-to segments on The Today Show and The Oprah Winfrey Show, and her advice can be found in syndicated columns and advice features for magazines and websites around the globe.
Of course, you can always find Bobbi where she began–on the set. Bobbi is still the world’s most celebrated makeup artists for personalities and fashion magazines.
A New York Times best-selling author, Bobbi has written five instructional and engaging beauty and lifestyle books: Bobbi Brown Beauty, Bobbi Brown Teenage Beauty, Bobbi Brown Beauty Evolution, Bobbi Brown Living Beauty and Bobbi Brown Makeup Manual.
For Bobbi, making other people’s lives better simply makes sense. “I love helping others because it feels good,” she says. On a year-round basis, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics donates generous financial and in-kind support to organizations including Dress for Success and the Jane Addams Vocational High School. To learn more about Bobbi’s philanthropic work, please visit Bobbi’s Causes.