After the fluorescent-fueled frenzy of the ’80s, Bobbi Brown provided a refreshing approach to beauty when she started her company in 1991. Her easy-does-it approach and versatile products appealed to women who wanted to look like themselves—only better.
Twenty years later, she’s still one of our go-to beauty gurus. Now, as she celebrates two decades at the helm of her namesake label, photographer Bruce Weber takes a moment to celebrate the maven behind the makeup. Check out our interview below, and enter our Tweetstakes to win products from Bobbi Brown.
Barneys New York: You worked with Bruce Weber early in your career as a makeup artist on photo shoots. What were your first experiences like? How does it feel to be on the other side of his camera now?
Bobbi Brown: He was the first person I worked with who understood and appreciated natural beauty. I felt so comfortable working with him because I believed in his vision and he believed in mine. There is no one else I’d rather work with on my 20th anniversary than the man who I consider a true inspiration and great mentor in my career. It’s funny how everything eventually comes full circle.
BNY: Your breakthrough moment as a makeup artist was your American Vogue cover with Naomi Campbell (shot by Patrick Demarchelier). How did that affect your career?
BB: I was so excited to get that job. It was my first cover shoot and such a legendary one for Vogue with Naomi on the cover. I was so nervous and did makeup on Naomi that was out of her comfort zone, but in the end, everything went really well. I could never have predicted at that time that I’d eventually have my own line. I was just living in the moment.
BB: When I created my first ten lipsticks in 1991, we were just coming out of the ’80s when everything was about bright, bold colors. We were in a recession, so it wasn’t about bold makeup anymore; it was about modesty. But women still loved and wanted lipstick. It made them feel pretty and powerful. I remember wishing so many times that natural colors existed so I could use them on set. To me, looking your most beautiful meant using colors that accented the natural tones in your skin, so I thought lipsticks were a good place to start.
BNY: What do you love most about having a beauty line?
BB: I love that my brand helps to empower women by elevating their self-confidence, and that the products have a positive effect on the way women look and ultimately feel.
BNY: What has changed the most since you launched your line 20 years ago? What has stayed the same?
BB: The perception of beauty has changed over the years. When I first started my company, people were excited about natural-looking makeup because we were coming out of the ’80s—a time of fluorescent greens and hot pinks, and lots of electric colors and unnatural formulas. Now, while natural looking makeup is still very prominent, there is this increasing desire for women to look younger through injections, fillers and plastic surgery. In many cases, I think women can do without it. I love lines on a woman’s face, because I think they are beautiful and show character. Ultimately, I think women just want to look prettier and feel more confident, and that is something that hasn’t changed in the past 20 years, and probably never will.
BB: The most important beauty advice I ever received was from my mother, who taught me that confidence is the most compelling aspect of real beauty. The best beauty advice that I can give to others is to be who you are, and “put in, put on.” With the right tools and makeup, anyone can look and feel pretty and more confident.
BNY: There are some great cameos in your video–Alec Baldwin (sounding a bit Demarchelier like), Iris Apfel, Cornelia Guest. How did they get involved?
BB: We had a great group of people involved in this shoot. A lot of them are old friends of Bruce or people we’ve worked with over the years. I first met Alec when I worked on a cover shoot featuring him and Tea Leoni. Bruce and I ran into him randomly at Nick & Tony’s and asked him to stop by the shoot. He ended up spending the day with us. Iris is someone I have always admired for her incredible sense of style, and she is also Bruce’s old friend. I asked Talisa Soto to make a cameo, as she is one of my favorite faces, along with Anne Marie Kortright-Shilstat. I once did Cornelia’s mother’s makeup for a shoot for British Vogue, and was looking forward to working with Cornelia one day. Basically, Bruce and I asked a lot of our favorite people who we believe are pretty powerful.
BNY: You’re dubbed “The Wise-Cracking Beauty Queen” in the video. Care to elaborate?
BB: I have actually never been called that before. That was all Bruce. But I try not to take myself too seriously. I love to laugh and believe in having a good sense of humor. I think I’m funny, although my boys may disagree, but I rely on my wit since I am constantly surrounded by men.
- Tory Hoen
Shop Bobbi Brown at Barneys.com, and don’t forget to enter the Barneys New York Bobbi Brown 20th Anniversary Tweetstakes between August 24 and September 7.
- To enter, follow @BarneysNY and @BobbiBrown on Twitter
- Then tweet your favorite Bobbi Brown quote using the hashtag #BNYBOBBI
- The grand prize? One of two beauty trunks filled with the holiday collection and 20th Anniversary palette (a $1,000+ value)!