Bobbi Brown Talks Cosmetics Branding, Charity Campaigns, and Yahoo Beauty

Her tips: makeup concealer and not looking too often in the mirror...

bobbi brown

“Models, editors and competitors came to my brand’s launch at Bergdorf’s,” said Bobbi Brown, founder of namesake cosmetics line featuring “natural-looking” makeup.

She’s been moving non-stop after the 1991 retail launch: since Estée Lauder bought her company in 1995, Brown has served as CCO — and in 2010, she started Pretty Powerful, an educational charity. Now, as editor of Yahoo Beauty, she keeps the site’s content real with a little help from her astute Aunt Alice.

Brown made the comment about her brand’s launch during an appearance at FIAF: French Institute/Alliance Francaise on Wednesday. She spoke at length about all aspects of her career and offered unique takes on branding and beauty. Here are excerpts from the event.

Bobbi Brown Bloomies2 FinalYahoo Beauty: multi-generational advice

“The Yahoo Beauty platform is the beginning of a conversation, and a movement to be authentic. Topics include believing in your best self, not listening to trends but knowing what looks good on you.”

Brown noted that her 83 year-old Aunt Alice has a lot of common sense — so they film videos in Alice’s Chicago-area kitchen. In the “Ask Aunt Alice” segments, Alice answers viewers’ queries on love, life and beauty.

Brown compared the series to a female version of SNL’s “Wayne’s World” and noted that, in an upcoming episode, Aunt Alice will appear with her close friend, Martha Emmanuel, the mother of Rahm (Chicago’s mayor) and Ari (Hollywood talent agency owner and inspiration for TV’s Entourage).

Cosmetics branding: looking forward (and backward) as Bobbi Brown’s line nears 25 years

Brown has a background in theatre makeup, but she doesn’t believe in sculpting and contouring faces — she “wants everyone to look like themselves.” She worked with a chemist who created muted tones for lipsticks, then developed a palette of products and convinced Bergdorf Goodman to carry her Essentials line.

After the Estée Lauder acquisition, she said she’s adjusted to corporate life (as long as she varies her daily routine). “Movement is central to my creative process”, she emphasized. An example is the introduction of “Slopes,” a burnt shade for cheeks and lips that she developed after seeing the reddish color of her nephews’ faces after skiing.

The Bobbi Brown brand, worn by loyal consumers as well as high-profile celebrity devotees, is now available in over 63 countries; Brown travels to overseas markets to meet locals and makeup artists.

“Our business is based on makeup lessons and teaching customers to easily apply the right makeup themselves at home after their store visit. It’s more than giving them a chart.”

“We produce content for the Bobbi Brown line and film videos at our Montclair, New Jersey studio,” said Brown. Next year will be the brand’s 25th anniversary, and they haven’t planned the specifics yet. But she noted plans to “tell stories about the original products” and bring back features like Bobbi’s Closet, where discontinued products are for sale. Brown also intends to “press the reset button on the business” as she and her employees focus on the future.

Bobbi Brown Makeup Cake CroppedCharity campaigns: educating women and girls

Brown said she’s had a longtime “commitment to giving back,” starting with her involvement in Dress for Success, a work-to-welfare program. In 2010 she started Pretty Powerful, a campaign based on the belief that “all women are pretty without makeup, but with the right makeup they can be pretty powerful.”

In 2013 the campaign expanded to focus on women and girls, turning into a global charitable initiative to empower young females through education. As part of Michelle’s Obama‘s mentoring program, Brown visited local Washington, D.C. schools and brought photos to show students that everyone, even famous people, have blemishes.

Perspectives on beauty: staying healthy and keeping it real

“Beauty is closely tied to health, and makeup can help you heal and feel better. There’s no such thing as a flaw, it’s all about perceptions. Everyone thinks everyone else is perfect, but that’s not true.

For women in the public eye looking good is part of the job. I work with famous women, but all women are the same: they don’t always feel they look great. I’m proud of celebrities now who appear unretouched in ads, like Annie Lennox (and Jamie Lee Lewis) and are saying stop, enough.”

Stay tuned to find out the latest words of wisdom from Bobbi Brown, Aunt Alice, and Ari and Rahm’s mom…