Being Bobbi Brown

A Q&A with makeup mogul Bobbi Brown.

She could be any typical East Coast mom. With her hair swept up in a ponytail and dressed casually in all black, this working wife and mother oozes with the relaxed grace of someone comfortable in her own skin. And she should be. Makeup artist Bobbi Brown has literally reshaped the face of the cosmetics industry by churning her passion for the perfect lipstick shade into a beauty empire. We caught up with her at Neiman Marcus in Scottsdale, Arizona, where we touched on everything from brows to books.

LK: What have you found to be the most common complaint among women about their face?

BB: It’s all over the map — it goes from skin to eyes, to the shape of their face. It’s amazing that I’ve never had anyone say ‘you know what, I’m happy with myself and I just want a new lipstick.’ People microscope; they look too closely I think.

LK: What is your makeup pet peeve?

BB: My biggest pet peeve is when people do things really strong and it’s just not flattering. I don’t mind strong makeup if it’s still pretty but a lot of people just don’t understand that they’re just making themselves look ugly, basically. There’s a fine line between pretty and ugly with makeup. But badly applied strong makeup is really scary.

LK: Like what, ring-around-the-lips?

BB: Big outlined lips, over dark eyes, people who don’t wear concealer — you can’t wear eyeliner without concealer. Only overdone eyebrows. I don’t mind underdone eyebrows, but overdone eyebrows I don’t like.

LK: Cosmetic surgery is practically ingrained into our lifestyle now. What are your thoughts on aging gracefully?

BB: I think that a lot of plastic surgery looks like you’ve had plastic surgery. So I’m not a fan. I think that if you eat well, take care of yourself, have a positive attitude and really evolve with how you do your makeup and hair and clothes, you will age gracefully. And everybody ages.

LK: Are there things you can do with makeup to look younger?

BB: There are plenty of things you can do to look fresher and look better. There’s nothing you can do to look younger. It’s just about looking better.

LK: But we must look younger!

BB: But it’s not about looking younger. People get stuck in the younger thing. Like they see the Paris Hiltons of the world and the Lindsay Lohans and then even if you’re in your 30s, you’re old. So it’s not right. I think that the skinniness of the celebrities is not good. It’s not real. I think it’s more important to be real and look amazing. You can be amazing and real.

LK: It’s hard though when you’re bombarded with gorgeous young celebrities on every magazine cover.

BB: I mean I could look at this beautiful girl [she picks up a copy of ITEM Magazine with Rachael Leigh Cook on the cover] and say ‘oh I love the color of her lipstick’ but I can’t draw my lips to look like that or ‘she’s got beautiful skin.’ That’s why she’s a model. I mean really, models are freaks of nature. They are! There’s not that many of them.

LK: Outside of your phenomenal career, you’re also a wife, mom (she has three boys ages 7, 13 and 15 at the time of this interview) and philanthropist. What’s your secret to dealing with stress?

BB: I exercise, that helps. I find that the cleaner I eat, the better I’m able to deal with stress. The more I breathe, which I’m not a good breather but when I remember to breathe. I have a chiropractor that I see who is like a healer, he helps me a lot. I have support at home. And I like a good glass of red wine (she chuckles).

LK: What is your exercise of choice?

BB: I go between weights, yoga and some kind of aerobics whether it’s running, walking, biking or kick boxing. I feel my best when I do five or six days a week. I really enjoy it.

LK: You list “Read” as one of your top ten ways to find balance. What’s the last really good book you read or are reading right now?

BB: I just finished it and it was really moving. I think it’s called “What Remains” by [Carole] Radziwill. Uhhh! She’s a great writer. It was really good. [Brown is currently on a “Kennedy kick” and is reading “Symptoms of Withdrawal” by Christopher Kennedy Lawford].

LK: You also noted “Be Nice” on your list.

BB: Yeees

LK: You must have run across a few divas who were difficult. How do you handle people who aren’t nice?

BB: You know, it’s easier to be nice. You can still tell people what you feel and think. And you can still get mad at people but there’s a nice way to say something and there’s not a nice way to say it. You have to be nice. I don’t like it when people aren’t nice to me.

LK: Do you have a favorite indulgence, be it food, facials or otherwise?

BB: Massage. I don’t do enough of it but massage by far.

LK: What kind of massage?

BB: Just beat me up (she laughs).

LK: You should go to a spa while you’re here!

BB: I’ve got a 4:00 massage at the Phoenician.

LK: Can you divulge what’s in your makeup bag?

BB: Sure! [She pulls out her signature cosmetic bag and empties out her stash: bronzer, bronzing gel, pot rouge, tinted moisture balm, two eye creams, face balm, concealer, two gel eyeliners in black and espresso, foundation stick, two shadows in wheat and stone, a powder blush in pink, three lip glosses (“One of them is from spring and I’m obsessed with it. It’s called Gold Glitter. It looks good on everybody.”), brush-on brows and black mascara.]

LK: Who best epitomizes beauty to you?

BB: There are so many beautiful women. Brooke Shields. She’s just always beautiful.

LK: Have you worked with her?

BB: Yes, many times. I worked with her when she was 14 so I’ve worked with her many, many years. She’s sweet and amazing.

Bobbi’s top ten list for finding balancing and cultivating a positive outlook:

  • 1. Always be on time.
  • 2. Look people in the eye.
  • 3. Tell the truth.
  • 4. Don’t smoke.
  • 5. Drink lots of water.
  • 6. Exercise.
  • 7. Eat healthy.
  • 8. Read.
  • 9. Be nice.
  • 10. Never give up.

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