At a time when others favored overdrawn lips, thick eyeliner and glittery eyeshadow, Bobbi Brown built a business celebrating natural beauty. After more than 25 years, Brown recently left her eponymous company to launch Beauty Evolution, an umbrella brand that houses all of he projects, including nine books, speaking engagements and lifestyle concept shop justBOBBI.
We chatted with the Chicago-born Brown — who spoke this month at Chicago Ideas Week — about how she built a successful brand and what a nude lip should really look like.
What advice would you give budding entrepreneurs? Make sure that what you’re doing has a point of difference and it’s better than anything out there. I look at everything — whether it’s having a party, raising children, working on a committee — the same way I do my business: How can we do it so it’s more efficient, less expensive, more interesting? If you don’t like challenges, stress or adrenaline, don’t be an entrepreneur. Get a [regular] job. But if you like all those things, then go for it.
You were a pioneer of natural makeup. How do you achieve that look? “No-makeup makeup” means you look better, but you don’t look like you’re wearing makeup — [it’s not] contouring, heavy foundation or pale lips. A nude lip is actually the color of your lips, not a lighter tone. The Kardashian look is not a nude look. Find a foundation that matches your skin, a lipstick that matches your lips, a blush the color of your cheeks when you pinch them and mascara that’s black, not blue. … Foundation that covers every single freckle on your face isn’t pretty.
What’s your favorite makeup trend right now? The word “trend” has always been a little scary to me because it means it comes and goes. But I do like the right highlight on the cheek, whether you get it with a powder or a balm. I even put lip gloss on my cheek sometimes.
You grew up in Chicago — where do you visit when you’re in town? Chicago is a huge part of me and I could not be any more proud of where I’m from. I come [back] a few times a year, and I always go to RL [Restaurant, 115 E. Chicago]. It’s my favorite restaurant in the world.
You’ve built a brand on helping women find confidence on the outside as well as within. In today’s climate, what’s your advice for remaining hopeful about the future? Know your power. Make sure you’re heard and you know how to nicely ask for what you want. I think this is the decade of the woman. [It’s] going to probably be the most exciting time in our lives because I think women are growing and rising above a lot of the adversity.