The Flash Q+A: Bobbi Brown
3 minute read
I’ve always found Bobbi Brown to be so refreshingly down to earth and comfortable in her own skin. As I get older, these are qualities I still struggle to find in myself, and I think a lot of us look at women who seem to have such self confidence and ease, and wonder how they got there. That’s why I loved talking with Bobbi. She’s someone who managed to strip away the bullshit early on, and built a business on the idea that we’re all more beautiful when we let our true selves shine through.
Bobbi was the first makeup artist to become a household name with her own line, and also the first to truly espouse a natural look– she launched ten natural lipstick shades under the name “Bobbi Brown Essentials” at Bergdorf Goodman in 1991 and the story goes she sold out 100 in a day. She sold Bobbi Brown Cosmetics to Estee Lauder in 1994 and officially began the artist-founded beauty brand craze. She’s written nine books about beauty, and, since leaving Lauder in 2016, became a health coach, started a nutrition company, and launched a hotel with her husband in her hometown of Montclair, NJ.
In 2020, she launched Jones Road, her new, fabulous clean beauty line, which I am obsessed with. Earlier this year, Bobbi started shooting short videos of herself on Tik Tok, applying Jones Road products on camera, with quick tips in her no-nonsense style, and very quickly got millions of views. Her secret? Just being herself.
Anne: How does it feel to be a TikTok star?
Bobbi: I am definitely surprised and kind of shocked. I didn't do it to sell products. I did it because I had things to say. I was shocked that most of the comments were from women over 40, who were so grateful that I was there. They're just looking for really simple education, quick things. It has impacted our sales greatly and now we have out-of-stock issues, but that’s a whole other story.
Anne: Coming from the world of beauty and fashion, both of which can be so judgemental, I find it so inspiring that you have no problem being yourself. Can you tell us how you found the confidence to be so authentically yourself in such a public way?
Bobbi: It's not necessarily confidence. I think I just got real. I was constantly trying to fit in and conform, whether it was a corporate citizen trying to dress a certain way for business meetings or the Met Gala. I would be wearing the highest of shoes that I couldn't walk in or the most uncomfortable clothes that I just never felt myself in. I remember the first time I wore jeans at an event. I was really strapped for time and just put on my Navy blazer over whatever I had on. I remember thinking, why do I have to put on a pair of black pants that I’m going to be uncomfortable in, that I’m going to have to dry clean?
Then I just started being comfortable. I was invited to the White House and did the exact same thing. I wore my Chanel jacket with blue jeans and started wearing sneakers because I'm really practical. I look respectful and it's fine. Once President Obama said to me, “Nice kicks, B Squared.”
Anne: The pandemic has changed how we dress. I for one am never going to wear a pair of high heels again. What’s changed most dramatically for you during these past two years?
Bobbi: I realized how many things I was doing that were unnecessary, how many events and panels I said yes to that I was so happy to wipe off my calendar. I launched Jones Road Beauty the day my non-compete [with Estée Lauder] was up and a week before the presidential election. I announced it over Zoom on the Today show and in a Zoom interview with Wall Street Journal. We didn't have to have a launch party and no one had to hand out bags at the end of the night. All those things don't matter and we'll never go back to them.
Anne: I think that people are starting to go to parties again but I don't want to be in crowds anymore. I will be excited to be able to go to weddings and birthday party celebrations and not worry about COVID.
Bobbi: I think a lot of women feel that way, like they had got their lives back. They maybe aren't rushing around doing the 25 things that they don't need to do.
Anne: Let's talk a little bit about being our age.
Bobbi: We are living a great life. When I stop and think about my age, it makes me pause. I'm not planning, I'm pausing. I'm searching for ways to look better, to feel better too. I realized that a lot of the things that I was struggling with about how I either look or feel is perception. I've been my own worst enemy, meaning I don't really follow all the lifestyle rules that I should in order to balance stress. That's something that I'm working on. I don't feel bad about getting older. I feel great about it. How lucky am I that I have my health and my energy and my passion and my drive and my marriage and family? I'm a very positive person and I think being positive and hopeful is something that I would wish on other people.
Anne: When you look back at your life so far, what was something that you thought was true when you were younger, that you now realized you had totally wrong?
Bobbi: I thought that by the time you're 60, you would be old and it's not true. The very trite cliché of the Golden Girls versus the women on Sex in the City? The women on Golden Girls were 50, which is just bananas to think about.
Anne: You said there are a lot of lifestyle rules that you don't follow. What are the ones that have worked for you? Or what are new ones that you are espousing today?
Bobbi: I always joked that I need to meditate, but I don't. It's on my list, but I can't find my list. Even so, when I get very emotional, I go somewhere and lay down and breathe. Just by breathing, I know it's a form of meditating. I feel so much better. And then when I get up, I have the clarity to finish what I'm doing. I know too that I absolutely need to take the mornings for myself — and I need to somehow figure out a way to take some break in the daytime for myself. Everyone knows what it's like: you're on a Zoom, you're on an Instagram Live, you're on this and that and you're throwing laundry in, you're doing lunch. By the end of the day, you're ragged.
Anne: And you haven't even left your home.
Bobbi: And I haven't left my home. And by the way, leaving my home, even if to get in the car and go to the grocery store, I like taking the time to do those things. It makes all the difference in the world where young Bobbi would've just like powered through and powered through — and then your head blows up. It doesn't work anymore in your 60s.
Anne: What do you mean by taking time for yourself in the morning?
Bobbi: I exercise. I don't do anything before 10 o'clock. My routine is I like to wake up early and read the paper, have my coffee, and then feed the dogs and do whatever. Then I go exercise. By 8 o'clock I'm either with my weight-lifting trainer or I'm walking outside. I'm working hard on trying to be all showered and perfectly dressed by 10 but there are days that I will still be in the exercise clothes at 4 o'clock.
Anne: When you're saying you go and lie down and breathe?
Bobbi: I'm not a natural meditator. I try and try and try. But the apps tell me that if I just sit there and count my breaths, that is meditating. So I do nothing for five minutes.
Anne: What do you do about nutrition? I know you pay attention to this. So what do you do? Do you eat less now that you're our age?
Bobbi: I do. I find that by eating less, my digestion is better. I've always had difficult digestion. When I was following star nutritionists’ or star doctors’ rules, I'd be trying to fill myself up with raw vegetable salads and I would always be hungry. Now if I'll order something, I'll be smart and just slow down and try to eat less of it. I don't eat cookies, cakes or desserts because I know it makes me feel awful. I don't have my second vodka because I know I'm not going to feel good in the morning.
Anne: I feel like I learned those lessons and still indulge in the behavior because I lack discipline.
Bobbi: I know certain friends are triggers. I'm going to have that second drink; I'm going to have dessert. So maybe I'll have one and a half drinks. I play games with myself just so I can feel better in the morning without missing out because I want to be with my friends and do what they do and go eat at restaurants that they want to go to.
Anne: Paulina Porizkova has been talking about women turning invisible as we age. What do think about that?
Bobbi: Back in the day, when Paulina and Cindy and Naomi walked into a room, everyone stopped in their tracks to look. I think they still do. Paulina is not the 20-year-old Paulina, but she's a gorgeous 60-year-old Paulina. That said, how she feels is all that matters.
Anne: I love the way she's being very honest and open about how she feels. Now that you're working in the beauty world again, what are you hearing from women in their 40s and 50s?
Bobbi: You know, most people just don't think they look good. Of course, it's different and it's harder as we get older. You have to adjust; you have to adapt and adjust to everything.
Anne: I know you've talked about this forever, but what is the connection between how we look and how we feel?
Bobbi: Oh, it's everything. I guarantee most people that when you look in the mirror and say, I look terrible, you realize you don't feel great. There's something out of sync. Whether it's your hormones or your eating habits, your lifestyle habits or you're going through something, you’ve got to adjust how you feel and then your looks will catch up. On the other hand, if you don't feel good, you could certainly go and dip into your makeup drawer and do a couple things that are going to instantly make you look better. And they affect how you feel temporarily.
Anne: Can we talk about your own experience with menopause?
Bobbi: I had my third baby at 41. By the time I was 48, I was exhausted. I went to a doctor and he suggested bioidentical hormones to me. It was a game changer for me. I just instantly felt better. All the things that were bothering me, from malaise to hot flashes, just disappeared. Once or twice I tried to go off them and even after all these years, I feel so much better on them. They work for me. I make sure I see my doctor regularly to make sure I'm on the right dosage. Everyone's different, but I feel grateful that it works for me.
Anne: Did you have fear about that, or shame?
Bobbi: No, I went to the doctor right away, as soon as I wasn't feeling great. I was a little fearful about taking hormones because you, you know, I always heard that it could increase your chances of breast cancer. I did all the research and made the decision with my doctor.
Anne: That's fantastic. It's a shame that so many people do feel fear or shame or don't even have a doctor they can talk to. Before I let you go, I’d love to hit you with a bit of a lightning round, as in, what would you tell your 25-year-old self, if you could?
Bobbi: To chill. It's all going to work out. And be open and grateful.
Anne: Have you heard the saying that as we age, we can choose our ass or our face?
Bobbi: That’s a tough one. I gained weight over COVID and then I lost weight and my face can't get any thinner, but unfortunately my midsection can.
Anne: What brings you joy?
Bobbi: Family and friends.
Anne: Favorite cultural discovery during COVID?
Bobbi: There have been so many great things to binge watch. Call My Agent.
Anne: If you had to bring one beauty product with you to a desert island?
Bobbi: An all-body sunscreen/moisturizer.
Anne: Three things you’d like to tell every woman over age 40?
Bobbi: It's mostly about the food that you put in your body. That's what’s going to make you look better. Find a makeup product that gives your skin luminosity. And get a really good brown pencil that you can use to add definition everywhere.
Anne: What does luminosity mean?
Bobbi: Luminosity? When you look in the mirror and you're like, Oh my God, I look so tired. When you add something with moisture or some kind of shimmery something, if it's the right texture, your skin looks luminous.
Anne: You’ve launched and sold a successful business, you have a hotel, you had a nutrition company — what has motivated you to create Jones Road?
Bobbi: I had the freedom since my non-compete was up and I had the desire and passion to try it a different way. And I’m terrible at golf.
A makeup artist, author, founder, hotelier and health coach, Bobbi Brown’s most recent venture is Jones Road, a clean beauty brand founded 25 years after she sold her famed eponymous beauty business to Estée Lauder.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Go ahead, you deserve to