Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

When I said I was a makeup artist, people would roll their eyes: Bobbi Brown

The makeup artist turned serial entrepreneur talks about her journey so far, and how sustainability needs to be incorporated in the makeup industry

Naini Thaker
Published: Apr 17, 2019 03:59:36 PM IST
Updated: Apr 18, 2019 12:15:08 PM IST

When I said I was a makeup artist, people would roll their eyes: Bobbi BrownBobbi Brown, Entrepreneur & makeup artist

From being a New York City makeup artist in the 1980s to controlling a global beauty empire, 62-year-old Bobbi Brown has come a long way. This time, literally too.

On her first visit to India, for the debut of India Make Up Show, Brown speaks to Forbes India about what it took to exit her eponymous label and self-made beauty empire in 2016, and the journey to moving beyond cosmetics to start up a new wellness supplements brand, Evolution_18, at the age of 59. India Make Up Show took place on the 12th & 13th of April 2019 in Mumbai and on the 20th of April in New Delhi. The show was curated by Mumbai based entertainment start-up, Brothers Incorporated founded by Rahul Tuljapurkar and Ninad Shah.

Edited excerpts:

Q. With a starry career spanning decades, you have had quite a journey. How would you describe it?

The journey has been incredible. Since I was a young girl, I have wanted to become a makeup artist, get married and have children. I have accomplished all of that. But creating a brand, I don’t know how I managed to accomplish that (laughs). When I walked away from Bobbi Brown, I did not think in a million years that at my age, I would be able to start a whole new career. So I feel very lucky now to be able to do that.

Q. When you began your career, beauty was not looked at as a serious industry. What sort of challenges did you have to overcome?

When I would tell people I was a makeup artist, they would look down on me. My husband graduated from Harvard and I remember that all the girls he went to school would ask me what I did. When I said I was a makeup artist, they would just roll their eyes and look away. I learned that people will think what they want to think, and you just have to ignore them.

Q. You have always been a minimalist. At a time when people were into flashy makeup, what made you move into the natural-look makeup?

I am someone who likes things simple, whether it is in my wardrobe, or my makeup. I think that the more women would understand how to simplify their lives, the more happiness it will bring. I used the same philosophy with my makeup as well, which went on to form the core ideal of the brand.

Q. You decided to exit the company you started, Bobbi Brown, in 2016? What triggered this decision?

It wasn't an overnight decision. For a bunch of years, things were really tough. As much as I loved my company and loved what I did, I got tired of arguing for what I thought was the right direction for it. So one day, I just said that I was done.

Q. Tell us about your new venture, Evolution_18…

I have always been passionate about health and wellness. I decided to set up Evolution_18 in 2017, seeing an opportunity in this space, [of wellness supplements for beauty from the inside]. I am excited and proud that I am creating very good quality products, in very simple packaging and being able to reach a wider audience. I hope that besides selling a large quantity of products, I am also able to teach a lot of men and women how to live healthier lives.

Q. How do you think the makeup industry can move towards sustainability?

There is a very big divide in the industry in this regard. There are some clean organic companies that are concerned about extra packaging and other companies that are not. A lot of the younger generation is not interested in the marketing gimmicks, and companies will have to change their strategy to suit them. Marketing campaigns need to be targeted towards a smarter and more aware audience, and I hope that this means that the makeup industry will become more sustainable as a result.