By Lambeth Hochwald • Photographs by Alexandra Rowley
Bobbi Brown is the kind of person who regularly strolls the aisles of her local New Jersey Whole Foods Market in her exercise pants, with no makeup on, and her hair in a ponytail.
Then again, she’s just as comfortable wearing high heels, especially if she’s on the red carpet or giving an award. “I’m five feet so I have to wear high shoes,” says this mom of three sons, ages 18, 24 and 26. “I don’t like to, but then it makes me think I could design a pair of shoes with a yoga mat inside.”
Bobbi isn’t kidding about that future day when a Bobbi Brown-branded super-luxe (but comfortable) heel just might hit the market. That’s because— at 60—Bobbi has been in ‘indie’ mode ever since she left the helm of Bobbi Brown cosmetics last fall. In fact, she’s poised to ratchet up her second act— an eco-beauty and lifestyle brand.
The brand—the umbrella name is Beauty Evolution—is in its early stages of development. The media component, called 18 Label after the name of the street in Montclair, New Jersey, in which Bobbi’s studio is located, is already rolling. The wellness aspect, which is likely to include food and supplements at some point, is yet unnamed.
But what Bobbi can share is that she’s helping her husband renovate the Georgian, a 32-room boutique hotel near her New Jersey home. When the inn opens this summer, it will include a pop-up store and what she calls a ‘gigantic living showroom.’ “The pop-up will be a cool place to launch and test new products,” she says. “It will be like a curated boutique in a major retailer that will carry everything from my favorite jeans, to the glasses from my eyewear line, to my favorite protein powder, beauty products and even the cool plug I use for my iPhone.”
No matter what makes the final mix, Bobbi says her product selection and creation will be authentic. “The products will be simple but interesting,” she says. “There are so many things out there and it’s not about a price point. It’s about something that makes a difference from a style and lifestyle perspective.”
BEFORE IT BECAME a thing, Bobbi had long espoused the tenet that ‘eating right and exercising is more important than what you put on your face,’ a through-line philosophy she maintains in her latest book, Beauty from the Inside Out (Chronicle Books, 2017). “My philosophy on women and beauty has never changed,” she says. “If you’re healthy and you’re comfortable in your skin, then you’re beautiful.”
When it comes to wearing makeup, Bobbi has always urged women to be authentic and to cultivate a natural look, a far cry from the overdone trends others espoused when she began working as a makeup artist in the 1980s. “I’m not a fan of contour and I’m not a fan of piercings on the face,” she says. “I like a healthy look.”
Bobbi acknowledges that there are days where she’s stressed, a condition that’s reflected in the mirror. “When I feel I don’t look good, I know I need to stop, take a moment and do less,” she says. “I also know that when I pull my face up and the lines are bothering me, I need a vacation. In other words, I’m not a fan of altering your face.”
This down-to-earth and holistic advice is almost the book’s mantra. “I’m a beauty expert, I’m not a health and wellness expert,” Bobbi says. “What I am is really curious.”
That’s why she enlisted some of her high-profile friends for the book—including nutritionists and trainers such as Charles Passler, Harley Pasternak and Tricia Williams—to offer advice on everything from workouts and power foods to mindfulness, meditation and sleep. And, of course, Bobbi also covers skincare, cutting-edge beauty treatments and step-by-steps for everyday makeup.
“My philosophy on women and beauty has never changed.
If you’re healthy and you’re comfortable in your skin, then
No matter the project, Bobbi is a realist and a multitasker. “I do a lot of things at once,” she says. “I have this amazing nail person named Rosa who used to come to my old office. Now she’s in my new office and she’s giving my entire team mani-pedis while we have a meeting. Someone’s baby is coming to the office later today. That’s how I want my new company to be—balanced and sometimes everything collides and you deal with it—you laugh.”
That same grounded philosophy applies to her personal health regimen, too. “I’m not going to give up my morning espresso and I’m not going to give up my cocktail,” Bobbi says. “Elle [Macpherson] will tell me to drink green powder before my coffee and someone else will tell me to put coconut oil in my coffee, but I’m not giving this up. What I do is rethink it and find ways to make it work for me.”
THE SERENDIPITY QUEEN
BOBBI SAYS A LOT of things have happened by marvelous chance. “As a makeup artist, I met a lot of people. One day, I met a chemist on a shoot and said ‘I’m frustrated with all the makeup in stores,’” she recalls. “I said ‘I have an idea for a lipstick’ and he made it for me.”
It was those lipsticks that prompted her ‘big break’ in 1991, when she launched Bobbi Brown Essentials with 10 wearable lipsticks on the door of Bergdorf Goodman. Just four years later, Estee Lauder acquired her company for a reported $74.5 million.
Later, Bobbi’s beach soap, which was a milky soap with real sand embedded inside, was made by a soap maker she found at a little craft fair— unheard of for a chief creative at a major cosmetics company.
Even Bobbi’s career as a book author—she’s written about a dozen to date—began somewhat unconventionally. “One day I was on the beach in Nantucket with my kids when they were little,” she says “I met someone who turned out to be a book agent.”
And then there was the ultimate case of kismet. “I was doing a book signing in Florida,” Bobbi says, “and after I answered a makeup question from this adorable, teeny redheaded grandmother, she asked me ‘if you could do anything what would you want to do?’ I told her that I wanted to be on the Today show.”
The petite woman ended up being then-Today show producer Je Zucker’s grandmother, and Bobbi went on to serve as beauty editor of the morning show for 14 years.
AN ENTREPRENEUR RETURNS TO HER ROOTS
AS BOBBI RETURNS to start-up mode, she’s extremely excited to see where the path takes her. “I never in my wildest dreams envisioned I’d be in this position,” she says. “I was on a path and the path became a treadmill and kept going up and up. Suddenly you’re off and you start over again. At first it’s scary, but then it’s exciting.”
Ultimately, it’s a return to creativity that’s spurring Bobbi along. “When you aren’t a corporate citizen there are no rules,” she says. “Right now, I’m using my creativity and interests and we’ll see what happens.”
Another joy: Working with a small team of four. “What I love most is working with a team that gets things done,” she says. “I’m also primarily working with women and I love that. I’m excited about visually being able to create interesting things and interesting content that will inspire and will possibly sell.”
And really, why not do a reboot at this point in her life? “I think that the most important message is that in life you can do anything you want. You can have a happy life with your husband, kids, partner and a career,” she says.
It seems there’s no way this makeup maven will ever be relegated to a retiree’s life of volunteering—or playing golf. “I’m so incredibly grateful to be at this place right now,” she says. “I love working and helping people and while I don’t know where I will end up, I can assure you that it’s going to be something fun—and it’s going to be something that will fill me up.”
BOBBI’S WALNUT CACAO BEAUTY BITES
“This is a good-for-you indulgence with deep notes of cacao. Don’t skip toasting the walnuts, as it removes the bitterness and gives these bites an irresistible espresso-like flavor.”
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup medjool dates, pitted 1⁄4 cup raw cacao powder
1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
1⁄4 teaspoon vanilla extract Hemp hearts, for topping
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the walnuts on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, checking frequently.
2. Combine the toasted walnuts, dates, cacao powder, salt, and vanilla extract in a food processor and blend until well combined, adding 1 tablespoon of warm water at a time as needed for consistency. Scoop the mixture into a medium bowl and place in the freezer for about 30 minutes.
3. Use a teaspoon to scoop out dough and then roll into balls. Coat the balls in hemp hearts and store in the freezer until ready to enjoy.
BOBBI’S BASIC BEAUTY BOWL
Makes 2 Servings
“The ultimate beauty-food lunch combines protein, healthy fats, and veggies for a perfectly balanced bowl. Feel free to mix up the vegetables based on what’s in season, and make this your go-to weekday lunch.”
For Tahini Dressing
1⁄4 cup tahini
1 to 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1⁄4 cup warm water Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cooked lentils 1 cup cooked quinoa 1 cup cubed and steamed sweet potato 1⁄4 cup cherry tomatoes 4 kale leaves, cut into 1⁄4-inch slices
1 watermelon radish, cut into 1⁄4-inch slices 1⁄2 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1⁄4-inch slices Pumpkin seeds, for topping
Hemp hearts, for topping Lemon wedge, for topping
1. For the dressing, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, and water in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Divid the lentils and quinoa between two medium bowls and add the sweet potato, tomatoes, kale, radish, and avocado. Top with tahini dressing, pumpkin seeds, hemp hearts, and a lemon wedge.