Bobbi Brown – makeup maven, Montclair resident and proud parent of a Montclair State graduate – agreed to have a sit down interview with me at 18 Label Studios to talk about her career and advice she has for students. Starting out as a freelance makeup artist, Brown was not a fan of the classic 1980’s makeup look which consisted of bright lips and contouring galore. Sticking with her natural makeup look aesthetic, Brown founded Bobbi Brown Cosmetics and has since been an inspiration for women to use makeup as a tool to enhance their natural beauty. For 37 years, Brown has proven that passion, commitment (and makeup) can lead to a successful and powerful life.
“If today was your birthday, and you could do anything that you want, what would you do?”
Bobbi Brown was asked this question by her mother years ago as she was contemplating whether or not she should drop out of college after her freshman year because she was “bored.”
“I used to put makeup on to look prettier and I didn’t want people to know I was wearing it,” Brown says now, somewhat pensive, as she sits at 18 Label Studios on 18 Label Street in Montclair and looks back at her early days.
“Especially when I came home from vacationing in Florida. I would literally go into the bath-room with my mother’s makeup and put all of her bronzers on so that when I went to school, this is in 7th grade, all of my friends would say, “You’re so tan!” I learned how to use makeup in a very natural way.”
Sitting in her family room at her suburban Chicago home, the 18 year-old Brown replied, “I want to go to the makeup counter at the department store.”
This revelation placed the Queen of Beauty on a plane with a one way ticket to Emerson College in Boston where she created her own major, Theatrical Makeup, with their interdisciplinary pro-gram.
“It was the free spirit. It was being in a community of a lot of creative people. I minored in pho-tography so I took photography, a lot of speech writing and public presentation and all of those I think really shaped me. But literally, being in charge of my own destiny, of what I was doing, was probably the most important thing.”
Brown flourished at Emerson, yet she said her formal training in makeup did not begin until she set out for New York City.
“I moved to New York with a passion and a determination to do something,” she said.”I thought I would do fashion on the side and I just fell in love with it. Every single day, my job was to make phone calls, put my portfolio together and pound the pavement. That’s what I did and that’s what I still do even now.”
Brown’s dedication and talent spiraled her into a career filled with accomplishments. From stabilizing a revolutionary natural makeup look, having her artistry displayed on prestigious magazines like Vogue, writing beauty books (her ninth book entitled Beauty from the Inside Out: Makeup, Wellness, Confidence will be released in April) and founding Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, these are only a few of Brown’s achievements.
As a cosmopolitan woman, Brown has traveled around the globe, however, she calls Montclair home.
“My husband and I moved here the day we came back from our honeymoon and after a week I said, ‘Okay, I’m really lonely and bored,’ so I got a dog and a year later I had a baby and then I just fell in love with Montclair,” Brown said. “I’ll never leave.”
Moving forward to 2017, Brown has now been a leader in the fashion and beauty industry for 37 years and an inspiration for people worldwide.
Sitting comfortably at 18 Label Studios with her distinct glasses, fresh-faced with no makeup on, Brown said, “Every day is different. Probably the only thing that is typical is either my dog or my husband wakes me up in the morning, so I never set an alarm and I try to exercise before I work. Some days are meetings, some days are shoots, some days are paperwork and that’s what I love about what I do for a living—it’s all different.”
Brown, who is working with her husband on renovating The George Inn in Montclair said, “I love doing things that I’ve never done before.”
Their aim is for “an eclectic cool vibe that’s comfortable, with good lighting, but not crowded.”
“I don’t like when you stay in a hotel and it’s so crowded,” Brown said. “When I get to a hotel I don’t want to pay $30 for the room service guy to come up with a cup of tea, so I would like people to make their own cup of tea in the room.”
With a schedule packed with exciting projects, I inquired if Brown would provide her expertise to Montclair in the future, to which she said, “You never know. I would like to do a pop-up store one day. I would love to have a place where people could go and do different classes—not just makeup classes, but life classes. You never know.”
Advice by Bobbi Brown
Carlie: Makeup tips for Montclair State students?
Bobbi: Since I assume everyone’s on a budget, you could use a lot of things for more places on your face than one. And the basics, you need a good moisturizer, something with an SPF, you know, for summer time. You need something to even out your skin—it could be a foundation or a tinted moisturizer, just a spot corrector probably. You need a good concealer because everyone’s tired, and honestly you can go as basic as a brown pencil or a brown shadow and a lip gloss. And you always need a black liner for night time.
C: What makeup essentials do you wear every day?
B: Well today, not one thing, zero, which honestly sounds funny, but I would like to start putting makeup on in the morning—I just don’t. I feel better when I wear it and I look better. I mean, I happen to like people without makeup, but then I look around and everyone is so nicely made up and I’m like, ‘Alright I need to do something.’ But when I do my makeup, it takes me under a minute and I always do moisturizer, corrector and concealer, and then I’ll throw on mascara, put a little bit of pot rouge on my cheeks and lips, and that’s kind of how I go out of the house.
C: What advice do you have for Montclair State students who strive to be successful in the fashion and beauty industry?
B: Number one, realize it’s hard work. Everything that matters is hard work. Nothing’s easy. You have to be open and you have to be better than everyone else. Even if you’re an intern, you have to be the best intern. Even if you’re a receptionist, you have to be the best receptionist. Don’t think you’re going to, with a college degree, just get a job in the door at the place you want.”
C: Do you feel exercise correlates to beauty and skincare?
B: I know first-hand the better you eat and the better lifestyle that you lead, the better you look. I’ve seen first-hand young models that have come up and are beautiful, and they spend a couple of years in Paris and they come back either smokers, drinkers or drug addicts. They just don’t look very good and they are barely 22 years old.
C: What would you tell your 20-year-old self today?
B: I would totally tell my 20-year-old self: Learn to breath—which I haven’t. Do more weights than aerobics—which I wish I did because it’s hard to get muscle when you’re older. I would tell my 20-year-old self to chill. I’m not saying don’t work as hard, but just don’t make yourself so crazy.”