Q+A with Bobbi Brown (+photos)

By Janetta Mackay

Makeup maven Bobbi Brown shares her beauty philosophy and reveals a bit about her home life.

Cosmetics guru Bobbi Brown in her New Jersey home. Photo / Supplied
Cosmetics guru Bobbi Brown in her New Jersey home. Photo / Supplied

Bobbi Brown has a reputation as one of the most down-to-earth women in the fashion and beauty business and though her lifestyle is hardly humdrum she knows the juggle of being a working mother and prizes spending time with friends and family.

When she is not coming up with new makeup ranges, working backstage at New York Fashion Week or serving on First Lady Michelle Obama's White House Leadership and Mentoring Programme for Young Women, Brown is most likely to be found relaxing at one of her two New Jersey properties. There's a family home in the historic town of Montclair, high in the hills looking back towards the city skyline, and a beachside property at Bay Head, where summers are spent enjoying the cooling Atlantic breeze.

Each home has its own character, but both are full of collectables with special meaning.

Brown, now 54, set up her own cosmetics company 30 years ago, beginning with 10 everyday wearable shades of brown-based lipstick.

Her belief that women want "relatable" beauty advice and products has underpinned the global growth of her business and seen her become a favourite commentator on American television, where she is a regular on The Today Show.

The multi-tasker is also the author of five best-selling beauty books, written in the back of the car during her chauffeured commute to work. Before leaving home she exercises her dogs and sometimes packs a salad for lunch. She aims to be home by 6.30pm and has a loose system where each family member - husband Steven Plofker and sons Duke, Dylan and Dakota, who are now in their late teens and early 20s - take a turn at cooking. "Many nights we just wind up ordering out," she admits.

Brown also confesses enjoying the odd glass of red wine and a bite of dark chocolate, but for the most part she aims for a healthy, balanced diet and a nice long weekend walk with a girlfriend. This rounded approach is typical of her beauty philosophy, which is about celebrating individual beauty and diversity. In 2010 she launched a campaign called Pretty Powerful, encouraging women of all ages to make the most of themselves - and their appearance.

"True beauty isn't about looking like a supermodel or a twenty-something Barbie doll. It's about accepting and feeling good about who you are," she says.

"We spend a lot of energy wanting to recapture what we used to look like, instead of appreciating where we currently are. I hated my arms when I was a teenager and often wore long-sleeved shirts. Now I look back on pictures from those days and I think that my arms looked fine.

"Instead of obsessing over your 'flaws' and the things you don't like about yourself, look at what's right. I can't tell you how many times women come to my makeup counter so fixated on the size and shape of one feature that they overlook everything else."

Brown's advice is to live in the present and be positive. She is a great believer in prioritising her time, and for her that means putting family first. Today she opens the door on the private world she shares with them.

What is your dream home style?

My last house was more of a mission house and darker. This [Montclair] house is open, airy, comfortable and lived-in. I wanted it to look like a combination of old English with a little Swedish influence. We have white floors, wood floors, some green and brown (mocha) accents on the walls. They're soothing shades.

Which part of your home is most important to you?

My favourite place is my bedroom. When everyone is settled I love getting into bed with a good book and the remote control.

Who is the designer of your home?

My husband has a great eye and he helped design the inside of the house. Whenever we met with interior designers we found they would try to convince us to do what we didn't like. I collect old portraits of people, and my husband is an avid collector of old portraits of dogs. We find them along our travels and in antique stores.

What are the key furniture and accessories brands you used?

Ralph Lauren furniture features in most of our house. I love how heavy and substantial it looks. Also it's new furniture that looks old.

Tell us something about your favourites pieces.

I do have a few items that were purchased during my travels. A couple years of ago I travelled with my husband to Morocco for our anniversary, and I brought back some beautiful bedspreads which are featured in my Bay Head home. A few years ago I went on a bike trip with my family through Provence, in France, and I brought back some lovely tablecloths. I love seeing these pieces in my home, because it reminds me of the wonderful times I've spent travelling with my family.

Is your home your fortress?

My home represents a warm, fun atmosphere where I entertain and spend time with family and friends.

How much time do you spend at home?

I am a real homebody and would rather be at home with my husband and children than go to all the fashion parties. I am in the office three days a week and work at a studio near my house for two days. This enables me to be at home in time for dinner with my family every night. I am lucky that I have a car service that takes me to the office and I work well when I am travelling to and from the city.

Do you like home parties?

I like to host people for all kinds of events, whether it's for a big party on the beach, or a small, relaxed dinner with friends.

What attracted you to the beach house?

My husband and I had always gone to Bay Head to celebrate our anniversary each year, and we hoped that someday we would buy a house there. It took us four years to find the perfect house - it's the smallest house on the beach. We did the interior together. We both have very simple, classic tastes when it comes to decorating. We did a lot of shopping at local stores like Crate and Barrel and Pottery Barn.

Which place there is your favourite?

The back porch overlooking the ocean. I love to sit out there in the evening with my family - it's incredibly relaxing. I am drawn to neighbourhoods that are relatively quiet and serene.

* Bobbi Brown is available at selected department stores and pharmacies.

- NZ Herald

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