It All Started With a Lipstick

Bobbi Brown
·Editor in Chief
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The original sketchbook of my lipstick swatches. (Photo: Bobbi Brown)

When I was a freelance makeup artist in the late ’80s, most lipsticks on the market looked artificial, smelled bad, and had a texture was either greasy or dry. To create lipsticks that were more flattering, I adapted the colors that were available. Ultra-bright fuchsia, acid oranges, pasty and frosted pinks were the “it” colors at the time, but I thought they were unflattering. Instead, I would mix them with a little matte beige color to create prettier, more wearable shades that looked great on everyone.

To create my own perfect nude shade, I would take a taupe eye pencil and combine it with a pinky, peachy, cream blush and a little bit of lip balm. However, I met a chemist who said he could turn my creation into an actual lipstick. He created my first lip color — Brown. It was perfect. It stayed on, but it wasn’t dry or greasy. It didn’t smell. Best of all, it looked natural, like my lips, but better. I was thrilled.

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My final collection of 10 lipsticks. (Photo: Bobbi Brown)

I thought about all the different women I knew and tried to imagine their perfect shades. Carolyn Bessette Kennedy was my inspiration for a great red. Ricky Lauren inspired the pale pink color. Adrienne Vittadini was my muse for Beige. Talisa Soto would look amazing in Raisin, and Naomi Campbell was Blackberry. I kept playing with the colors until I found 10 seriously beautiful shades. I loved the idea that they were the only lipstick palette a woman would need, that they could be combined to create endless shades. 

You can create your own makeup palette with the lipsticks you have in your drawer. Cut them and smush them in an empty vitamin container or in an artist’s palette that’s sold in a theatrical makeup store. Mix them together directly on your lips: dark over light or brights together. Add a balm to make them more emollient. Pat a powder blush on top to mattify. Blot it if it’s too strong to make a stain. Wear what you like. Remember, it’s only lipstick. Have fun.

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