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Meet Makeup Mogul Bobbi Brown

Makeup mogul Bobbi Brown at home in Palm Beach Gardens. Photography by Ben Ritter
Makeup mogul Bobbi Brown at home in Palm Beach Gardens. Photography by Ben Ritter

On a bright and clear afternoon, a few weeks ahead of the opening of her newest cosmetics storefront in Palm Beach, makeup mogul Bobbi Brown appears refreshed. Rejuvenated, even. It’s the type of look that a few swipes of lipstick or eyeshadow can never produce. Instead, it’s an expression that’s generated from within. 

Sitting against a white wall at her home in Palm Beach Gardens, Brown admits that before this interview began, “I just stuck my finger in Tawny Miracle Balm, and there’s nothing else on my face,” she says, referencing the cult-favorite, multipurpose balm from her newest cosmetics brand, Jones Road. For someone considered a makeup industry legend, there’s an irony to Brown showing up to this conversation not wearing much at all. 

A pioneering makeup artist who became the face of her eponymous line in 1991, Brown has been reintroducing herself over the past four years with Jones Road, a brand marketed as clean, no-makeup makeup—aka, makeup for people who don’t feel like wearing makeup. Natural-looking shades and easy-to-apply products have become Jones Road’s calling card. Everything is cruelty-free, made from clean ingredients, and void of potentially harmful chemicals. Fans include Cindy Crawford, Brooke Shields, and Gloria Steinem as well as a legion of TikTok influencers. 

Bobbi Brown inside her new Jones Road storefront on Palm Beach’s Royal Poinciana Way. Photography by Ben Ritter
Bobbi Brown inside her new Jones Road storefront on Palm Beach’s Royal Poinciana Way.

Friend and Palm Beacher Daphne Oz (they met when Oz hosted Brown on an episode of The Chew in 2012) is a devoted fan of Jones Road’s brow pencil in Light Brunette—and of Brown’s steadfast focus. “I have especially come to appreciate her fearlessness,” Oz says of Brown. “Every time we get to spend time together, I find myself energized by her belief in herself and her vision, and her enthusiasm to bring every part of herself to the table.”

The Palm Beach location of Jones Road—the first in Florida—sits inside a historic building erected around 1915. It was how the sun’s soft light seeped through the windows that sold Brown on the space. Here, as rays filled the room from the west- and south-facing windows on Royal Poinciana Way, Brown remembers saying, “This is it.” The corner space resplendent in sunlight is ideal for makeup application. Today, as Brown is putting the finishing touches on the store, she’s stumped on whether to include some neon acrylic containers. Either way, this Northeast gal knows one thing: “I don’t think it’ll have as much pink as I imagine people here are used to.”

Though Jones Road may be a newer endeavor for Brown, its foundation was set decades ago. While it’s true that Brown believes makeup application can be artistic, she also believes in the art of subtlety. It was a subversive take for a makeup artist during the 1980s and early 1990s, when bold, “more is more” looks were the norm. When she came out with her 10 shades of natural-looking lipsticks in 1991 under the name Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, it shook the cosmetics industry. It was so successful that, in 1995, Estée Lauder bought the company for a reported $74.5 million, retaining Brown as its chief creative officer. 

Bobbi Brown inside her new Jones Road storefront on Palm Beach’s Royal Poinciana Way 1
Bobbi Brown inside her new Jones Road storefront on Palm Beach’s Royal Poinciana Way.

Now more than three decades removed from founding her first company, Brown is a founder once again, this time as a sexagenarian. Launched in October 2020, Jones Road is Brown’s most visible endeavor since breaking with Bobbi Brown Cosmetics and Estée Lauder in 2016. In fact, one could say it was long overdue. After waiting out her noncompete agreement with Estée Lauder (Brown etched a Helen Ficalora charm necklace with the numbers 10/20 to signify the month and year her noncompete ended), Brown debuted Jones Road. And if you ask her, it feels good.

“It was really important to me to be in charge,” she says, “and to have my freedom. Anyone who has signed a noncompete knows it feels so good and freeing to be released from it.”

Named after a street in the Hamptons, Jones Road is an ode to women as they are: their natural, beautiful selves. The idea really took shape around, of all seasons, Halloween. Back when she was with Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, Brown would gift trick-or-treaters at her home in Montclair, New Jersey, with candy and Bobbi Brown Cosmetics products. The neighborhood fete was attended by a thousand revelers (estimates Brown’s husband, businessman Steven Plofker) who would look forward to the gifts. Now that Brown had left Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, Plofker says his wife was concerned about what else to give the trick-or-treaters. “She found a lab that made lip gloss and gave it out,” he shares. 

Brown launched her eponymous makeup brand in 1991 and remained with the company after it was sold to Estée Lauder in 1995. They parted ways in 2016 and her noncompete ended in October 2020. Jones Road is her first new brand in more than 30 years.
Brown launched her eponymous makeup brand in 1991 and remained with the company after it was sold to Estée Lauder in 1995. They parted ways in 2016 and her noncompete ended in October 2020. Jones Road is her first new brand in more than 30 years.

“We didn’t sit down over dinner one day and say, ‘Let’s start a company,’” Plofker continues. “We don’t think like that. We didn’t think about a brand or selling; it was just something that Bobbi wanted to do.”

The giveaway was a hit. Not only was the gloss beautiful, but it was clean, a requirement that Brown had as she leaned into a healthier lifestyle. “It’s like telling my kids to put their seat belt on; it’s just what you do,” Brown says about this embrace of clean products. 

With help from her close-knit team at Jones Road—which includes Plofker; her son, Cody, who serves as chief marketing officer; and Payal, her daughter-in-law and head of brand—Brown says the company is finding success in being an unapologetic reflection of her. In fact, when asked for whom Brown created Jones Road, she says without hesitation, “Me!” The reason was simple: “I wanted to make the best brown pencil and the best brown eyeshadow out there so I could use it. And, if I think it’s the best, I assume my friends will think it’s the best.”

Jones Road is a family affair, with Brown’s husband, Steven Plofker, son, and daughter-in-law all involved
Jones Road is a family affair, with Brown’s husband, Steven Plofker, son, and daughter-in-law all involved.

If sales are any indication, then Jones Road is loved by more than just Brown and her friends. Industry sources estimate that Jones Road earned $20 million in 2021, three times that in 2022, and nearly double that total in 2023. In addition, the brand has a gamut of dedicated fans that range from those close to Brown’s age (66) to a younger demographic, thanks in part to a strategic social media presence. Via platforms like TikTok, Brown speaks directly to her multiage, multiracial audience, giving tips on how to use the products and responding to user questions. 

“It’s instantaneous,” Brown says of social media. “I also knew people were struggling with products like our Miracle Balm. So, I told them in a video, ‘You’ve got to break the seal, and that gets it going.’”

At the end of the day, Brown still thinks of herself as a teacher. The author of nine books on makeup application and a MasterClass instructor, Brown never wanted to be a salesperson. In fact, she downright refuses to be one. “Even when I went on QVC, I refused to sell things,” she says. “I will teach, though. I still am the same way; I want to teach women how not to look tired and how to apply mascara.”

Brown and Plofker purchased their Palm Beach Gardens home in 2022 and now reside there part-time with their chocolate brown rescue dog, Pippa
Brown and Plofker purchased their Palm Beach Gardens home in 2022 and now reside there part-time with their chocolate brown rescue dog, Pippa.

Ron Robinson, an industry peer and founder of skin care line BeautyStat, says Brown has been influential in his career. As a new entrepreneur, Robinson would listen with intent when Brown would tell him and others to go with their gut. “I look to her as a mentor and guide, and [for] how entrepreneurs should trust their feelings,” he says. “That hasn’t steered me wrong.”

Life these days has shifted slightly for Brown. She now splits her time between her homes in Montclair and Palm Beach Gardens, which she and Plofker purchased in 2022. She’s a grandmother to a toddler named Lily, whom Brown is “smitten” with. When she’s at her Palm Beach Gardens home, Brown says she has fewer distractions because “there’s no office here. It’s just me and my husband and my dog,” a chocolate brown rescue they’ve named Pippa. The Florida lifestyle has given her more time for her morning walks, with most business meetings starting around 11 a.m. instead of 9. She even plans to pop into the Palm Beach store to interact with customers, Plofker says.

After all, to Brown, if life has taught her anything, it’s that it should be as easy as applying makeup. “Throw on some Miracle Balm, some blush on your cheeks, and that’s it,” she says. “It’s the same philosophy I have in life: be simple.”

When Brown was searching for a location for her Palm Beach store, one of the deciding factors was the space’s surfeit of sunlight
When Brown was searching for a location for her Palm Beach store, one of the deciding factors was the space’s surfeit of sunlight.

Beauty Tips for Any Age

Hydrate. “My first tip is not a makeup tip. It’s a hydration tip. If you put on makeup and you say you look tired, it’s probably because you are tired and you’re not drinking enough water, and maybe you aren’t eating the right fatty foods.”

Use face oil. “For some of us, moisturizer just isn’t enough. You need to layer face oil with a moisturizer.”

Try this secret weapon. “We just launched these retouching pencils to color correct purple, red, and gray under your eyes, and they are game changers. You put it everywhere you’re dark—not just under your eyes—and it blends in on your skin. I also recommend that you apply it in the inner corner of your eyes [to] open up the eyes. Then throw some mascara on and you’re ready to go.”

The new Jones Road storefront—Brown’s first in Florida—is in good company along Royal Poinciana Way, which has seen an influx of new businesses and restaurants in recent years
The new Jones Road storefront—Brown’s first in Florida—is in good company along Royal Poinciana Way, which has seen an influx of new businesses and restaurants in recent years.

Brown’s Local Favorites

Bread by Johnny: “It has the most amazing sourdough bread. The sesame sourdough bagel is insane.”

Kitchen: “I go there when I want something healthy.”

Stage Kitchen & Bar: “It has such good Indian food.”

Almond: “I go to Almond in the Hamptons a lot, and I’m so lucky it’s here.”

TooJay’s Deli: “I love that they let my dog inside.”

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