Bobbi's fascination became an obsession, leaving her with little time for anything else, including her school work. By the time she was in high school, she thought about dropping out.
"I said, 'I don't even know what I want to do with my life,' " she recalled telling her mother, who responded, "Pretend today's your birthday, you could do anything you want. What would you want to do?"
"And I remember saying I'd love to go to Marshall Fields, the big department store in Chicago, and play with makeup. My mother said, 'Why don't you study makeup?' "
So she went to Boston's Emerson College, creating her own major in theatrical makeup.
After graduation, she moved to New York City and worked freelance. Her big break came when she was hired to do supermodel Naomi Campbell's makeup for the cover of Vogue. But she didn't like what she was seeing:
It was white faces, sculpted cheek bones, red lips," she said. "And I could not do makeup like that. I didn't think it made people look pretty. I wanted to make a lipstick that looks like lips."
And how did she create that? "Well, I would take a taupe pencil, a cream blush and a little bit of lip gloss or Vaseline, and I'd make it myself. At the time, most lipstick on the market smelled bad. I wanted a lipstick that was not matte and not greasy, stayed on, but looked like the color I wanted my lips to be. And I thought, 'Wow, people are going to want this.' "
In 1991, Brown changed the look of the cosmetics industry when she debuted a collection of 10 lipsticks for women of all complexions at Bergdorf Goodman in New York City.
She hoped to sell 100 in a month. She sold 100 the first day.
With zero advertising, word of mouth made Bobbi Brown a phenomenon, catching the eye and ear of an industry giant.
"I have no spies; I'm just me," said Leonard Lauder, then the head of Estee Lauder. "And I would walk through different stores [to see] what's selling. And people talk about Bobbi Brown. Bobbi Brown: What a great name. And that's when I said, 'I'm going to meet Bobbi.' "