Bobbi Brown’s Pretty Powerful, a book review

Sometimes when you’ve made up your mind to do something, the universe will find ways of providing you with the tools you need. In this case, my resolution to develop signatures received some help in the form of a gift: Bobbi Brown’s latest book, Pretty Powerful.

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While I do love Bobbi Brown’s foundations and concealers, her makeup line is only a fraction of what she has to offer. She’s an industry veteran, still applying makeup at runway shows each year at New York Fashion Week, working magazine cover shoots and charity events while managing a company and a household. To young beauty professionals, she’s a shining example of what we can accomplish when we’re driven and passionate. Along the way, she’s compiled much of her experience and wisdom in books for everyone from teenagers beginning to experiment in beauty to professionals who have all ready begun to work in the industry.

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When I said that I want to work on developing signatures this year, I never thought that I would come home the next day to find a valuable tool on my dining room table. Pretty Powerful is not your typical makeup book: there are plenty of how-to volumes filled with color-by-number face formulas, but Bobbi approaches it from her own place, stressing individual beauty over total perfection. Each time I read one of Bobbi’s books, I’m truly taken by her philosophy that beauty is not a standard, it’s an individualized trait that each and every woman in the world possesses. Makeup exists merely to enhance it. Pretty Powerful is organized by profiles–not beauty profiles, per se, but personality profiles. The task presented to you as the reader is not to decide which of your physical features to emphasize or what colours you look nice in, it’s simply to decide how you feel most comfortable. 

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Each chapter–Pretty Natural, Radiant, Strong, Classic, Authentic, and Bold–begins with a note from Bobbi about how the chapter applies to to her, therefore reminding you that there is plenty of cross-over between profiles. You might identify as Pretty Natural, but adopting traits from the Pretty Radiant or Pretty Authentic chapters could benefit not only your makeup routine but also your lifestyle. Each one contains face charts for day and night with suggestions for colours, finishes, and textures to experiment with as well as numerous before-and-after pictures of women who underwent Bobbi’s Pretty Powerful transformations. The captions beneath each photo offer some info on how the look was created–sometimes the complete opposite the face charts, since even within general types Bobbi respects each model’s individual preferences–as well as notes about what the ladies themselves think make them beautiful. It’s inspiring and wonderful to see so many women embracing traits that might have been rejected under traditional beauty ideals.

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Additionally, each chapter features a celebrity or woman of note who is not only transformed by Bobbi’s makeup team but also contributes a short essay about what they find beautiful, and what led them to their place in life. Some write about childhood notions of what was or was not beautiful–their freckles, their dark eyes, their uncontrollably curly hair–some talk about the people in their lives that encouraged them to be who they are and helped them see what beauty really was. It forces you to examine your own ideals and experiences in order to transform your routine. Whether you’re stuck in a “beauty rut,” as Bobbi discusses at several points during the book, or just looking to experiment with your look, this book includes plenty of points to ponder.

Going through the articles and face charts, it’s impossible not to envision yourself in each category. Some simply don’t fit (I could never call myself “Natural”) and others might seem to apply in bits and pieces (I’ve definitely gone through both “Radiant” and “Classic” periods), but invariably one category will seem most you. Perhaps predictably, most of my cosmetic habits fell under Pretty Bold–my penchant for colour and experimentation, my confident approach to self-expression through cosmetics. While labeling often causes constriction, Bobbi uses each category to encourage readers to explore what makes them feel most beautiful, whether its looking fresh-faced and dewy or wearing bold, neon lipsticks.

Pretty Powerful can be purchased on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, or at independent booksellers. All images above from Barnes & Noble.