If you’ve never experienced a Beautycon festival, then you’re in for a major treat. It’s a beautiful (no pun intended) mix of pandemonium, celebrity, products, education, and emotions. Pier 36 in New York City was transformed into a Coachella-esque spread of makeup, skin care, and hair care for its latest installment: with nearly 7,000 attendees and more than 50 brands to boot. Spanning six official hours, it’s essentially the greatest meet-up of all time between influencers, the world’s biggest beauty companies, and all the social-media-obsessed fans who cannot get enough of them both.
The show (do not call this an event, Beautycon CEO and founder Moj Mahdara asserted) skewed young, with most attendees in their teens repping for Generation Z, more than even the millennial set. And though completely overwhelming with long lines, lots of shoving, children with better haircuts and lip stains than you’ve ever had, and enough focal points to keep you visually stimulated for close to a year, there was simultaneously a very refreshing and rejuvenating vibe to the festivities. A fiercely positive and motivational assembling around an industry that has been deemed shallow and trivial for decades. It’s very obvious that BeautyCon is coming to change the world with the age group that is indeed the future (to quote Whitney Houston, if we may.)
As you might imagine, it was an afternoon full of laughter, tears, information, and mania, with too many sound bites, learnings, and aha moments to even fit into one story. Here, the nine most surprising things we saw at Beautycon NYC this year.
Beautycon is a massive tour de force.
With 6,500 attendees, 55 brands, and stars like Drew Barrymore, Ashley Graham, and Kelly Rowland lending their wisdom to the festival, let’s be clear: Beautycon is a colossal achievement and access. This was its third year in New York City, but the show has also had stops in Dallas, Los Angeles, a pop-up shop in Dubai, and an upcoming festival in London this December. “Our audience is incredibly diverse and see beauty as an expression of creativity and power, rather than something they’re doing to conceal or make themselves feel better,” said Mahdara. And she couldn’t be more right. The entire day proved that beauty is not just surface and frothy, but a hobby, passion, and business like any other. In a world that disparages Generation Z and millennials at every turn, the festival is a very real reminder that more than ever, young women and men need an outlet to both express and be themselves. And Beautycon is a great place to do that.
Ashley Graham says loving affirmations to her body parts every day.
“I decided one day that I was not the woman I was speaking to,” said Graham in a fireside chat with Rowland. She continued, “I changed the way I spoke to myself and I started putting affirmations into my body. I started talking to my thick thighs and said, ‘Thighs, you are just so lovable that you can’t stop rubbing each other.’ And ‘fat, I see you trying to pop over my bra, but I’m still going to choose to love you today.’ ‘Thick tummy, you are just so cute, I want to rub you tonight.‘” We’re going to start saying these affirmations, STAT.
Beauty is as great a unifier as fashion.
Beautycon ran the gamut of race, gender, age, and disability, which was a heartwarming sight to see. Diversity and inclusion are two of the biggest goals for Mahdara, who is Iranian-American, first generation, and an avid LGBTQ advocate. And though fashion has for so long been touted as a great unifier because of everyone’s need to get dressed, we often forget that washing your face and moisturizing (however sparse that may be) is just as mundane an action. And with the digital space, it isn’t just about being a pageant queen anymore. It’s about personal definitions of beauty that radiate self-confidence and an all-around feel-good mindset. The price points are also incredibly accessible, with some really high-quality products coming in at under $10. Though global beauty ideals aren’t as all-encompassing and inclusive of the full spectrum of complexions, hair textures, genders, and the like, festivals like these are moving the conversation forward and broadening the very narrow and antiquated boundaries that have been set from centuries past.
The love-hate pendulum is still swinging for the Kardashian-Jenner family.
There is absolutely no way to escape the worldwide scope of the Kardashian-Jenner brood. It’s completely undeniable that they have taken the world by storm and serve as beauty inspirations for women from Dallas to Dubai. During the first panel of the day, titled “Then and Now,” a young girl asked model and social media star Jordyn Woods, “What is it like to be friends with Kylie Jenner?” And we overheard a woman referring to Woods simply as Kylie’s BFF, though she has walked the runway for Christian Siriano x Lane Bryant, collaborated with Boohoo, and starred in fashion spreads all on her own. Ashley Graham then named Kim Kardashian as her current inspiration because of her business acumen and head-turning Paris Fashion Week looks. But that praise was quickly erased when a young woman asked Graham what to do about negative comments about her stretch marks and cellulite because celebrities like Kim Kardashian don’t have “real booties” and give the world the impression that you can have enviable curves without any imperfections. Graham’s response? “If you’re going to do whatever you want to do to your body, go for it. If you want to stay natural and follow me, let’s do it together.”
Influencers should be uplifted for their entrepreneurship and not torn down because of age-old industry standards.
The power and necessity of bloggers and influencers has had the entire fashion industry in upheaval this week. Many stars in the digital space have spoken out to express their disappointment in the comments made. Of the issue, Bethany Mota said, “I think there’s so much power in these women and men who have essentially created their own empires.” She continued, “That is what’s amazing about these different platforms, be it Instagram, YouTube, or the many others. You don’t have to audition to get in the door. You can start from the bottom and work your way up, on your own. That is so powerful. And many of us aren’t professionals. I started doing makeup tutorials when I was 12 years old and I had no idea what I was doing. But people listened to me because I was just a normal girl. That’s much more relatable. I want to watch someone who’s a real person. Not someone who is being paid or advised to push something.”
The digital space hasn’t changed teenagers’ frenzied attitude and innocence.
Though social media posts have caused teenagers to pay particular attention to their phones and thus record every single thing regardless of its importance, that quintessential naiveté and pandemonium have absolutely not waned for them all. Endless screams of excitement, hundreds of “OMG”s upon meeting their favorite influencer, loads of hugs, and an undeniable jubilation made up much of Beautycon’s vibe. And though mind-blogging initially, it was a beautiful scene to witness. With all the content and access now available at everyone’s fingertips, we often wondered if there’s anything sacred about adolescence anymore. But the festival proved that there is. We hope it stays that way.
Moms are hoarding beauty products, but we’re not sure if it’s for themselves or their children, or for eventual eBay profits.
In the upstairs area reserved for talent, we could not take our eyes off the mothers who were taking handfuls of samples when the request was to take one or two. Several had to be asked to return all they had procured, and we later saw some of these same ladies consolidating their bags and discussing some kind of beauty-hoarding strategies and game plans with their friends and daughters. These, of course, were the women who were also the most aggressive, pushing and driving their way through the big crowds. We have no idea if they were gathering up the goods for their personal beauty arsenals or their children, or to sell it all at the end of the day, but they were absolutely the most entertaining women to watch.
Young girls hear the most hurtful and degrading comments from their family members.
“How do you feel when people say you’re so beautiful, but you’re dark?” a young woman asked Kelly Rowland. “Why, yes, I am,” the star said. Rowland continued, “I just fall right into my chocolate light. For so long, fair and dark-skinned women have been pitted against one another, and it’s time for that to cease. I actually have a shirt that states, ‘You’re Pretty for a Dark-Skinned Girl’. I walk into it. And if I ever have a daughter, she is going to be raised to know that she is beautiful because she will hear it from me all the time. So you should tell yourself that every single day. Don’t let the world define whether or not you’re beautiful.” And then Rowland asked the girl to come up onto the stage and gave her a hug. She burst into tears and before we knew, we were doing the same. It was just one of the many instances in which a young woman asked one of the day’s stars how to cope with negativity and hateful comments, many who divulged that those devastating remarks came from their actual family members. We so often read about the downsides of social media and proliferation of trolls, but rarely do we read about just how destructive the words used towards you can be when they’re coming from those closest to you. There’s no concrete solution about how these kinds of despicable statements can be eradicated, but it’s pretty clear that so many women in adulthood have such low self-esteem and broken ideas of self-confidence because of the not-yet healed words that filled their ears, hearts, and minds during their formative years.
Influencers are absolutely split when it comes to keeping their 9-to-5 job versus quitting to pursue their dreams.
The corporate versus entrepreneur discussion is one that pervades almost every industry in the world. With a rise in do-it-yourself, small businesses, and non-traditional media empires, more people than ever are quitting desk jobs and corporate structures to embark on their own career journeys and carve out their own paths. For a long time, the influencer game had been painted with the stories of what seemed to be women and men who had easily translated their social media success to multiple businesses. But influencers Tiarra Monet and Aaliyah Jay showed that even big names in the digital space are split between the 9-to-5ers and the dream chasers. Monet moved out on her own early and had to take multiple jobs to finance her passion, while Aaliyah Jay had the support of her mother to be able to stage photoshoots and grow her following organically over the years. The two presented the opposing sides of the argument with the solution really being to find a way to do both if possible. Money is one of the unspoken keys to becoming a big online star. And though many discuss how they’re paid after they reach their success, few talk about how difficult it is to secure funding and make a living before you get to that point.