“Erase everything you thought you knew about this generation or their approach to beauty. Beauty is no longer just a part of culture. Beauty now defines culture.”
Beauty conventions are usually all about free swag, celebrity sightings, and trendspotting. But at Beautycon LA, we were shocked to find something else — a revolutionary spirit.
Beautycon was way more than the latest lipstick launch. We hung out with people from literally every background and walk of life, whether it was the woman who wore her everyday makeup, the man who went full-on “Kardashian,” the grandma with sky-high faux lashes, or the 8-year-old covered in glitter — all united in shared kindness, respect, and love.
It probably has everything to do with Beautycon founder and CEO Moj Mahdara, who used her marketing/Hollywood background along with her intersectional identity to help transform the beauty space to what it’s become today.
“Research shows that beauty influencers have officially become the single most effective way to connect with Pivotals,” Mahdara asserts in FOMO, a data-driven analysis to examine the real motivations of “Pivotals” (a term coined to refer to consumers between the ages of 13 to 34). “We know this instinctively at Beautycon, because we know that beauty is more than makeup products or application tutorials. For the Pivotals, beauty is a springboard to create new communities and self-expressions.”
According the study, 86% of “Pivotals” say that the biggest change in culture today is the freedom to express yourself however you want. And makeup, selfcare, and wellness themes are intrinsically related to self-expression.
This focus was clear in terms of what Beautycon was really about. Here are our six favorite takeaways we learned.
1. Inclusivity is not a fad.
We grew up on Sassy, Teen, YM and Seventeen. The ‘90s were great for a lot of things, but diversity and inclusivity in the beauty space was NOT one of them. All we knew was a beauty space that gave us a ton of ways to “fix” all the ways we didn’t naturally fall within a narrow window of tall, thin, blonde, and/or naturally straight non-frizzy hair.
To attend a beauty convention and be surrounded by every nationality, ability, gender identity, sexuality – and to see makeup as a primary tool for self-expression rather than self-correction – was mind-blowing.
A moment we’ll never forget from the weekend: overhearing in an all-gender bathroom two young girls stopping mid-conversation to tell another boy dressed in a fantastic striped jumpsuit with fluorescently colored hair and a full face of makeup who was washing his hands that his look was “fire, seriously fire.”
How far we’ve come.
2. Authenticity is mandatory.
Literally all successful people (e.g. Manny MUA, Accidental Icon, Mario Dedivanovic, Tokyo Stylez) attributed their success to being themselves — despite what other people thought (including, or especially, bullies). They encouraged the crowd to ignore criticism, judgement, or self-censorship and let their authenticity shine.
What we witnessed was a focus on basing your *lewk* not on trends or assimilation, but one’s own personality or unique identity. Popular items were not to be used at face value, but as a starting point of iteration.
3. Empathy is beauty.
For an event that drew tens of thousands of people, we couldn’t help but notice how everyone was genuinely nice to each other. The “mean girls” mentality of beauty is firmly passe.
On one panel that featured two Riverdale stars, Rocsi Diaz, the moderator said, “We don’t want to pit you against each other.” Refreshing, in a world where Twitter beefs and rivalries seem to be the norm from reality stars to people in public office.
Jessica Smalls shared her inspirational story about how concealer can get you out the door. She suffered from skin cancer and found it empowering to find a way to shield herself from unwanted attention.
When the Glam Squad panel was asked about beauty application faux pas they didn’t offer hacks, but a philosophical lesson. Jessica told us “not be judgemental about what other people are doing to get out of the house that day.”
4. Niche is the new mainstream…
Everywhere we looked, we saw more people playing and experimenting with constructs. The only “blending in” they were interested in was their foundation base.
This is why psychographic targeting will certainly replace basic demographic marketing when it comes to the business of beauty. This means that “Piviotals” are using more and more descriptors like refugee, sexually fluid or mixed race to define themselves — which is vastly more accurate than the binary lens of last century.
Just as Twitter has democratized consumer demand, this trend has the potential to even the playing field for brands with niche or alternative aspects.
5. …but celebrity doesn’t hurt.
People are still very much willing to stand in line for hours for Kylie Jenner’s lip gloss — even though they’re able to buy it online. Not to mention the temperature literally rose 10 degrees at Kim Kardashian’s fireside chat due to the sheer number of crammed bodies in attendance.
And did you know Snoop Dogg is a hair hero? He gave a chat about black hair, which was dope and unexpected! He left us with sage wisdom: “The better your hair, the better your life.” We’ll have what he’s smoking, thanks!
Influencers still hold plenty of power in this new world, but because of the general embrace of specialization, there’s no one look that rules them all. There’s plenty of room at the top.
6. Empowerment is evolving from mindfulness to action.
There were plenty of career-oriented, intention-making activities at Beautycon. However, they seemed to take the idea a step further and focus on being the change they wish to see in the world.
From candle-lighting ceremonies to goal-setting, there was something for anyone looking to get things done beyond their makeup routine. This seems more than just coincidentally related to our current political atmosphere. It’s all about the do (while still caring about your ‘do).
This is what happens when an unconventional beauty person — a CEO who’s a gay first-generation Iranian-American college dropout who wears no makeup— disrupts old norms for the better.
Using outer expression as a lense to focus inward, it taught us more about ourselves than we expected.