BeautyCon NYC 2019: What exactly happened?
BeautyCon, from its inception, has been particularly nuanced with its approach to makeup. Slogans such as “you don’t need lipstick, lipstick needs you!” and “Real Friends, False Lashes” have littered the promotional marketing for what seems like the lifespan of the franchise.
Anecdotally, I’ve participated as a convention guest for the past 3 years, and have found things I both love and hate about one of the biggest public makeup bashes at each incarnation. However, those attending the 5-year anniversary at the Javits Center seemed to be humming similar-sounding complaints and in spite of my own attempts at optimism, I found myself agreeing.
Now, before I begin to break down exactly what went left at BeautyCon NYC, let me say that going (in spite of the hefty price tag) was a privilege and a gift. There are many beauty lovers across land and sea who would have been more than happy to just attend if given the opportunity. I am not making light of the privilege my location and finances had on my even attending, however, there is a level of expectation one has when attending an event multiple years in a row.
For skimming purposes and organization, I’ll be breaking down my personal opinions into categories based on my own personal experience.
Price Vs. Ticket breakdown
I know, I KNOW! I just finished talking about how my finance and location privilege allowed me to even attend such an event. However, like Auntie Jackie Aina says when associating race with cosmetics, “IT APPLIES!”
There were 4-ish categories of ticket one might be able to purchase with varying perks.
General Admission – Choose between 1 day ($64.99) and 2 days ($84.99) access. Only allows you into the venue at 12 pm. (later marketing materials change the one day price to 40.99 and 2 day to 64.99 – however this was not the original promotion price and clearly “discounted” online).
2 Day Hauler – Two-day Access (199.99), enter the venue 2 hours early (10 am) and receive a swag bag valued at $200
Seminar Add-On - May add additional seminar to GA or Hauler tickets for $39.99 to learn about building your own brand, access to networking, Facebook group, and a digital directory.
2 Day All Access – Two-day Access ($499.99), 2-hour early access (10 am), Swag Bag valued at $500, VIP Entry, front line access, Access to Add on Seminar on building own brand, access to all brands, experiences on the main floor, including main stage panels.
2 Day Insider – Two Day Access ($1999), 2-hour early access (10 am), special lounge, party, and “meeting the influencers”. Honestly, there is very little info left online regarding what exactly came in this massive package and being that I never expected to write this article, did not preserve my evidence and therefore am going piecemeal from what is left online.
Now, this seems straightforward enough. Different ticket prices different perks. If you don’t want the perk don’t buy the ticket. Easy. Oh, my dear friend, all will become clear to you soon enough.
Convention Organization and Accurate Expectations
Me being…well, myself, arrived at the venue not long before scheduled to go in. If anyone reading has been to any sort of popular convention, you know that lines can start forming hours before in order to get coveted access to the most popular booths and attractions. When asking the convention workers where to stand, where can we get our separate bags, and where we can get promotional material, these poor people had no clue and openly admitted convention goers were the first to enlighten them about any particular perks between ticket holders other than entrance time.
Prior to the convention, I like to scout which brands will be in attendance and in what order I want to hit booths. I’m much more interested in the independent brands for my platform and have long given up on lines for brands such as Too Faced and Pixi Beauty. However, when attempting to get some kind of layout or accurate brand list, the BeautyCon website was almost useless. They posted a list of their most famous brands as affiliates (not necessarily booth holders) and a scrolling carousel of brands that could not be paused and did not seem to appear in any particular order with the claim “and many more!”
It was not until the morning of an accurate list of brands were given on Convention Pamphlets.
One could easily say this complaint is petty…and it is! This is not going to stop me from complaining about it anyway.
There were 80 brand booths on display at BeautyCon NYC.
-3 booths within throwing distance of each other were selling some form of drinkable collagen.
-3 booths were applying press on nails of various intricacy.
-2 booths when asked about their brand story/history, their thoughts on women and entrepreneurship, and why they created their products stated “I don’t know” and “because it’s fun.”
-1 booth when you walked up to it bluntly stated: “we’re out of free stuff” after looking up from a smartphone.
-1 booth sneered when asked questions about their brand and stated “we only work conventions to make sales” and seemed genuinely aggravated that someone took the time to ask them questions at all.
-2 booths promoting hair products would heckle you as you walked by asking “What? You don’t like curls/straight hair/long hair/ a product that is basically free if you buy it here for $X.XX?”
-Several Brands not honoring the “front of the line access” stipulated in the price of admission for higher level tickets. Either by not having "front of the line access" at their booths or bluntly stating “we’re not doing that anymore you have to wait on the end like everyone else.”
-Too many booths to count offering “sales” that could be achieved with a coupon code online with free shipping and little in terms of new or exclusive release products.
Even the BeautyCon Merchandise station seemed lackluster, with one item promoted being sold out already on Day 1 upon opening the doors. Unless you wanted a long sleeve t-shirt with “BeautyCon” or their iconic lipstick phrase, there was very little available.
Now, there were a few stand out brands – Lilly’s Sweets, Queen V, The Lip Bar, Vermillion Cosmetics, and C’est Moi come to mind. When they offered a product it was genuine, when you asked questions they took the time to listen and answer you, they were passionate about their causes and genuinely wanted to educate you on their brands. And as always, I never have anything bad to say about Jouer (but that’s my brand bias showing because I love them).
One of the “perks” to the all-access ticket was access to all brands and all main stage panels. Now, if you had a general admission ticket, you could have gone to all of the brands and all of the seminars. There was reserved seating for higher level tickets but nothing gained that couldn’t be had by sitting in the back or just hovering around.
The two main seminars I chose to sit for were “Let’s Talk About Toxic Masculinity” and “I deserve to be seen: Beauty Bias and Representation.”
The toxic masculinity talk opened up with Editor-in-Chief of Out Magazine Philip Picardi shouting out to an audience of (mainly) women “How many of you have had a shit boyfriend? What about a shit coworker? Family member?!” The crowd cheered as what could be expected from people remembering how much they hate their ex and being validated for that.
My face changed as I saw a panel of 3 men, 1 woman, and one non-binary person sit on the stage and talk about how toxic masculinity has affected each personally. I wanted to get on board. My spirit screamed to get on board. However, there was this small worm in the back of my mind thinking “just because you’re gay or a woman or non-binary doesn’t mean you don’t have misogynist thoughts or actions.”
My hope for a self-aware panel of men talking about toxic masculinity turned into what felt like finger pointing at “other men” for causing the problem. They’re finger pointing while also speaking to an audience of mainly women. I raised my hand for the two or three questions they opened up to the audience and I wish I had been able to ask – what about you? Is there something you’re not proud of? Have you ever been in a situation where your history might cause you embarrassment or regret? The questions that were asked by the audience were well thought out and provocative questions, but I do wish that was explored more thoroughly.
The second panel on representation was a bit more straightforward with Nabela Noor and Julee Wilson being the most recognizable names on stage. However, I found myself horrified as the creator of Girl Gaze, Amanda de Cadenet, seemed to dominate the conversation and at times talk over her fellow counterparts. In case you were wondering, de Cadenet was the only white woman on stage being cheered on as needing “more white allies like you.” Isn’t this part of the problem with representation? Being bulldozed by white well-wishers who want to be heard more than they hear? Who wants to speak more than listen? Who wants to take your fight and your struggle and scream from the rooftops about it before you could even begin to tell your own story? I believe if it were a white man on stage the response to the behavior would have been quite different and as a white ally felt embarrassed for every other white ally in the room.
Get in the Bag Seminar
I am putting this topic in its own category for the simple purpose that it is the one that angered me the most. Hey, it’s my website I can be petty if I feel like it!
Now, as per the above break down, it was an additional charge to attend this particular panel and one I was very excited about. I purposely purchased a higher level ticket in order to attend this seminar and was front row and center for one of the most boring talks I’ve ever sat through. Somehow we were talking about boyfriend jeans at a beauty event? Instead of getting insight into branding and entrepreneurship we were told the story of how the businesswomen on stage decided what they wanted to sell and how you need to work really, really hard to be a businessperson. Noted.
At this point I was not angry, I was bored but not angry. I stayed because I was promised a unique networking opportunity. Maybe the brand owners would come into the audience? Maybe they would have facilitators answer questions and point out further resources? The networking opportunity was the moderator turning to the crowd saying “Talk to each other! Exchange business cards!” It was like ice water being thrown in my face after dozing in the sunshine. Anyone worth their weight in power suits would have been doing that already…we didn’t need the moderator to remind us to “be social”.
Prior to the event, when I asked a convention worker about the panel he bluntly told me “you don’t want that, that’s so general admission can get in 2 hours early.” If I had purchased a Hauler ticket alone I would have been able to sit through the same brain-numbing seminar without the extra fee – essentially paying extra money for nothing. I also have yet to see any kind of Facebook group or directory. I have not been asked to be a part of either. Still waiting on my invite, guys…
This one hurts. This one hurts SO BAD but I have to mention it. I can’t not mention it. Cardi B…I love you girl. Bodak Yellow is my empowerment anthem. She is criticized for not being a good role model for women but I have to disagree. She may not be the most scholarly representation of a woman but she is a woman LIVING HER DAMN LIFE which is the essence of what feminism is, equality between the sexes in order to live a more authentic life in accordance to ones’ desires.
My love for Cardi B runs deep…but ya girl was SO LATE to this convention…so late…and a lot of people had questions as to why she was even there.
Cardi has since apologized for being late to the convention but the whispers around the lines seemed to think that the reason the convention seemed lackluster was due to the amount a feature like Cardi would cost. After all, this was a beauty convention, not a music festival.
Additionally, an area of the convention was actually CLOSED DOWN because the area where Cardi was scheduled to appear was filled past capacity. When you promise one of the hottest musical guests as a feature for your event, you would think you’d consider how many people are in attendance and that most of them would probably want to be there. This may have been a better use for the All Access and Insider ticket prices – have a blocked off area without brand booths where the ticket wristband could be scanned and then have those people enter. Just a suggestion.
I have no access to BeautyCon’s financials so I have no idea if this rumor was true or not, but it bears thinking about – if you promise one of the hottest musical guests at a beauty event and then have her perform in an area that is a fire hazard if overcapacity (which it would be if all attendees were in the room) and then she’s several hours late? People might be mildly aggravated.
This is probably the loudest and most ferocious complaint of the convention. As per the above break down, Hauler and All Access tickets were promised two separate bags. As it appears, anyone who had gotten their swag bag before a certain time did not get the full contents promised per their ticket. Now, I had left 2.5 hours before the convention was over and picked up my bag just before leaving. I had been at the convention for 5 and 1/2 hours at that point. Additionally, if I had not spoken to the other women in line on day 2 many wouldn’t have even realized that an issue with the bags had happened. There was no contact. No email. No recognition of the mistake. I spoke with the customer service booth during the convention who had told me they were unable to just give me the product that was missing from my bag and to contact via email. I am still going through an email paper trail to receive the remaining product promised per my ticket a week later.
You read that right. As part of the swag bag, we received lavender scented all-purpose cleaner because... women?
For myself, this disappointment comes from all that BeautyCon has been and could have been. Previous years have been better organized, better staffed, had a better line up, and was more in line with the mission of self-care and self-love. I’m still a faithful BeautyCon attendee and can’t see myself boycotting the event entirely, however, if this is the direction BeautyCon is going, I imagine a much smaller turn out for year 6.