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24 Sep

Beautycon’s L.A. Return Has Learnings, a Celebration of Inclusivity

“They were only, like, 20 bucks,” said 21-year-old Bertha, revealing Slayyy extensions in her shopping bag. “I’m looking forward to getting my hair braided.”

It was Day Two of Beautycon, which returned on Sept. 16 and 17 in Los Angeles after a four-year hiatus. Acquired by Essence Ventures in 2021, the sweetness festival is under latest management, and while there have been some bumps with the relaunch, overall the experience was a positive one.

“This time around, it’s a bit of bit different,” Bertha, a California psychology student, went on. “It’s much smaller. I feel like last time there was a bit more booths and lots more happening. But I prefer it. It’s really interactive. It’s great.”

The last time she attended Beautycon was in 2019, when the event was on the verge of facing hardships, layoffs and a civil suit. It was hosted on the Los Angeles Convention Center then, with 720,000 square feet of exhibition space. This 12 months, with a latest team, it was held at The Reef, a smaller, more intimate venue, taking on about 150,000 square feet. The weekend lineup included panels, presentations, masterclasses, live shopping segments, interactive activations and featured a show floor with beauty brands on display.

“I used to be just curious to see how they were doing it, because I heard it was at a unique place,” Bertha said of her interest in Beautycon again. She paid $23 for the one-day general admission ticket. A two-day pass was $35, while VIP (which sold out) was $300 and included a goodie bag of beauty products.

“There was a bit of waiting to start with,” she said of the road to enter the ground, arriving with two friends. “We waited possibly 20 minutes.”

Bertha, like many, had seen the backlash Beautycon received online by some for the problems faced on the primary day, including long waits.

“I used to be hearing people say things here, and on Instagram, too, there was lots of stuff,” Bertha said of overhearing criticism.

“How Beautycon L.A. actually was this 12 months,” reads the pink text in a video uploaded on TikTok by user mua.alyssa_caputo333. “We were packed in like cattle with only a few booths to go to,” it continues, featuring a video of the scene. “There have been possibly 24 brands total in comparison with the over 300 last time. Booths ran out of product just two hours after doors opened. Minimal line control if any.”

“Yesterday was chaotic,” said Rebundle founder Ciara Imani May on Sunday. “Today has been a significantly better brand experience for the attendees. They’ll actually come up and interact with us a bit more, since it’s not so busy. But I feel that for the primary 12 months of being under Essence, they’re doing a very good job of centering Black-owned brands and in addition helping everyone understand that products which are made for Black people meet everyone’s needs.”

May can also be within the hair extension business, though she’s created a plant-based alternative. Manufactured in her hometown of St. Louis, Rebundle partnered with North Hollywood-based braid bar and wonder supply shop BeautyBeez for a booth to showcase its first product, Braid Higher. The extensions are available eight colours and three lengths, utilizing a patent-pending technology that repurposes discarded banana stems.

“I settled on banana fiber due to its likeness to hair,” May explained of the brand, launched in 2021. “It’s itch-free, nontoxic and biodegradable after use.”

Sophia Dennis, head of programming at Beautycon, actress Peyton List and Stephanie NöNe Dunivan, vice chairman for experiential, branded solutions and video at Essence, through the Pley Beauty live shopping segment.

Getty Images for Beautycon/Arnold Turner

Rebundle and Slayyy — also offering a “toxic-free” solution via a “secret sauce to cleanse the synthetic fibers,” based on its site — were considered one of about 30 brands with booths. They were among the many newcomers, joining more established corporations equivalent to big-box retailer Walmart (with the most important footprint as Beautycon’s partner), Shea Moisture (which also had significant space) and Palmer’s.

“I feel that it’s necessary for people to know that it’s Beautycon’s first 12 months back under Essence,” May said. “And so, there’s going to be some kinks, but overall it’s been a very good experience for us as our first activation.”

“I liked it from a creator perspective,” said 19-year-old content creator Ameenha Lee, who’s attended previous Beautycon events. (With nearly 200,000 followers on TikTok and about 9,300 on Instagram, Lee was invited by Beautycon and didn’t purchase a ticket.)

She enjoyed the range of content creators present — the likes of rapper Saucy Santana and Dieux cofounder and chief executive officer Charlotte Palermino — and applauded Beautycon for including microinfluencers. “You never know who anyone will develop into. Putting a highlight on everybody is super necessary.”

She also liked having personal interactions with the brand founders and reps. “Up to now, to me, I feel it’s a very great launch.”

“They showed up in overwhelming numbers,” Beautycon’s head of programming Sophia Dennis said of tourists. Roughly 40,000 people interacted with Beautycon content this weekend, based on organizers. (The number reflects each online viewers who watched the livestream on beautycon.com and in-person visitors. When asked what number of physical attendees there have been, Beautycon was unable to offer the precise number in time.)

Dennis acknowledged the kinks of Day One, noting that the team was capable of work through them and supply a greater experience on the second day.

“With the primary day, there’s definitely lots of learning curves, realizing certain things and changing them to make the experience higher and to run smoother in real time,” continued Dennis. Together with added security, they created a greater flow plan. “The thing that I’m essentially the most enthusiastic about is having the ability to take a few of the feedback that we got from the experience generally…after which, Beautycon in 2024 is usually a higher experience in all the several cities that we go to.”

She would love to see Beautycon expand internationally to Dubai and Tokyo or Seoul. But first, she hopes it heads to Recent York: “Recent York just has a really unique and diverse mixture of people who find themselves obsessive about beauty.”

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 17: (L-R) Caroline Wanga and Kelly Rowland speak onstage during Beautycon™ Los Angeles 2023 at The Reef on September 17, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Arnold Turner/Getty Images for Beautycon™)

Caroline Wanga, president and CEO of Essence Ventures, in conversation with singer Kelly Rowland.

Getty Images for Beautycon/Arnold Turner

With its fresh tag line “rally the rising beauty rebels,” Beautycon has a message of inclusivity. It was reflected within the talks (“Redefining Traditional Beauty Standards” and “Self-Expression & Disrupting the Status Quo”) with various speakers of various backgrounds. Special guests included Bia, who performed, Kelly Rowland, Marsai Martin, Peyton List (with Pley Beauty) and Sabrina Dhowre Elba (with S’able Labs). The audience — mostly women — was diverse, too.

“We’re a melanin-inclusive brand so it is sensible that we’d be on this environment,” said Gillian Corbin, senior communications manager at S’able Labs. “But what I didn’t expect is so lots of the women were so invested of their skincare. Everybody has a dermatologist. Everybody knows the ingredients. I didn’t expect to have such an engaged skincare audience.”

“We’re capable of share our brand story and our product story to an entire different audience,” Jessica DeBruyne, chief product officer at S’able Labs, added. “Yesterday was crazy. I don’t think any of us expected that. There have been just so many individuals overflowing and only 4 of us. We would have liked more help. It was just packed.”

“You couldn’t move in here,” added Corbin.

“We’re prepared now,” DeBruyne said.

Nearby, Stephen Yaseen and Jonathan Wormser echoed the sentiment.

“Overall, today has been a bit of bit easier, because now we have a greater lay of the land,” Yaseen said. “And generally, Beautycon has been reworked today. It’s a bit of bit more organized.”

The Recent York-based founders of Good Weird — with model-actor-skateboarder Evan Mock also in attendance as creative director — opted to showcase a claw machine to draw the gang. Together with product, visitors could win toys and candy.

“We went with an arcade theme because we’re hugely nostalgic inspired,” Wormser said. “We desired to give you a game that might interact the buyer and draw people in, knowing that at the identical that they’re waiting to play, we are able to showcase products and talk through our brand.”

“And it’s been great to have everyone test product,” added Yaseen. “We’ve been educating people in understanding how we’re differentiated.”

They make genderless beauty for all, he said, while sharing a message of embracing individuality. “It’s what Beautycon is about.”

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