The future of makeup at #GenBeauty expo
August 2, 2017
Updated: August 2, 2017 1:35pm
An exciting sailboat race took place in the San Francisco Bay waters just a few yards offshore, but none of the more than 1,000 men and women waiting to get into the Fort Mason Center Pavilion batted an eyelash extension. The Generation Beauty makeup expo takes place in San Francisco only once a year. Gorgeous sailboats flying across the choppy blue water against the backdrop of the gently fogged-in Golden Gate could wait. After all, MAC was giving away a lipstick mini.
Ipsy, the host of #GenBeauty, was founded by Michelle Phan, a young woman who posted makeup tutorials on YouTube and now runs a multimillion-dollar mail-order subscription service. Ipsy members pay $10 a month for a box of five beauty products, and the now-30-year-old Phan is a guru in the world of bronzer and lip gloss. Ipsy has even launched its own brand of makeup, Em Cosmetics.
The die-hards, however, attend one of Ipsy’s four annual weekend expos. #GenBeauty is held once a year in Los Angeles, New York, Toronto and San Francisco. Attendees pay upward of $100 for tickets to #GenBeauty, a makeup convention packed with national makeup brands, endless makeup freebies, YouTube and Instagram “influencers” and a legendary take-home gift bag filled with more makeup than I’ve ever owned.
That, folks, is what was going down at Fort Mason on Saturday and Sunday, July 29 and 30.
Magna Galindo is the 26-year-old marketing manager for the San Jose makeup brunch company Luxie. The Luxie booth featured a gold and black sports car that attendees could sit in for selfie-taking purposes. After Phan’s team canceled her scheduled interview with me, Galindo kindly explained to me why thousands of fashion-forward young people laden with free eyelid primer were waiting in dozens of lines on a gorgeous San Francisco weekend.
“Generation Beauty is a way to get together brands, fans, creators and their favorite influencers,” Galindo said, looking around the jam-packed pavilion. “It’s a beauty discovery platform. These are beauty discovery enthusiasts!”
It’s not just any lip liner these folks are scoring at #GenBeauty. It’s a lip liner that’s not yet in stores, it’s a color of blush that’s never adored a public cheek. It’s, in the case of Luxie, a set of just-released “Wonder Woman” makeup brushes. Amid all of this is a curated collection of makeup “influencers” meeting and greeting fans.
Rena Gillen, of the San Francisco makeup powerhouse BeneFit, patiently explained “influencers” to me. “Influencers in general are huge ambassadors,” said Gillen, dropping the names of a series of social media mega-stars I’d never heard of.
Gillen confessed that BeneFit has staff to figure out which online influencers have the best and most-followed YouTube and Instagram accounts. Those people then get free products in the hopes that those products will be featured in future social media posts. According to Gillen, who seemed wise in the wonders of this world, some influencers even have agents and publicists.
“For example,” noted Gillen, “Kandee Johnson will be appearing at 2:30 at Rimmel.”
Kandee Johnson has 1.6 million Instagram followers, and there was a line at the Rimmel Cosmetics station of what seemed to be most of them who wanted to meet her. There was a separate line at Rimmel for people who wanted the giveaway. Lines were everywhere at GenBeauty — to get inside, to score the #GenBeauty makeup gift bag, to receive each vendor’s giveaway product, to meet an influencer, and to use the iPhone-charging station.
“My whole family woke up at 5 a.m.,” said 20-year-old Karrie Moua of Merced. Moua is a journalism student at Cal State Fullerton, and she broke down #GenBeauty for me in a way that connected.
“Makeup isn’t girlie. It’s about taking back control and standing out,” she beamed in what was admittedly a perfect shade of lipstick. “I’m not just here for the free stuff. I’m here to meet people that inspire me.”
Moua paused for a second and looked around at a pavilion packed with excited makeup enthusiasts, colorful posters and suggested hashtags. She smiled and said, “I’m just here to have a good time.”
Beth Spotswood’s column appears Thursdays in Datebook. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org