This past weekend I hit the Javits center in NYC to take in the sights at the International Beauty Show (IBS), a huge trade show for professionals in the beauty industry. I've been to a few large beauty shows like IBS, and they're overwhelming because of the sheer size and number of exhibitors there. But brands at these conventions have figured out a unique way to get attention at their booths: Hire a model, give him/her an extreme look, and wait for the gawkers to come, at which time vendors will then try to wow them with the product they're shilling.
There seems to be three main gimmicks that brands use: Adorn the models with lots of body paint, put them on stilts, or hire some beefcake. The latter isn't a bad strategy if you really think about it, considering you're talking about an audience of hair dressers, who tend to be either female or gay. (Yes, I'm generalizing here--but the line for shirtless guys serving cotton candy at one booth was 15 people deep. Do people like cotton candy that much?)
Anyway, the gambit seems to work. Case in point: I asked one shirtless, buff gentleman if I could snap his picture, and he said, "Sure, but then you have to talk to my friends over there about a blow...dryer." He then removed the blow dryer from the waistband of his jeans and pointed it at me like a gun. I asked the vendor about the blow dry cowboys--who were stationed at every corner of this booth--and she just shrugged and said, "Sex sells, right?"
So does body paint, apparently.
Valerie Roman (above left), 27, who was stationed near a booth for eyelash extensions, was painted silver from head to toe and was attracting quite a crowd. Turns out she's only an amateur beauty show model and was doing it as a favor to the owners, whom she knew through mutual friends. (She works in PR for a media placement company in real life.)
So was it strange to have everyone staring at her? "It's a little weird, but I don't mind it," she told me. "It's fun, I mean, I'm wearing a tutu!" It took about a half hour to paint her, and no, it was not itchy. "The only [bad] thing is that I get glitter everywhere," she said. (Is that really a bad thing at a beauty show?)
While Roman was doing it for fun, others do it for a living. We chatted up (literally--she was very high) stilt walker Tara Spadaro, 22, who makes her living on stilts. "Enzo Milano [a company that makes hair styling tools] flies us around the country to every IBS show," Spadaro told me. She also works at Universal Studios and does private parties. But in case you want to get into this line of work, stilt walking is tough to break into. "I did some stunt work when I was younger and worked as a dancer at Universal Studios and they needed stilt walkers," Spadaro said. "I wanted to get into it my whole life. No one will train you because it's a really competitive business."
Meanwhile, beauty blogger Mynxii White, 27, was getting a lot of attention at hair care brand Obliphica's booth. White was popular among show goers because of her distinctly fairy-like appearance: lavender hair and eyebrows, and a generous sprinkling of crystals everywhere. Turns out it wasn't a special look for the show, which she was attending to do social media and blog for the brand, but rather her everyday style. "I believe that every day should be a fashion show. The world is your runway," she said. "I don't even know how to be a 'normal' girl." But having a distinctive look has its drawbacks.
"[People] touch me. They put their hands in my hair," she said. "They think I look like a living doll and think it's ok to touch. It's not ok."
Pictures are ok, though, and I took a lot. Click through to check out MakeUp ForEver's incredible body painted model, a drag queen on stilts, and more amazingness from IBS.