For some people, makeup isn’t just about the latest shade of lipstick or eye shadow. It’s about empowerment.

Just ask the fans at Beautycon, a recent two-day event in New York that showcased more than 100 makeup and beauty brands, along with speaker panels featuring social media stars whose expertise is all things beauty.

At Beautycon, the spotlight wasn’t on supermodels or fashion editors, but everyday people who have used social media to upend the industry. With online fans numbering in the millions, these Instagram and YouTube influencers are charting a path into a once exclusive field and forcing insiders to rethink conventional notions of beauty.

“I figured out a way to express myself through social media and through my platform and just share my individuality,” said Irene Kim, a Korean-American social media influencer who spoke on a panel, “Niche is the New Norm.”

“Beauty is limitless,” Kim said. “It’s whatever you want to do and how you want to express yourself.”

Mecca Iman is a makeup enthusiast who agrees.

“It’s deeper than just, how it looks, it’s how you feel,” she said.

Democratization of beauty

“There’s no longer a publisher who’s dictating what is beauty or what does health and well-being mean,” said Moj Mahdara, CEO of Beautycon Media. “Now you have a generation of young people who are creators creating that dialogue for a consumer, but that consumer is really their friend — their friend, their fan, it’s a two-way conversation.”

Iman teared up during a meet-and-greet session with social media star Raye Boyce. Boyce, who’s better known by her online handle, “ItsMyRayeRaye,” posts instructional makeup and beauty videos on YouTube and currently has 1.8 million subscribers.

“She’s just so relatable and so cool and then the makeup that she does, I learn from her. I learn so much from her,” Iman said.

Major brands take note

Boyce recently partnered with CoverGirl to promote the company’s cosmetics on her social media channels. She was also given the opportunity to visit the research and development labs of Coty, the parent company of CoverGirl and other consumer beauty brands like Clairol, Rimmel and Max Factor.

“I feel like them listening to us, they’re trying to understand the space,” Boyce said.

Nabela Noor, a beauty influencer with 749,000 Instagram followers and counting, has partnered with companies like Sally Hansen, Benefit and e.l.f. Cosmetics.

“The reason why I wanted to do what I’m doing is because I wasn’t seeing anyone else like me,” said the plus-sized, Muslim Bangladeshi-American. “I wasn’t seeing myself represented on television, in the media. I thought, if I’m not seeing it happen, I’m going to make it happen for myself,” she added.

“By being online and being myself and being proud of who I am, I’ve been able to help people feel good about themselves,” she said.

Tokyo Stylez, originally from Nebraska, calls himself “one of the others’“ or an “alien.” The flamboyant hairstylist started posting his wig creations on Instagram, and now works with artists like Nicki Minaj, Beyonce and Rihanna.

“People really support what I do, they trust my vision, they trust my judgment on things. So if I say, ‘Go do this’ they really go do it, which is amazing,” said Tokyo, who also commands upward of $900 per person for all-day workshops where he teaches his hair techniques. “I just do me, and it works for me,” he said.

Beauty from the inside out

Self-acceptance is a key theme for the demographic that marketers have dubbed Generation Z, the post-millennial group born in the mid-90s to mid-2000s who are well-versed with consumer technology. A section of Beautycon entitled “B-Well” focused on health and well-being, with vendors hawking probiotic beverages, vitamins and healthy snacks.

“Beauty is both inside and out, and how you treat your insides and your mental health and your physical health and your spirituality is all a part of how you foster beauty,” Mahdara said. “I think the industries around health and well-being and beauty are colliding into one and will be a very big movement moving forward.”


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