When an event is headlined “Carnival” always expect a variety of fun and exciting moments designed to be pleasantly etched in your memory. This is what the Essence Beauty Carnival was able to accomplish at the beauty extravaganza held on the weekend of April 27 at Pier 36, NYC.
Beauty and the attendant beautifying- products are never in the realm of what is viewed as the “serious” concerns of life – like say, social justice or eliminating world hunger. Yet the emotional lightness of being in an environment devoted to all things designed to make us more physically appealing has always held, well, great appeal. One will be correct to conclude that the allure of “taking charge” of one’s beauty, is what enticed thousands of primarily black female millennials to show-up to be inspired by beauty influencers and experts who came to spread the gospel of aesthetics at the world’s largest beauty experience for Black women.
One would also have felt giddy with pride at the many small black-owned companies showcased as part of the curated “Shop Essence” Beauty Marketplace. Vendors promoted and sold their products from fully stocked booths- a display of defiance and confidence, challenging the beauty industry with their own brand of products designed to enhance our grooming- from our crowns all the way down to our feet. Attendees reciprocated in full-support mode, buying the variety of products highly favored by many because of their natural ingredients. The event was sponsored by Aveeno but Shida Naturals, Soul Balm Sisters, Honey Pot, Afrodoesiac Worldwide, Eden Bodyworks, Yelle and Everyhue Beauty were among the two dozen retailers that surely will become household names. VIP pampering services, expert hair and make-up tutorials, celebrity meet & greet, and giveaways were also part of the mix.
Pivotal to the event were the mainstage features comprised of panel discussions and intimate conversations with beauty gurus. Included in this list were Jackie Aina, Beauty Icon/Activist; Yandy Smith, Entrepreneur & Culture Curator; Elle Varner, Singer; Felicia Walker, Beauty & Skincare Expert; Shani Crowe Artist; Whitney White, Natural Hair +Lifestyle Influencer and Christina Brown, Digital Influencer. ESSENCE’s Global Beauty Director Julee Wilson engaged in warm and enlightening conversations with celebrity guests. Ciara, Grammy Award singer &songwriter shared how she embraces her imperfections and announced her May 10 album drop. She was cathartic as she expressed how empowered she felt as wife and mother and with her entrepreneurial achievement, having recently created her own record label- another giant step-forward towards her levelling-up goals.
Reality entertainer Yandy Smith melted our hearts when she explained how she encourages her daughter’s love for her dark-brown complexion with the words “the sun kissed you a little longer”. Iman, former super-model and now a philanthropist, entrepreneur & CEO of Iman Cosmetics beauty advise was that we should care for our skin as early as our early-twenties to guard against problems as we age but also discussed her experience as an ‘anomaly’ in the fashion industry and how she skillfully navigated her way to success. Dropping pearls of wisdom, she emphasized the importance of authenticity, adhering to one’s principles, knowing your self-worth among other priceless personal development gems. Having to piece together her own make-up for her first photoshoot may have been the motivation for her having personified her motto “If you’re not invited to the table, buy your own table”. It also underscores why she was honored with the ESSENCE Beauty Carnival Icon Award. Legendary Harlem Fashion innovator Dapper Dan spoke to the future of fashion and inevitability of embracing technology in the industry.
R&B stars Justine Skye, Sevyn Streeter and DJ Olivia Dope kept the crowd well entertained, rounding off a weekend that was truly inspirational. At end of it all it was obvious that the goal of Essence’s Beauty Carnival was to inspire us to be beautiful, body and soul.
When beauty remains just skin deep its appeal diminishes, and yes, is just superficial. Wholesome beauty, however, is its own profound statement and the message that the beauty carnival was able to convey.