Clearly there is no stereotypical makeup industry pro because the debut last week of the Makeup Show L.A. at the California Market Center drew cosmetics buffs of every color, stripe and packaging. There were rocker chicks with purple hair and matching lips, tanned and lithe blonds in black, older gentlemen in suits, skinny boys with eyeliner and artfully contoured cheekbones, drag queens, fashionistas, and suburban moms; all streaming into the penthouse space to test new products, sit in on seminars and maybe score some cheap sable brushes.
The odd loner with a briefcase seemed hopelessly out of place until you realized that besides all the glitz and glam were products like "Grease and Grime" -- a theatrical palette sold by Frends Beauty Supply in North Hollywood -- and even high-tech body hair at the booth for National Fiber Technology.
"It's like a ' Star Trek' convention for beauty," said Theo Kogan, a New York musician and model who was there promoting Armour Beauty, a lip gloss line she created with handbag designer Allison Burns. The long-lasting, natural glosses come in decidedly unearthy tones such as opaque black, which "we had before it was the craze," Kogan said. Called Femme Fatale, the color is one of the company's bestsellers.
They say lip products are recession-proof -- women will always find $18 for a touch of luxury -- and there was further evidence of that at the booth for Kissable Couture, a new lip gloss line by makeup artist A.J. Crimson and Keisha Whitaker that had sold out of everything.
James Vincent, the Makeup Show L.A.'s director of artistry, seemed pleasantly surprised by the turnout. "We had more people come through the door yesterday than our first day in New York!" said the heavily tattooed makeup artist, who sported a gold-and-diamond teddy bear pendant.
Staples of every international makeup artist's kit, like the French moisturizer Embryolisse ("All of the models expect you to have it," Vincent said.), shared space with brands like Temptu -- leaders of the growing airbrushed-makeup market that's been driven by reality TV and the switch to HD technology. Temptu P.R. director Ava Scanlan added that there's another market contributing to the demand for the flawless look of airbrushed makeup: bridezillas. "Brides have been pushing the airbrush envelope with makeup for 10 years. . . . Maybe even before TV," she said.
Naturally, it was also tough to turn down an aisle without stumbling on some mostly naked person having his or her body airbrushed in wild colors and patterns, like the gold-and-red vision Nick Herrera was creating on Alex Kurtz, a dancer ("not like a stripper, like a dance major at college") who heard about the gig through a site called Model Mayhem. Herrera, who won a World Bodypainting Festival championship in Austria, said the whole process would take about two hours, versus six for "a masterpiece." When the airbrushing was finished, Kurtz walked around handing out Herrera's business cards and leaving little bits of gold leaf on the floor.
Perhaps Herrera should have gone with something more like the iconic, airbrushed band of black Marvin Westmore created for Daryl Hannah in the movie "Blade Runner." Giving a talk Monday afternoon about his family history, Westmore, now president of the Westmore Academy of Cosmetic Arts, recalled that he thought he was the first makeup artist to use an airbrush machine, until he saw a photograph of his father using one on the set of "Gone With the Wind." (The Westmore family was recently honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.)
After the talk, celebrity makeup artist Sharon Gault, who has toured with Madonna, collaborated extensively with photographer David LaChapelle and currently works with Lady Gaga, paid her respects to Westmore. "He is a genius, are you kidding?! He did 'Blade Runner'!"
The Rubenesque redhead has also been a subject of LaChapelle's photographs. "I'm the Lonely Doll," she said. At that moment, Vincent appeared with a cotton swab to fix Gault's smeared red lipstick. "A true friend's work is never done," he said, and jetted off.
Gault never did any formal beauty school training -- "I just stick my fingers in makeup" -- but she loves teaching her craft to aspiring professionals at Paul Mitchell the School nonetheless. She admits that she sometimes feels "guilty charging people for knowledge," but her students clearly don't mind. A gaggle of them were hanging around the Makeup Forever booth, and Gault called them over.
"Come to Mama Makeup mentor!" she said, drawing them close. "Aren't they cute? I want them all to become famous! I help them to dream big."