Inclusivity, innovation and inspiration: Inside Beautycon 2023

After a four-year hiatus, Beautycon made a star-studded return to Los Angeles this past weekend, with Kelly Rowland as keynote speaker.

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Echoes of excitement still linger as the beauty world’s most anticipated event, Beautycon, wrapped its grand return this weekend. Following a four-year hiatus, Beautycon 2023 used its entire event to prove that beauty is more than just lipsticks and serums. While attendees did walk away with bags full of goodies, they also left with greater insight into diversity and self-expression within the beauty industry.  

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(Left to right) Caroline Wanga and Kelly Rowland speak onstage during Beautycon™ Los Angeles 2023 at The Reef on Sept. 17, 2023, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Arnold Turner/Getty Images for Beautycon™)

“Beautycon™ is about bringing people together under the ideology of beauty as a space for connection. For us, it’s not just about executing campaigns or showcasing certain people on social media,” said Sophia Dennis, head of programming for Beautycon, in a press release shared with theGrio. “It’s about actually creating opportunities and a space that ultimately highlights the content creators, entrepreneurs, and artists making the beauty industry what it is today and what it will be tomorrow.” 

“A lot of the programming is really focused on ensuring that different forms of beauty and different groups of people are represented on the stage,” Dennis added during the event.

Under the new ownership of Essence Ventures, the renowned beauty convention is now a Black-owned event, this year produced in collaboration with Walmart. From its speakers to the inclusive swag bag filled with an impressive variety of Black-owned beauty brands, the emphasis on diversity did not go unnoticed this year. 

From the moment attendees walked through the gates, Beautycon welcomed attendees to boldly step into their unique beauty with a vibrant, interactive photo instillation. Throughout the event, vendors from Shea Moisture to Mielle Organics to Thread Beauty, Topicals, and more transformed their booths into interactive experiences offering hands-on demonstrations and exclusive samples. Despite long lines of excited beauty enthusiasts, the space was designed as an opportunity to explore new and well-known hair, skincare, and beauty products. 

In addition to presenting products galore, Beautycon has always set a stage for powerful conversations that challenge norms and cultivate and inspire a new generation of beauty trendsetters. From masterclasses to panels like “Healthy Skin is a Flex,” “Passion to Profit,” and “Texture on the Runway,” the weekend’s programming featured Marsai Martin, Tia Mowry, Saucy Santana, Rico Nasty, and more. Among the stellar lineup, Kelly Rowland, known as a self-care expert among her girlfriends, joined the festivities to share her perspective on self-love and beauty while adding a sprinkle of “Motivation.” 

“[W]e’re constantly starting new things, feeling even more comfortable in our skin,” said Rowland.“ I used to have this thing about even like red lipstick […]  I used to think that red lipstick wasn’t for a brown girl. And next thing I knew, somebody said, ‘Oh, you have to get one with this black background, and blue needs to be a part of the red lip,’ and I said, ‘OK, I’m doing blue. I’m doing red.’ I just started having fun with beauty without letting the world tell me what I needed to do.” 

Though the Destiny’s Child star expressed her everchanging relationship with beauty, she accredited Tina Knowles for her bold approach to beauty, especially in haircare. 

“I feel like my hair journey was fun because Tina made it fun for me,” Rowland added. “She made it feel like you can do whatever you want.”  

Creating a kaleidoscope of beauty influencers, vendors, entrepreneurs, makeup artists, and stars, Beautycon 2023 painted an inspiring vision of the future of beauty. Though traditional makeup brands held a smaller presence this year compared to previous Beautycons, the discussions, paired with the attendance of so many skincare and beauty brands, contributed to an overarching theme of the importance of cultivating organic, individual beauty, which was woven throughout the event. 

“The beauty space, as incredible as it is, is also a space where there’s so much [of] everybody kind of wanting to look like something else. I just want to encourage everyone in here that the canvas that you start with in the morning is the most beautiful canvas. The makeup is just enhancement,” said Rowland at the end of her panel. “And we’re so lucky to be able to have fun with it because that’s what we’re supposed to do, is have fun with it. But don’t let it be something that covers us up; let it be something that’s a bonus for what already exists because what already exists is beautiful. [There’s] only one of you, and the world needs to look so beautifully colorful and different.”

Visit to replay the weekend’s panels.

Haniyah Philogene is a multimedia storyteller and Lifestyle reporter covering all things culture. With a passion for digital media, she goes above and beyond to find new ways to tell and share stories.

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