Tracee Ellis Ross on Blending Style and Substance
Just before the 2019 Golden Globes, and to kick off awards season in style, InStyle teamed up with Beautycon POP — a made-for-Instagram pop-up space in West Hollywood — for a panel on self-expression, equality, and how style and beauty play into female empowerment. The panel featured actress, activist and Nov. 2018 cover star Tracee Ellis Ross; celeb stylist Karla Welch, InStyle Editor-in-Chief Laura Brown, and Moj Mahdara, Founder and CEO of Beautycon.
On the panel, Ross emphasized the importance of "women being able to do things in a collaborative way with each other" without becoming protective or demanding ownership, and this predilection was displayed beautifully at the January 5 event, housed in a chic but light-hearted space for women to share ideas, spark conversations, ask questions, and — of course — take awesome selfies.
On its website, Beautycon POP urges guests to show up in "Instagram ready outfits." And they're not joking: The space is like a curated Hollywood daydream of eight experiential galleries that gave me Lana Del Rey meets Trisha Paytas meets '90s music video vibes. A single photo taken in each gallery space could easily render enough Insta-goddess material to last an entire year.
While selfie-taking ran rampant (that was kind of the point), there were no haters. Ross told the panel, "It’s as if we’re supposed to be against each other when we’re all on the same team. And it’s not just women. We’re on the same team with men, or whatever fluid situation you want to claim. We’re all human beings trying to figure this shit out. And it’s not easy."
She spoke of the power of fashion and beauty to convey the story you want to tell, in the context of getting Golden Globes-ready with Welch. “Our fittings are a cross between political and social engagement conversations," she said, adding that the discourse is often interrupted with "oh my god, what is that?!" fashion commentary. Welch had previously said of Ross, "We both really love fashion and we both really care about what’s happening in the world." In other words, you can be both. Brown later told me, "If you feel good about yourself and how you present in the world, you can achieve anything." Naturally, style and beauty are assistants here, often giving us the courage we need to accelerate through the day.
Despite how extra this pop-up could have seemed to outsiders — Ross attested to having come "out the womb ready to put sparkles on," and she fit perfectly among the scene — the judgment-free zone was a treat for attendees, a place to experience fun and silliness, in a makeup-lover’s eutopia. And did I mention Paris Hilton was there?
Each of the immersive chambers was crafted in the spirit of "Badass Women," the theme of both Beautycon POP and InStyle’s February issue. Among the most popular galleries were an impressive white stairway that, when photographed, seems like it could lead anywhere; a mirrored, all-silver room strewn with shimmering confetti; an ball pit enveloped in virginal-white fabric to look and feel like a cloud; a room designed to resemble the interior of a private jet (complete with Champagne on ice); a human-sized yellow clamshell that allows one to cosplay Sandro Botticelli's "Birth of Venus." A neon sign — a staple of immersive pop-ups — behind the Lime Crime counter reads: "you don't need lipstick, lipstick needs you."
And if you’ve ever purchased a “power lipstick” of your own, then you likely see the connection between theme, execution, and the panel’s talking points. There, Laura Brown said, "you can be a badass and care about people," and that there's "power in caring about women." Ross echoed this, mentioning her activism with both Time’s Up and the #MeToo movement, underscoring "the extensive community and the power that is absorbed from that collective energy of working with other women." She later added that women don’t always see their collective power, "because culture tells us we’re supposed to be competing with each other." The panelists made clear they wouldn’t be operating that way, that each brought unique strengths to the event, and the industries where their work intersects.
On the opposite side of the pop-up was nestled a fully-functioning salon sponsored by Macy's, equipped with professional makeup artists enthusiastic to pamper guests with soon-to-be buzzy, women-owned, independent beauty products. I was given a taste of some of the luxuries on display; Mamonde's Hydrating Beauty Water removed at least three hidden layers of makeup when I returned home. I was also instantly won over by DedCool, a unisex, vegan, non-toxic Los Angeles-based fragrance brand. My favorite product from the marketplace, however, is Suga Suga's Half-Caked lip scrub, which includes sprinkles and is as delicious as you think.
So, if you require respite from discussing the political hellscape we live in to revel in your adoration for lipstick and hoops, as Brown pointed out in a nod to newly confirmed Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, you’re allowed to. "2018 was the most powerful year for women, where we ripped off the Band-Aid of past traumas and forged a new future," she said. "If a new lipstick or eyeshadow helps give us confidence, all the better."
Beautycon POP will be open to the public at 333 La Cienaga Blvd. through Jan. 31. Buy tickets at Beautyconpop.com.