Erving Zapien had traveled across the country so that she could turn her friend, Carol Allen, into a peacock.
By the time Zapien pulled out her paints and brushes before the audience in the foyer of a Long Beach hotel, she had already covered Allen's breasts and head in feathers; a lengthy plume sprouted from the blue sequined tube top that concealed the model's hips and rear. Zapien's brush was responsible for covering the rest of Allen's body, and with each new stroke of blue and green, she more closely resembled a majestic bird.
As Zapien worked, expressionless judges milled about, jotting notes on closely guarded clipboards. With furrowed brows, they whispered to one another as they studied the creations of Zapien's competitors--among them an Arabian knight, a zebra and a 9-year-old girl who had been turned, through the magic of makeup, into an aging dwarf.
An Annual Event
The fantasy makeup competition at the 45th annual Beauty and Trade Show was under way.
Zapien, who calls herself "a facial design artist," had come from Atlanta "to win and to get more exposure."
At the Long Beach beauty show, exposure means business. And the show, which began over the weekend and concluded Monday, provided conclusive evidence--if anyone needed it--that beauty is big business.
An estimated 50,000 hair stylists, makeup artists, manicurists, beauty product manufacturers and distributors from the United States, Canada and Europe descended on the Long Beach Convention Center and Hyatt Regency Hotel for the three-day convention, which is sponsored each year by the Long Beach Hairdressers' Guild.
Displays and Classes
They took up 250,000 square feet of space, with 725 booths and 22 classrooms. (The courses ranged from "European Eyelash Tint" to "The Technology of Electrocosmetology.") The guild sponsored more than a dozen contests--among them a fantasy nail competition, in which the winner created the story of Jack and the Beanstalk in three dimensions on her model's nails--and gave away $15,000 in prizes.
A trophy and $300 of that money went to Zapien when judges awarded her first place Sunday afternoon.
"It's like any competition," said chief judge Jerry Hansen, who presided over the anointing of the human peacock. "It's a fight for excellence."
Hansen said that the Long Beach show is the second biggest of its kind in the United States--behind the one in New York--and is "the longest continuing beauty show in the world."
To attain beauty, one apparently needs the correct tools--all of which were available--in bulk--at wholesale prices to licensed cosmetologists and students attending the show. Those who did not fall into one of those categories were not allowed in.
There were crimpers and curlers and clamps and, for the "perm-shy client," electric waving units to create that natural, tousled curl. There were instruments for picking and plucking, for tweezing and teasing.
There were "precision convex edge scissors," with handles curved to conform to the forefinger and thumb, each made by hand in Japan and carrying a price tag between $259 and $2,500. Hair stylists need these Mercedes-Benzes of the scissors industry, said a spokesman for the manufacturer, "to free the artistic expression from the heart to the mind to the hand."
And there was Dal LaMagna--he calls himself "the Tweezerman"--hawking the "handcrafted stainless steel precision eyebrow tweezer," which he invented. The Tweezerman said his tweezer, unlike the rest, actually meets at its points.
"These match perfectly," LaMagna said, "so you can tweeze in the dark."
There were systems too--lots of systems. Hair care systems. Nail systems. Tanning systems. Skin care systems. In the business of being beautiful, it seems, systems are very important.
Such systems usually include shampoos, conditioners and other lotions promoted as being coordinated in such a way that the consumer cannot get the full benefit without buying the entire line.
"It's true that we want to make money," acknowledged Frederick Shober, a spokesman for Canoga Park-based Redken Laboratories, one of the most visible marketers at the show, "but it's also true that we're not selling anything that a consumer isn't asking for."
The system brought to Long Beach by hair stylist Darryl Curby was a bit different: his "Heads Up System" consists of a bench on which the client is strapped while standing up. The bench is then tilted backwards so her hair hangs freely while Curby cuts it. Explains Curby: "I use gravity as an advantage in cutting hair."
In a business where trends are important, stylists like Curby attend the Long Beach show to be seen, but also, in the words of show chairman Ken Eaton, "to see the latest."
And what is the latest? "Extensions," said Ralph Trimarchi of New York City.