Imagine a world of grownups who never got over playing dress-up and you get the general idea behind the International Makeup Artist Trade Show (IMATS), held at Pier 94 in Manhattan on April 14 and 15. Although the kaleidoscopic landscape of fuchsia eye shadow, feathered headpieces, tattooed lips and glitter-covered bodies is one of endless play, make no mistake about it:  makeup — for everyone from the mom from Omaha to the biggest movie studio — is an endlessly varied universe and, above all, big business.

This was IMATS’ second year in New York, and the girl at the welcome desk was breathless. “We’re sold out for Saturday and have very few tickets left for Sunday,” she said, “and we never thought this venue would sell out.”

IMATS is sponsored by Make-up Artist Magazine, a division of Key Publishing, and held annually in London, New York, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Sydney and Toronto. The magazine was founded in 1996 by Michael Key, an Emmy-award winning makeup artist, and is read in 70 countries. This year, there were approximately 60 IMATS exhibitors in the Big Apple, some from as close as Teaneck, New Jersey and others from as far away as Australia. The emphasis ranged from the everyday (like “Model In A Bottle,” the latest in makeup fixatives which sprays on, feeling like water, and keeps a look fresh under hot lights or in the worst hot or cold weather) to the latest in movie and theater tricks such as airbrushing for the screen and the unforgiving nature of high-definition film.

The roster of events, held in three different staging areas, included everything from the astonishing  Adrien Morot who aged a 20-something girl to a 70-year old in under an hour using lots of close-fitting plastic and shaping tools, the eternally upbeat Candy Johnson,  a cosmetics guru on YouTube who has a zillion tweens and teens at her beck and call with her preaching to “do what you’re passionate about,” and J. Roy Helland, who won an Oscar this past year for his work on transforming Meryl Streep into Margaret Thatcher at all stages of her life with layers of plastic and foundation in The Iron Lady. Wherever you looked, someone was hawking grass green nail polish, mink eyelashes, blue body paint and more; cameras were flashing in everyone’s face and lines to try out new brushes (like Stila’s number 33, which is supposed to be “like a finger”) or to just purchase lipstick were backed up, often by at least an hour.

At Glitter Body Art, a Los Angeles concern that specializes in temporary tattoos, the line went halfway around the pier, giving people in it time to talk. “We’ve been planning to come here for a year,” said one woman in a soft Virginia drawl, “it’s really for my daughter who is a budding makeup artist.” As the woman was getting a silver glitter cross on the back of her neck, her daughter watched the process, which included a template pressed on the skin, washed over with special glue and then quick-drying glitter, from a nose-length away. You had a choice of tattoos for five dollars apiece — everything from dragon flies to numbers to stars — free if you bought some of the products. A little further up, at Jesse’s Girl Cosmetics, another YouTube fashion guru, JulieG, posed for hours in stiletto heels to push her spring nail polish line with that company which included unusual shades of greens and yellows possibly never seen before on this planet.

Amid all this hustle, bustle, people battling for places in line and even fighting over the last bronze mascara at one booth, the special events went on. Stila Cosmetics held a fashion show celebrating beauty and featuring their spring line and the latest trends: girls with tousled hair fastened casually on top of their heads, neutrals and metallics of all kinds, diaphanous, flow-like materials, lots of well-scrubbed skin and midriffs and, above all,  The New (dark and pronounced) Lip. “For so long it was about gloss this and gloss that,” said Jason Araujo, Stila’s senior global artist, “so everyone got bored.” The highlight of this celebration of beauty was the half-naked men with “Stila” stenciled all over their torsos, giving out flowers as they walked the runway; and all the models coming out in a line at the end, throwing multicolored flower petals over the audience.

One of the most popular events was the student beauty competition held later that day — eight fledgling makeup artists picked from an initial 200 who had graduated from makeup school within the last 12 months, competing for cash prizes and a spread in Make Up Artist Magazine. This is where the wildest and most imaginative work could be seen, and demonstrated how full body and face makeup can create not only a gorgeous daily image, but also the most unique and far-out characters. There was a black-clad, Frankenstein-like, creature in studs and metal, wearing a skirt shaped in an upside-down U starting at the waist so that the legs showed, almost like a re-imagining of ancient armor for an inter-galactic present; a person painted a metallic blue from head to toe,  overlaid with gauze-like, blue-green garments and a head wrap covered with glistening studs; and a woman who embodied Mother Nature, not only with her moss-green makeup hues, but with the branches and leaves fastened to the back of her dress. Here, indeed, are the creators of tomorrow’s movie characters and magazine covers.

The winner was Tracy Dunn, whose orange gladiator lady, right down to the burnished shoulders that suggested armor along with a very lifelike spear, was simple yet subtly suggestive as opposed to ramming a visual concept down an audience’s throat. Dunn, a voluptuous blonde who looked like she would be as happy drinking beer around a pool table as enhancing someone’s looks, cried through the awards and then straightened up quickly for the subsequent camera shots and interviews — and the presentation of her check for $1,000 from the Royal and Langnickel Brush Company which sponsored the competition.

The last part of the day was dedicated to the old guard, who brought down the house with their experience and stories and had the most substance to offer. Joey Mills, veteran makeup artist of more than 2,000 magazine covers, used a gorgeous blonde Click model, Megan, to demonstrate contouring and the three rules of eye makeup: contour, color, and highlights. “Each step diminishes the last one,” he said, as he blended minute quantities of color into Megan’s eyelids, literally emboldening her already shockingly blue eyes. One of the few people of color in evidence at the show, Mills was responsible for most of Brooke Shields’ famous fashion spreads, including the iconic Calvin Klein jeans ad, and also worked for a long time with Isabella Rossellini. “I’m a specialist in how makeup can create bone structure,” he said.

The other great oldster of the show was J. Roy Helland, Meryl Streep’s makeup and hair person for most of her career and an Academy Award winner for his work on her most recent success, The Iron Lady. His was the last event of the day.

“We worked for six months on how to make Meryl up as Margaret Thatcher and to do it in a way that would not harm her,” he said. “Every day we soaked her skin in ice and skim milk, which helped normalize it after the heavy makeup she had to wear as the older Thatcher. When she was in that makeup, she could walk the streets of London and no one would recognize her.”

Helland, who started in theater but took to films, not only with Streep but with Annette Bening, Harrison Ford and others, said of Ford, “With him, you really don’t want to see the makeup.”

Asked if there is something left he might yet want to do with makeup, Helland demurred but then added that he’d be open to something new if it turned up. Even though he referred to himself as a “geezer,” he, like the makeup business, isn’t going away anytime soon. “It’s all interesting in some way,” he said, “and in the end I think it’s all a lot of fun.”

The next IMATS show will be taking place in Los Angeles on June 23 and 24, 2012. For more information visit

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