not a professional. just crazy.

Rio Drops By: Chatting With Beautycon CEO Moj Mahdara

Viera-Newton soaking in Beautycon. Photo: Courtesy Olivia Kooyman

I’ve been told over and over by friends in the beauty industry that I absolutely must meet Moj Mahdara. When we were finally introduced, I immediately understood why. Mahdara is not just the CEO of Beautycon, a media company that hosts the biggest beauty convention in the United States, she’s also hilarious, oozes with insight, and is an entrepreneurial force of nature.

Beautycon, for the unfamiliar, is an annual two-day festival held in New York, London, and Los Angeles that’s attended by beauty obsessives, cosmetic and wellness brands, and the internet’s most influential beauty gurus, all there to attend panel discussions, meet-ups, and brand activations. In other words, it’s like Disneyland, but with Mario Dedivanovic instead of Mickey Mouse and Becca Cosmetics instead of the Matterhorn. The festival started as an invite-only event, but one of Mahdara’s first decisions when she became CEO in 2015 was to open it up to the public, allowing any beauty-devoted person (willing to pay between $50 and $2,000) to attend.

I linked up with Mahdara the morning of Beautycon’s second day, an hour before the Javits Center opened its doors. It was my first time attending Beautycon, and I was panicked by how much there was to see and do, from a “fireside chat” with Paris Hilton to a manicure station by Floss Gloss. But Mahdara’s makeshift office was a calm place; Mahdara, reclined on a sofa, ensured me that the madness that is Beautycon starts to feel normal after only a few minutes on the floor. So we got to talking, about her favorite products and what it’s like to create an event for some 16,000 obsessive beauty lovers.

Mahdara: [Pointing at my Sketchers D’Lites] how long do you think the large, orthopedic shoe fad is going to last?

I think we have like six months left?
Fair enough. So don’t double down on the Balenciaga ones? I considered it.

No, no. Pro tip: Get them from Skechers. They’re only like $45, and then you won’t feel guilty about purchasing a wild-card shoe. If you get the Balenciagas, you’ll have to wear them for the rest of your life. Anyway, when do you hit the floor?

As soon as they [points to her team] let me hit the floor.

[Addressing the team] Holding her back! How dare you! What do you do when you get out there?
I like to go up to random families. Like yesterday, I met this very elegant woman in her late 40s; she had a massive handbag and was herding her kids around Beautycon. And her kids had bags of stuff and were totally decked out in sparkly eye shadow, which was adorable. Everyone is so nice. I noticed the admission line was insanely long, so I went to see if people were grumpy. But everyone was so sweet and friendly. I saw people introducing themselves, gassing each other up, saying, “Oh, I love your hair,” or, “I love your nails!”

Viera-Newton and Mahdara. Credit: Olivia Kooyman.

Speaking of which, let’s talk products. What are your “can’t live without” products.
Okay. So, I love True Botanicals. Their vitamin C serum is so amazing. I struggle with dark spots, and this has helped my skin so much with getting rid of them. It just makes my skin look so bright and happy.

I am obsessed with R+Co — everything by them.
I love their dry shampoo. It’s so good. I just tried it for the first time at my friend’s house, and it held my hair all day long. It was the best.

I’m addicted to their mouse and their pomade. Especially for short hair, it’s amazing. Like you said, it just holds all day long. Have you tried Dr. Dennis Gross? I just tried it for the first time and I’m freaking out.

Their Alpha Beta Peel?

A classic. Truly a great exfoliant, one of the best. And, so damn travel-friendly! Throw it in your gym bag; throw it in your weekend bag. Quick, easy, effective.
I’m obsessed with collagen right now. I’ve been trying all the collagen masks I can get my hands on. I’m super excited about all these science-heavy products.

Speaking of innovative, science-heavy products, have you tried the Kush Mascara from Milk Makeup with CBD in it?
Yes, I tried it last night. First of all, it’s amazing. My lashes looked so long and thick. But also, the packaging … the packaging.

Oh my god, I know. It looks sleek and sexy.
It has this very heavy, aluminum packaging. You know when something is just so weighty and rewarding to feel, and you know it’s going to make you just gravitate toward it in your makeup bag over and over again? That’s how I feel about that.

Do you tend to stick to the same routine, or do you like to change it up and try new stuff?
I try to test out a handful of new things at least once a month.

Do you feel like that’s a responsibility that you have? I totally have that as a beauty writer. I feel like I have to try every new thing that comes out.
My office is full of beauty junkies, and I pay very close attention to what everyone in the office is using and loving. But no, I don’t sit at home and swatch colors on my arm all day.

The author enjoying a manicure by Floss Gloss. Credit: Olivia Kooyman.

I, on the other hand, am obsessed with color swatching. The Kardashians are so good at it — they just make these perfect rectangles with lipstick on their arms.
Right! It’s always like thick at the top and thinner down below. Speaking of the office, Fenty recently sent us this whole box full of goodies, which was incredible, but it’s also instigating this, like, ravenous, Lord of the Flies moment in our office where just chaos ensued. It was crazy, as soon as the box opened, it was almost like the table came out, the lights turned out, a table appeared, and swatching was happening everywhere. Our content team is not playing when it comes to swatching.

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Rio Drops By: Chatting With Beautycon CEO Moj Mahdara