Whether you’re an aspiring makeup artist, or just an enthusiast who watches a lot of YouTube or Insta artists, chances are you have probably heard about the IMATS. Especially in recent years, as the word has gotten out about this event in the social media world. To people outside of the industry, it has become a place to go to buy cheap makeup. But it is so much more than that! On behalf of myself and other professional attendees, I ask that you educate yourselves before buying your tickets.
As you can see above, “IMATS” stands for the International Makeup Artist Tradeshow. The key words here are “Makeup Artist”, and though the event is open to the public, this is still an industry trade show. This is something that I think a lot of people who are recently discovering it do not understand. The show is run by Makeup Artist Magazine, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. (https://makeupmag.com/) I started reading the magazine when I was about 12, it was (and still is) one of the most valuable resources for makeup artists and lovers. It features interviews with artists, educational pieces, industry news, product information, and more! Michael Key, the creator of Makeup Artist Magazine, started the IMATS a year later and it has since become the world’s largest industry gathering.
An excerpt from their site explains the show best:
“Thousands of make-up artists, vendors and enthusiasts discuss, display and collect the best the industry has to offer. Guests come from around the world to meet other professionals, learn new techniques and get updates on the latest products. Industry leaders (including Oscar and Emmy winners) conduct classes and demos at IMATS, and new products debut there. Before IMATS, there were no trade shows specifically for make-up artists, although the demand was there. IMATS made its 1997 debut in Los Angeles; today, the show is held six times annually: in Los Angeles; New York City; London; Vancouver, B.C.; Sydney; and Toronto.”
I started going when I was just 15 years old, my mother and I began flying down every year for the Los Angeles show. Held annually at the Pasadena Convention Center, this place was my dream come true! I discovered it when I saw an ad while flipping through my latest issue of Makeup Artist Magazine, and I was on their site in a heartbeat finding out how I could go. As a budding artist myself, and with her already being a makeup artist, we enjoyed seeing and trying new products, meeting well known artists, and attending classes and lectures. The large exhibit hall is lined wall to wall with booths, boasting some of the biggest brands, artists, and products in the business. Some have demos, which are always a treat, and there are even demos or the big student competitions going on on the main stage. There are classes and lectures going on all day in the many surrounding halls, so you can learn about anything from basic complexion to special effects, or attend keynotes from industry stars with 40 years of work under their belt.
Several big name schools have booths there as well, so this was a great way for me to get information and talk to representatives about attending their courses. This is why the event is open to the public, they didn’t want to limit it to just working pros. They still allowed people like me, who were young and eager to learn about the industry, to come in and interact with artists whom I could only dream to meet! This event became such a valuable resource for me, not just to build my kit but to obtain education from some of the biggest names in the industry.
So, What’s Changed?
In the last few years, some big name vloggers have let the cat out of the bag and told their millions of subscribers about the event. But rather than explaining it as a place for professionals to purchase tools and products for their trade and educate themselves on products, techniques, and career building, they presented it more as a place for any Joe Blow to go to buy makeup at super cheap prices. Ticket sales have soared, which is great for those running the event, but not so great for those who are there to attend the classes and demos as well. Due to the overcrowding, especially by non-industry people, the showrunners added a special Pro Only night, the Friday before the event (which usually runs Saturday and Sunday). Unfortunately, some not so scrupulous individuals who have the credentials to get Pro tickets (which, let me tell you, are extremely difficult to obtain) decided to buy tickets and sell them to non-pros. If you’re thinking of trying to attend this way, don’t bother. I have been assured by the show creator and other artists who attend this night that their security will be heightened this year, especially after a well-known YouTuber made a scene of sneaking in on Pro Night last year without the credentials.
Now, if you follow a lot of social media artists, you may have heard about the recent drama. There was a big blow up at the last NY show, because some YouTubers and their fans were being extremely disrespectful to the other attendees and brands who paid to be there. YouTube gurus were holding unscheduled and unpermitted meet and greets in the aisles, blocking people’s access to companies who had paid extremely hefty prices for their booths. Their fans were way too loud, drowning out the demos going on for people to learn techniques or showcase products. Some of the biggest names in the makeup industry were being shoved aside by teeny bopper fans who had no idea who they were. Some were even noticing that the YouTube artists themselves were acting snotty, disrespecting them and acting like they had more of a right to be there.
Finally, after many complaints from booths and attendees, the showrunners asked the artists to step outside so that their fans would clear the aisles. They weren’t being kicked out, but the mobs were too much so they were asked to move outside for their meet and greets. They had the audacity to refuse, which only shows the level of entitlement that these individuals possess, so they were then escorted out by security. They then took to social media, posting videos INSULTING the people who run the show and over the top crying over their “treatment”.
And to make matters worse, their followers took to social media to attack IMATS, commenting on all of their pictures from the event with statements like “#booimats” or “Your event is so done”. They began threatening this company, who they themselves had no experience with, because their favorite YouTuber was asked to step outside for causing a disruption. This childish behavior on both their and their fan’s parts is exactly why they were asked to leave in the end.
What Does This All Mean?
Let me be clear, I am in no way trying to deter anyone from attending this event! I too am the type of person who wants to shout it from mountain tops when I love something as much as I love the IMATS. A lot of the education that you’ll find there can be used as an individual as well as a professional. The products that you’ll find are second to none, and you’ll even learn about products that have not been released yet! You’ll see amazing applications at booths, as well as during the student competitions. If you love the art of makeup, this is absolutely the place for you! So I definitely understand why these artists were telling their fans about the show, I just think that they did not explain it well enough.
So, if you think that you might attend now that you know more about it, those who are there as professionals ask that you behave in an adult manner. Do not scream if you see a familiar face from Instagram. Don’t rush said familiar face for pictures, if you would like to speak with them simply wait and see if they are potentially doing photo ops OUTSIDE of the event. Be very courteous to those around you, you may not even know who you’re stepping on in the frenzy for a coveted selfie. If I see you knock over a big name like Ve Neill to get a picture with an Instagram artist, I may drag you out myself. Don’t block aisles or booths, there are thousands of people in the same room and you have to keep the flow going! And do not, I repeat DO NOT, try to sneak into Pro Only events. This is so unbelievably disrespectful.
Some of the most well-known artists and brands have decided to no longer attend IMATS, because of the behaviors listed above. They have moved on to Pro Only shows like the Makeup Show, which requires professional credentials to attend at all. Some are starting to ask that the IMATS become Pro only as well, which I hope doesn’t have to happen! I don’t want people to lose out on the opportunities that I had when I was young and just getting into the field. It would be such a shame if the behaviors of some individuals ruined this amazing event for others who could really use what it has to offer. If you value what this event is, and what it provides to the makeup community, you must be respectful to everyone and behave as a professional even if you aren’t one. The more people and brands that back out, the more everyone loses out. If you’re an aspiring artist, especially in film, then you’ll probably know who the late great Dick Smith is (or you should). I was able to attend a keynote from him during my first visit, some 13 years ago, and that will always be one of my most cherished experiences. That should give you an idea of the caliber of artists who frequent this event, and the types of experiences that will be lost for young artists should this event become pro only.
In a way, you’re entering our world. This is our career, this is where we go to network and we use the available resources here to better ourselves as artists, business people, and so on. We’re attending classes on how to get agency representation, or how to create certain SFX looks. We’re watching product demos in consideration of using these items in our kits, which we use for our jobs. And yes, we are there for the cheap show prices. Makeup is an expensive hobby, but it is an even more expensive career. You cannot imagine how much our kits are worth, which is why we have to insure them! This is not a place to climb over people for that special deal, save that nonsense for Black Friday. This is a place to spend your day amongst people who share your interests, and enjoying the best that the makeup world has to offer. So come hang out, talk shop and play with some of the best makeup you’ll ever get your hands on!
Maybe I’ll even see you there on Saturday!