What Is Food When Beauty Brands Serve It?


Sure, food is good for eating, but it’s so much more than just that. On Instagram, images of food can, like any accessory, connote status and style. In posed nourishment selfies and food porn, it’s difficult to tell whether the product is actually being consumed, or ever will be. On faces, food are a gauge of whether lipstick, gloss, and liner can withstand contact (I’ve never found that it can but am willing to bet it’s possible, given cinema). In reality, before it makes it to social media, food is an obstacle to juggle, along with phone, and face, and all the imperfect angles that mess with our most cherished self-images.

An article published by Eater on Thursday gets at just what food might be when it’s served at cosmetic company pop-up events, and this is what we’re here to figure out. The article highlights three such events: Benefit Cosmetics’s “Roller Liner Diner,” Glossier’s pop-up at Rhea’s Cafe in San Francisco, and L’Occitane’s Singapore pop-up (one among several for this industrious brand).

Here are some descriptions from the Eater article of the Benefit pop-up which illustrate that food is somehow put in relation to makeup:

“Inside, servers dressed in 1950s server uniforms rolled around on skates handing out ice cream, and they touched up customers’ makeup as they ate: a bite of ice cream, a swipe of mascara, a bite of ice cream, some brow shaping.”
“According to the brand, the ‘diner’ was one way for some of its 8.8 million Instagram followers to come together and experience Benefit in ‘real life.’”
“At the Benefit diner, there isn’t a real food menu, but food offered, in theory, creates a more communal atmosphere and helps foster Instagram moments, according to Maggie Ford Danielson, Benefit’s chief beauty ambassador.”

It is as if the ice cream were served and at the same time was not, and at the same it doesn’t matter. The foods was nowhere, or right there—maybe? As Ford Danielson puts it later in the piece “Now people are wanting more than one thing out of an experience.” And they’ll get it.

SVP of marketing at Glossier Ali Weiss put her own spin on the truism. Weiss says that the cosmetic brand’s partnership with Rhea’s Cafe felt like a natural next step thanks to “synergies we feel exist between beauty and food.” This goes on. “Above all, the goal is to create people-centric experiences that foster meaningful connections.” Which is ghoulishly similar to what Carlos SanMiguel, senior manager for global events and social media at NYX Professional Makeup has to say: “We find it beneficial to have a brunch or dinner with the new launches while we have everyone’s attention, and to help foster community.”

What I’m still not getting in all of this is: Do the people attending the event eat the food? These brand representatives are quite cagey on the subject. But people are left alone together with food and beauty products. What we’re left with is a redeeming new way in which food can be beneficial: it will fill you with longing, which might be materially spent on foundation.

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