It’s the most magical time of the year; a time when nerds and geeks of all stripes come together and celebrate all the things that they love.
I speak, of course, of the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, also known as C2E2.
In much the same way that I love Renaissance Faires, I also really enjoy conventions. There’s something uniquely wonderful about being in a giant crowd of people who truly LOVE the same things that you love. I crave that feeling of community and acceptance, especially after feeling like I was alone in my nerdier interests for so long. These are my people!
C2E2 is always a special experience. Moreso than other cons I've attended, it’s a big event that still feels rooted in the local community. You can run into friends and artists you admire, grab a beer with a dude in full Klingon regalia and watch Baby Wolverine and Baby Wonder Woman run around in circles until they collapse on the thick red carpet.
But I think my favourite thing about comic conventions is seeing what happens when you give a smart, dedicated group of people an opportunity to go all-out, dress up and really express themselves. Nerds are often painted as a terminally unstylish group, but in reality, nothing could be further from the truth! We are passionate and creative, and the stuff we love fuels everything about us. Of course, that extends to our hair, makeup and nails.
I spotted Sarah’s amazing Loki costume from clear across the convention floor, and violently elbowed my way through hordes of teenagers until I could corner her to talk about it.
That costume is all handmade. It took her two years. Every detail was perfect, and then on the day of the convention, she asked her friend Megan to do her makeup.
This is a liquid foundation that is slightly paler and more yellow than Sarah’s skin is, for that sallow Loki look. The subtle contour under the cheekbones was done with concealer in a slightly darker shade and set with powder. The eyebrows were filled in and shaped with black-brown eyeliner, and the dark wig is a synthetic lace-front held on with a couple of pins at the temples for extra security.
While I was admiring this work, a wild Thor appeared!
When I caught up with Thor later, he told me that in the first trials of his costume he was wearing a synthetic wig, but that the blonde streaks looked really fake. He upgraded to a human hair wig cut with a straight razor three days before C2E2.
“It has bangs,” he said, indicating his forehead. “But I don’t think you can tell.”
I assured him that you couldn’t.
Thor wasn’t the only one in a wig; wigs are a fabulous nerd staple, and they were on every other head. Men, women, small children were united in their love of glamourous fake hair, which is something that I wholeheartedly support.
Two of my favourite wigs were on these totally gorgeous Equestria Girls.
Not only are they totally character accurate and perfectly coloured, but I was fascinated by how they kept their ears and horns on. It turned out that the ears were on thin elastic headbands covered by the bulk of their hair, and Twilight Sparkle’s horn was bobby-pinned into the base of the wig. So impressive, and these girls were seriously so adorable.
But wigs weren’t the only way to get bold hair for C2E2. A lot of people dyed their hair candy colours just for the convention, with varying degrees of success.
The most amazing dye job that I saw all day was on this beautiful Sailor Neptune. Her hair was so shiny and vibrant that from a distance I honestly thought it was a wig.
It was not; this is her real hair. She told me that it took two bleachings to get her dark brown hair light enough for the colour to show up, and then she had to experiment with different “recipes” of blue and green mixed together (and even a little purple) to get this gorgeous, multidimensional sea-green colour. It perfectly matched the green-blue glitter above her eyes.
But dealing with the aftermath of dye can sometimes be a challenge, and nobody knew that better than xoVain reader Cristina, who was the first person to recognise me as I roved about on my beauty safari.
Cristina told me that she bleached and dyed her hair to dress up as the Joker quite some time ago, and for MONTHS now she hasn’t been able to A) get the green dye to fade, or B) get any colour to stick overtop it.
“I can’t have it like this forever!” she said. “I’m going to be in a wedding!”
I suggested that maybe she try a bleach bath to remove the colour rather than a colour stripper, then a deep-conditioning treatment, then black dye. (What do you guys think? Let’s crowdsource Cristina’s hair issue--she is one of us, after all, and we xoVainers take care of one another!)
There was also an incredible amount of gorgeous, creative makeup on display. I spotted Jackie and her friends from a distance and had to get a picture of her amazing feather eyelashes.
I also stopped this gorgeous Trekkie to talk about her fake lashes. She told me that this pair was from Taiwan, which immediately gave me a case of the sads because it meant I couldn’t immediately go buy them.
However! She also told me that she’s a huge fan of the Katy Perry eyelashes because they’re big and dramatic, but not shiny or fake-looking. We agreed that the only thing that could be improved about them is a more flexible band.
I was getting ready to take my lanyard and go home when I spotted this amazing group of sparkly unicorns.
Drink that in for a second. These incredibly elaborate looks are the work of Earliana McLaurin (far right in the group picture above), an actor with lots of experience in amazing theatre makeup.
“We started getting ready at nine this morning,” she told me. “I wasn’t done until two.” THAT IS COMMITMENT.
“I ran out of time to do my own makeup,” Earliana said. “But I knew purple would really pop on my eyes.”
Noelia’s makeup was incredibly gorgeous, even though not all of it was designed to be worn--the rhinestone patterns on her cheeks are adhesive shapes for decorating envelopes.
I also asked if her super-long silver eyelashes were heavy. “They are,” she said. “But you get used to it.”
Jessica comes to C2E2 every year, but this year’s look tops everything.
“This is a lot of stage makeup, craft glitter and eyeliner all thrown together,” said Earliana. “The rhinestones are held on with eyelash glue.”
Note how on-point all of the blending is--even the black glitter around her hairline. Conventions are the time to bring your A-game.
But I think my FAVOURITE discovery of the entire convention was when I randomly stumbled onto the Espionage Cosmetics booth. My eyes got as big as saucers, and I spent a happy half hour talking to Kayla and Jamie (who is the CEO/Glitter Jedi, and yes, that is what it says on her business card) about our mutual loves of sparkle motion, nerd life and beauty.
The glitters in their Everything Shadow line are incredible, and have wonderfully entertaining names. They’re all cosmetic-grade, so they’re safe to use around your eyes, and oh man, do they last! Jaimie was wearing BAMF, an intense bright purple, as eyeliner, and it had stayed immaculate for 48 hours by that point.
The REAL stars of the show, though, were their nerdy nail wraps.
“Up until now, nail wraps have all been quote-unquote 'girly' stuff,” Kayla told me. “And that’s great! We love that, but we want this too!”
And they have it. Do you want Power Rangers nails? Done. Tetris-themed? Circuit board? Nebulae, featuring accurate, real life nebulas? Maybe Star Trek TNG uniforms? NOW YOU CAN HAVE THEM.
I had chipped a nail getting into a cab on the way to the convention, and the Espionage girls fixed it up for me with one of their VandalEyes print wraps.
Aside from having amazingly detailed prints, the wraps themselves are flexible rather than stiff when peeled off the backing, which means easy, bump-and-bubble-free application. They don’t shrink under the topcoat, and obviously they look fantastic.
One edge I’ve found these have over other wraps is that they look exactly as good on nails as they do in illustrations. Sometimes I find that wraps with graphic prints look great on the box, but have an odd low-res quality when you actually put them on. Not these guys. The black is truly black and all the detail is crisp and clear. If I’m taking time to make my nails look great, I want them to look truly great in real life.
My VandalEyes nail made me think of old cartoons, like when the lights go out and pairs of eyes appear in the darkness. This comparison is even more apt, because the white parts of the eyeballs GLOW IN THE DARK.
But if you don’t want to be stared at by the eerie glowing eyeballs on your fingers, you can also sparkle and shine. Kayla was wearing the Adamantium set, and her nails looked Wolverine-fabulous... and so sparkly!
The Nailed It! wraps will last you about 10 days with a good top coat, and I guarantee you will not be able to stop looking at your fingers that entire time. I speak from experience here.
But my job wasn’t all looking at awesome people and getting my nails done, no sir. I also cast my penetrating gaze across the floor and analyzed the crowd for beauty trends, as well as putting together some...
Comic Convention Beauty Tips!
First: Unless you know where the sneaky bathrooms are (up on the fourth floor, don’t tell anyone I told you), waits for the restroom are LONG. Don’t get in it more than you have to. Bring a compact with a mirror for touch-ups on the fly, and pick a lip colour that will give you long wear.
Speaking of lip colour, black lipstick is definitely happening across nerd subcultures. Aside from wigs, glossy black lips were the only common beauty thread I saw uniting the non-costumed with Steampunks, all flavours of Goth, pinup girls, Lolis and even a couple of Renaissance re-enactors.
I did not get the black lipstick memo. I have written in my notes “The only people with bold red lips here are me and the million people dressed as the Joker.”
Goth has taken over from Steampunk as the cosplay modification of choice. Whereas last year it was all Steampunk Transformers, this year it was Goth Harry Potter. My black soul approves of this.
Since we're talking about the Goth revolution, rainbow synthetic dread falls are back again. I know that for a lot of people they never went anywhere, but this is the first year for a long time that I've seen them en masse, so to speak.
I can’t state this enough: WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES. Superheroes might fight crime in six-inch heels, but I saw so many girls in visible pain after a couple of hours that I wanted to cry for them. The convention is huge, blisters are real and the floor is gross. You do not want to be barefoot on that floor.
Conventions are basically like the World Championship of Awesome Glasses. You will see so many amazing frames of every shape, size and colour imaginable! It’s so great! So if you’re a glasses-wearer like me, be sure to bring your A-game.
Finally, Alfie Allen (aka: Theon Greyjoy) is VERY handsome in real life. I just needed you guys to know that.
Have you guys been to a convention like C2E2 before? What are your best beauty tips for enjoying your time there? Who has some hair advice for Cristina? What’s your favourite nerd-inspired beauty look? And if you were one of the xoVainers who started a mini-riot on the con floor, post the pictures of us together! I’m dying to see our beautiful, happy faces!