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NEW YORK — Beauty industry veteran Suzanne Grayson watched a dream materialize into reality over the weekend, as she welcomed a conga line of visitors to the first annual consumer beauty and wellness expo, Pathways to Beauty and Well-Being.

The three-day conference was held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here and ended Sunday. The goal of the expo, explained Grayson, Pathways founder and president of Grayson Associates, was to create an exciting, nonintimidating environment for consumers to gain exposure to the latest beauty and well-being products, and to offer attendees an educational experience.

The expo housed 161 exhibitors — touting more than 2,000 different brands — across five pavilions, covering beauty, personal care, nutrition and health, fitness and personal growth. More than 21,450 attendees visited Pathways over the show’s run, according to organizers. “Every exhibitor was delighted,” said Karen Crawford, show director and group vice president for Pathways. “It was really exciting to see all these attendees getting makeovers, new hairdos, facials, massages and free gifts and samples.”

Grayson, whose extensive career included 14 years at Revlon, dreamed up the concept several years ago and has worked to enlist sponsors ever since. Publisher of Allure magazine Nancy Berger recalled discussing the concept with Grayson nearly a year and a half ago, and joked Allure ought to have thought of the idea first.

The beauty magazine, along with Self, Fitness, Teen People, New York magazine and New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies, sponsored nearly 40 seminars, covering topics such as dropping a hairdresser to starting a business.

Shortly before the show floor opened Friday afternoon, Grayson presented Emmy Award winning soap-opera star Susan Lucci with the first ever Pathways “Yes You Can” Award, which was created to honor women who have overcome obstacles, or have helped other women succeed. Other recipients of the annual award included CNN anchor Paula Zahn and High Voltage, a personal trainer whose high-profile client list includes Katie Couric.

Drag queen and fashionista RuPaul was on hand, inconspicuous in a smart-looking seersucker suit, to watch High Voltage, his personal trainer, accept the “Yes You Can” Award. In between booth visits, RuPaul stopped to talk beauty, confiding that his favorite products of the moment include Decleor skin care and MAC eye pencils.

This story first appeared in the September 17, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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Tyra Banks, the Victoria Secret model turned reality TV host of “America’s Next Top Model,” made an appearance, signing autographs for two hours Friday evening. For this occasion, Banks left the talent selection to Ford Models agency scouts, who held an open call for models Friday and Saturday afternoon.

Exhibitors seemed pleased with the flow of traffic and the opportunity to chat face-to-face with avid beauty consumers. Nivea and Chanel were among the first exhibitors to sign on. “[Pathways] was a great opportunity for us to talk to our customer directly about the positioning of Nivea, being ‘Inspired by the way skin works,’” said Susan Savoie, vice president of marketing for Nivea. She added that a generous giveaway of free samples generated a steady flow of visitors to the Nivea booth.

The Chanel booth, which looked like a department store counter transplanted onto a showroom floor, was bustling with makeovers. Visitors could purchase products there, or have them sent to their home free of charge. Just next door, Sephora set up a mini store —manned by 14 black-clad product consultants — featuring the beauty retailer’s top brands, such as Bliss, Smashbox, Lorac and NARS. Sephora merchandised skin care and fragrance in a space 20-feet-by- 20-feet, and color cosmetics within a 20-foot-by-30-foot space. Sephora also hosted LifeStage MakeOvers, with professional makeup artists selecting women from the audience for live beauty demonstrations.

Bath & Body Works treated attendees to foot and back massages. Duane Reade, occupied half an aisle and hosted beauty brands such as Revlon, Sally Hansen, Maybelline, Vichy and Iman Cosmetics.

Both Vichy and Iman are new additions to Duane Reade’s beauty assortment. Iman recently rolled out to 23 Duane Reade stores and wanted to let Pathways attendees know they can now find the collection in the metro New York drugstore. The week of Oct. 4, the beauty brand and Duane Reade will launch “Iman Week” where a team of makeup artists will travel to the 23 store locations and give free makeovers to customers.

“At Pathways, Iman was one of the busiest booths, proving that women want this brand,” said Marti Bently, category manager of beauty at Duane Reade.

Adjacent to Iman’s booth, Duane Reade showcased its proprietary beauty brand Apt. 5. Karen Durham, former category manager at Duane Reade and creator of Apt. 5, said next month the drugstore will expand the line of cosmetics and bath products with a collection of premium-quality cosmetics brushes and implements, which will all retail for under $10.

Like Vichy, which raffled off skin-care gift baskets in its booth every few hours, fellow French skin care brand Eau Thermale Avène by Pierre Fabre recently expanded its U.S. distribution from select Brooks Pharmacy and CVS drugstores to four Duane Reade stores. “While Avène is very well known throughout the word, it is new to the United States. [Pathways] was an opportunity to reach consumers and talk to them about our products,” said Cathy Termolle, vice president of Marketing for Pierre Fabre Dermo-Cosmetique USA. “You have consumers in an environment where you’re not giving them a hard sell. You’re explaining Avène to them, giving them free samples, and letting them try the products. We had people at the booth all day long,” commented Termolle. Avène hosted a seminar throughout the weekend called Wrinkles in the City where Cherie Ditre, M.D., discussed antiaging tips that include in-office procedures at-home remedies.

Avon drove traffic to its booth by parking a big rig truck on the showroom floor that converted into a two-floor exhibit booth, complete with makeover stations and beauty advisers. The truck is part of an annual mobile marketing initiative called Let’s Talk Beauty Tour, which this year made a three-day stop at the Pathways. Visitors to the booth could receive complimentary makeovers and skin consultations and help stamp out breast cancer at the Avon Kiss Collage, a wall where visitors can make a $1 donation to the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Crusade.

For its part, Pathways raised money for two women’s causes, donating a dollar of each admission price to both Dress For Success and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

While major beauty companies such as L’Oréal and Procter & Gamble’s cosmetics brands Cover Girl and Max Factor brands did not participate, several executives were seen walking the floor. “We thought what we saw was lovely,” said Cheryl Hudgins Williams, associate director of global communication for P&G Beauty. “We will certainly consider participating in the future.”

Attendees seemed generally pleased with the event with one group of teenagers commenting that the free samples and makeup tips were “very cool.”

A group of students from the Fashion Institute of Technology said they stopped by because they received free tickets through the school. “It’s fun, but I thought there’d be more samples and less buying,” said one fashion student.

As for next year’s Pathways, which will take place Sept. 9 through Sept. 11, Crawford said she expects more participation and the floor space to increase. “We’re already signed up a substantial portion of exhibitors for next year. A significant portion of the exhibit floor for next year has already been reserved,” she noted.