What It's Really Like to Go on One of Benefit's Legendary Press Trips | Savoir Flair
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What It's Really Like to Go on One of Benefit's Legendary Press Trips
article BENEFIT
by Grace Gordon 5-minute read February 24, 2024

Join Savoir Flair and the global Benefit team as we take over New Orleans during Mardi Gras for the launch of a product extension to the brand’s bestselling Precisely, My Brow line. 

Day One of Mardi Gras with Benefit: The Big Reveal

Well, technically it’s day two, but who’s counting? After 24 hours of travel from Dubai with a pitstop (and flight delay) in Houston, we landed in New Orleans the night before. Upon arrival, I staggered into my lovely room at the Virgin Hotel and nearly face-planted on the bed, but not before discovering all of the treats that Benefit had stashed around the room for my arrival. My vanity was overflowing with a huge range of brand new Benefit products, my dining table was laden with snacks and treats sourced locally from around New Orleans, and my bed was covered in the softest pink sweats, a tote bag, a phone charger, and more wonderful goodies. Feeling thoroughly spoiled, I washed my face (with Benefit’s The POREfessional Good Cleanup Foam Cleanser, of course), changed into my PJs, and instantly fell asleep. Even though there was a 10-hour time difference between Dubai and New Orleans, I was so exhausted from the travel that I had no trouble sleeping through the night.


My first official day of the trip was a day of exploration. First, I explored some new brows at the Benefit Brow Suite, where brow expert Yang brought her incredibly skilled touch to my eyebrows. I complained to her that they were too round and lacking shape and that I was going for a brushed-up brow look. Distracted by lovely conversation, I was shocked when, at the end of my brow lamination treatment, I had the best looking brows I’d ever have. Hands down. No contest. I was so delighted to see how gorgeous my brows looked and how much they had changed my face, but also a little mournful because I don’t know if they will ever look this good again. Regardless, I made a mental note to stop booking at my current spot in Dubai (which will remain unnamed) and switch over to the Benefit Brow Bar at Dubai Hills Mall, post haste.


New Orleans, the most soulful city I have ever been to, beckons to be discovered. Once devastated by Hurricane Katrina, the city is fully back, bustling, and thriving with good vibes and good-natured locals. We set off in search of adventure and made our way first to Magazine Street, passing candy-colored “shotgun” houses, the St. Charles Streetcar, and clusters of elegant, ancient trees draped over the streets along the way. A few stops at vintage shops and local boutiques later, it was time to venture down to the French Quarter in search of New Orleans’ famous cajun food. When we arrived, hungry and ready to scarf down vats of crawfish etouffee, jambalaya, and gumbo, we were interrupted by music carried on the wind. We turned in search of its source. There, along the banks of the Mississippi River, was a busking blues band. We sat on a bench, soaking in the sun and the sounds of New Orleans, content. 

There is a feeling in New Orleans I’ve never felt anywhere else. In the strangest way, it always feels like coming home. The energy of the city is unmatched. Music pours from open restaurant doors and from every street corner. Bands march by in full regalia. Light glints off of Mardi Gras beads that dangle from the suspended limbs of sprawling trees. Everyone that walks by is smiling, talking, laughing. Everyone you meet wants to have a conversation. It’s so warm and so inviting. How could you not have the time of your life here?


Hunger finally drew us away from the bench on the banks of the Mississippi, and we ended up at The Market Cafe, where we shared a platter of local deliciousness as we listened to a live band playing on the patio. Next, we wandered through the French Quarter, which was preternaturally quiet. Benefit was hosting this global event in New Orleans for Mardi Gras, but what I quickly learned is that Mardi Gras isn’t a one-off event but a host of parades that continue over many weeks. We were here to catch one of the most anticipated float parades of the season, the Krewe of Muses, an all-female Mardi Gras Krewe. First established in 1718 by French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville, Mardi Gras used to be grand balls hosted by the upper crust of society. Now, it’s a vast schedule of parades that take over the city every day of the week – except Tuesday and Wednesday. These days are reserved for resting and recuperating before the excitement starts again. We had arrived before all the craziness started.

We made our way to Louis Armstrong Park, where under the auspices of the Ancestor Tree, we learned about the history of the city, how it was built, the slaves that built it, and its various rulers –  from King Louis of France to King Carlos of Spain – from an enthusiastic tour guide. Finally, before heading back to the hotel to get ready for the night’s big event, we made a pit stop at the legendary Cafe du Monde, where we ate authentic beignets covered in a generous heap of powdered sugar. 


Back at the hotel, we readied for the night’s launch party, where the new products would be unveiled in grand fashion. Benefit press trips are legendary; I had been hearing about them for years and was so excited to finally be part of one. I couldn’t wait to see what the brand had in store for us. With global markets converging on New Orleans, we met in the lobby from all corners of the world to convoy together to the iconic Broussard’s restaurant in the French Quarter. In its courtyard, we were treated to a surprise drum performance before the big announcement. Why drums? I wondered while bobbing my head to the beat. Jared Bailey, Benefit’s Global Brow Expert and the guru of the whole gathering, soon cleared up my questions. Pointing to a display on stage where three oversized versions of the Precisely, My Brow products were arranged, he told us to then look at the drummer’s drumsticks. They were all rendered in the exact same shape. I loved it. Precision drumming. Precision brows. It all suddenly made sense (and was wildly clever, if you ask me).


From stage, Bailey went over some familiar territory. Benefit is the number one brow brand in the world. Everyone in the courtyard nodded in agreement. This much we knew. Combining a perfect formula with a world-class delivery system, the Precisely, My Brow pencil was a bestseller for a reason. It works like a dream. But in fielding feedback from every market and tuning in to what their enormous cadre of brow experts relayed to them, Benefit identified some areas for expansion. Namely, how do they create the most realistic hair-like strokes without the pencil being too thin and breaking? And how do they then sculpt those realistic brow hairs into a shape that lasts all day (and all night)? Enter the Precisely, My Brow Detailer and Precisely, My Brow Wax. Together with the OG Precisely, My Brow pencil, the brand envisioned a multi-dimensional brow. Shape with one, detail with another, and freeze it all in place with a brow wax. 


I had to get a look at the detailer up close. I had tried another extremely thin brow pencil from another brand, and it broke every single time I used it. So, I stopped using it. The Precisely, My Brow detailer is built different. Using Japanese technology, the dispenser is surrounded by a teensy plastic cap, much like the tip of a mechanical pencil. The support given by the cap prevents the thin pencil tip from breaking, even when pressure is applied. You only need to twist a teensy bit of product out to do a whole brow. Genius!

The crowd quickly converged on the product tables, where the team’s brow experts packaged all three products together in our preferred shades and dispensed advice on how to maximize the use of them all separately and together. It was a swift and efficient education system, but the real test came later, in front of the mirror. I couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel to try them for myself.

Day Two of Mardi Gras with Benefit: The Masquerade Party

Are you one of those people that gets energized by travel? I am. If I’m home in Dubai, which happens to be the number one tourist destination in the world, I’m usually too tired to explore, find new places, or go on an adventure. I stick to my routines. I stay in my comfort zone. But when I travel? I literally jump out of bed with a smile on my face!


Day Two of the trip starts off at Mardi Gras World, a giant warehouse where hundreds of towering Mardi Gras float props are created and maintained. Before we head out, I spend some extra time getting acquainted with the new Precisely, My Brow Detailer and Wax. The detailer is really special. The realistic hair strokes it creates help fill in the sparser front of my brow and a small section of my left brow that has always been mysteriously bare. Brows snatched, ready to conquer the day, we all meet down in the lobby to take buses to Mardi Gras World. Inside, a tour guide screeches through a tinny microphone, noting the sheer amount of props, the most popular ones, and the work that goes into their creation. Most of them are made from carved styrofoam and are sometimes terrifyingly realistic. I scope out a nine-foot gorilla, a bust of Queen Elizabeth II, a few dozen mermaids, a Native American chief, figures from Dr. Seuss, and more. Colorful and a little eerie, the props line the pathway of Mardi Gras World, waiting to be stationed onto their assigned floats.


After a snack session where we decorate our own Mardi Gras masks, our group heads out to lunch at the incredible La Petite Grocery, where I force my lovely travel companions to eat grits and baked mac and cheese – two staples of the Southern food “diet.” The mac and cheese is so good we order another round. Then, our group heads in different directions to get our hair whipped into shape before tonight’s big masquerade ball.


Decked in a custom floor-length jacket and a dramatic black silk Commes de Garcons, I head to the Mystical Masquerade Ball at Saint Peter and Paul Church. The historic space, first erected in 1860 and designed by renowned Irish-born architect Henry Howard, has been transformed into a raging Benefit party, replete with pink and purple lights, heaps of roses, and live stage performances. The dress code is “You know the Met Gala? This is like that...but even more exclusive and over-the-top,” and the guests from other markets are seriously serving. One guest is wearing an elaborate silver headpiece and resembles a Hindu god, another is swishing around in a floor-sweeping cape, and others are wearing decadent gowns covered in embellished details. Eventually, the dance floor fills, and the night is swept away in a current of revelry. Benefit really knows how to throw a party. But this is only the penultimate event. The next day….it’s Mardi Gras!

Day Three of Mardi Gras with Benefit: The Krewe of Muses Parade at Mardi Gras

I probably stayed up too late the night before (I did, in fact), and am feeling a little worse for the wear in the morning. Let’s blame it on the jet lag. Fortunately, Benefit had the foresight to predict that we’d all be feeling roughly the same and scheduled a morning in a lavish Retox Lounge, where guests were treated to a huge breakfast spread, coffee and juice bar, and a myriad of indulgent treatments: massages, face masks, brows, and more. 


Sensing it was the right time to break out my Benefit sweats, I topped the look with snail mucin undereye patches, slippers, and a bucket hat and swiftly made my way straight to the coffee bar. After a few hours, we were all revived and ready to face the day.

Since it was our last day in New Orleans, we were eager to get out and see the city one last time. We made a pit stop over on Magazine Street again at Century Girl Vintage – the vintage shop of my dreams. Filled with incredible pieces like Ashley Williams corsets, floaty Zimmerman nightgowns, rare Dior by John Galliano, Pucci sunglasses, and more, it was like a magical fairy godmother had seen into my deepest sartorial dreams and brought them all to life. Several hundred dollars later, we ventured back to the hotel to get some (actual) work done and then spent the rest of the afternoon preparing for the Mardi Gras event.


Mardi Gras in New Orleans is wild. Literally millions of people flood through the city for the huge schedule of events, but as I mentioned before, tonight was the one parade everyone looks forward to the most: The Krewe of Muses. I had no idea what to wear, so I settled for a crystal-trimmed velvet mini-dress with a crystal blazer to match. Feeling festive but chic, we clambered once more onto the buses to take a long trip down to the absolutely stunning Elms Mansion on St. Charles Avenue. This renovated historic mansion had a huge outdoor event space, but we as much time as we could across the street at the actual Mardi Gras parade. However, inside the party, was a blast. DJ Legatron Prime was spinning and when she put on Beyonce's Heated off the Renaissance album, the entire crowd lost their minds. Elsewhere, guests were getting tattoos and tooth gems, a huge King Cake was cut inside, and everyone was dancing.


Outside on the street where Mardi Gras was taking place, dancing was basically a requirement. It's hard to explain the excitement that ripples through the crowd every time a float approaches or how giddy and exhilarating it is to see dozens of marching bands go by as the beating drums seem to reverberate throughout your entire body. You can't help but move to the beat. 

As the night went on, I snatched a pair of beads from a passing float and joined in as the crowd scrambled for the goodies that came pouring out of the hands of the passing Krewe: sunglasses, koozies, masks, and so much more. The parade never seemed to end, and I didn’t want it to. Standing in the crush of the crowd, caught up in the moment, I couldn’t stop smiling. I smiled so hard my face hurt the next day. Best press trip ever. Thank you. Benefit. My brows thank you, as well.

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