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As an immortal being, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark confronts the “curse of eternity.” But Cassandra Peterson, the woman behind the vampy pinup, faces no such struggle. For the uninitiated, Elvira (@TheRealElvira on Instagram and Twitter) is known as the host of TV horror nights, her long-running show at Knott’s Berry Farm theme park, her movies and decades of spooky cameos. Peterson’s flawless skin, jet black eyeliner, and seriously impressive cleavage make it hard to believe the legendary performer is 68. Combining her thirty-eight Halloweens as Elvira, her time as a Las Vegas showgirl and with The Groundlings comedy theater, Cassandra believes she as “worn more makeup than any human being on earth.”
I spoke to Cassandra via phone to discuss the Mistress of the Dark’s hilariously honest secrets for eternal gorgeousness.
Tip #1: Always Be Evolving
Unlike most performers today, Cassandra is her own MUA. “You go through a hundred thousand different brands before you find the right one.” Including eyeliner. “I’ve bought every damn one that anybody makes in the whole universe.”
Currently, Elvira’s signature look is a layer of Ben Nye Cake Liner in black applied by a “tiny wet brush,” followed by, “layers and layers” of Mac Chromaline cream gel eyeliner for the double cat eye shape. Elvira also draws lashes onto her upper lash line to make her eyes look perpetually open, before adding several stacks of falsies. For a pop of color on the crease, Peterson is in the process of trying out “eight different purple pencils.”
Tip #2: Makeup Can Be Totally Transformational
When Peterson first started doing Elvira at 30, she “didn’t have any cheekbones at all”, citing a “plump face.” Through years of practice, she’s built the sky-high contour now copied by horror villains everywhere (Hi, Maleficent). “It’s nothing fancy.” Elvira uses Cinema Secrets blush in Berry on her cheeks, followed by La Femme powder blush in a darker color for contour underneath. “I just use those two products and they seem to do the trick.”
As for those “Elvira Makeup Tutorials” on YouTube, Elvira laughs, “Some are so wrong, I just want to scream.” The official Mistress of the Dark look takes two hours, so shortcuts found online often don’t get the maximum result.
Tip #3: If You’re Going to Go Ghoul, Think of Your Teeth
When it comes to a base, Elvira opts for pink undertones. This was apparently a tip from the 90-year old makeup artist who did The Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz. “He told me, ‘You must not go super white because it will make your teeth look yellow.’” Elvira added, “I see people doing witches and vampires with white makeup and their teeth look horrible, even if they have great white teeth.”
Elvira uses Makeup Forever Ultra HD Foundation followed by white powder to maximize the undead realness.
Tip #4: Body Makeup Is A Struggle
Thanks to the release of Kim Kardashian’s KKW Beauty Body Foundation, drenching yourself in base has never been trendier. Cassandra agrees, but with a warning. “I don’t put body makeup on when I’m appearing somewhere, because I’ll turn everybody else white. Every time I put makeup on my chest and I hug someone, they get two big white circles on their shirt. It’s not a good thing for other people.”
Tip #5: Even the Mistress of the Dark Sleeps Naked
Ghoul, wash your face. “I don’t think even in my absolute drunkest moment of my life I’ve ever gone to bed without getting my makeup off.” Going on, “I swear, you should see me. I could be crawling on my hands and knees and I’ll still take my makeup off. That’s a scary picture, huh?” If Elvira can do it for 38 years, so can you.
For makeup removal, Peterson recommends Skinny & Co Coconut Oil, a product she heard Oprah uses.
Tip #6: For Skincare Products, Talk to RuPaul
To achieve her agelessness, Cassandra applies Skinceuticals CE Ferulic Serum in the morning, “Which, by the way, I got from RuPaul.” Every other night, she bravely suffers through a coat of Skinceuticals Hyaluronic Acid “It burns the hell out of your skin,” she laughed.
Tip #7: Respect the Makeup’s Queer and Drag Roots
In 1981, Peterson co-created the Elvira face with a drag queen who was playing a witch in a production of Macbeth. “He did this makeup on himself from a kabuki theater book. He said, ‘I’m going to do that makeup on you.’” Paying respect to another queer artist, Cassandra is grateful for her website designer and wig stylist who is always giving her “drag queen tips,” like when to upgrade old products.
Tip #8: Get a Wig That Looks Like Your Hair
For maximum lazy girl vibes, Cassandra recommends buying a human hair piece that mimics your real hair, so you can “throw on a wig and go out to dinner.” As for the fear some people (me) have that someone will ask if it’s a wig, Cassandra tells me to reply, “Thank you, it is!”
Tip #9: Embrace Your Dark Side 365, Because Now You Can
Now that “spooky culture” is mainstream, Elvira shudders thinking of squarer times. Once, a grocery checkout girl gasped, “Oh my god!” at Cassandra’s midnight nails. Now, black lipstick and e-girl fashion can be found in the most basic of scenes and Elvira is thrilled. “I love that it’s infiltrating itself into just normal culture. You know, I hope it doesn’t infiltrate itself so much that I’m not special and Elvira looks like everybody else. Wouldn’t that be a bummer?”