On my friend and team member's birthday we went out for chips and margaritas. We were talking about music and about the type of music I had been into lately. I had been listing to things that were basically pretty dark in subject matter but that if you didn't really pay attention to the lyrics sounded kind of innocuous. She lit up and started telling me about Billie Eilish and about how her songs were often beautiful but the lyrical content could be a bit gothic in nature. When we parted ways that evening I pulled Billie up on Spotify and gave her a listen on my way home. I really liked the breathiness of her often times haunting voice and lyrical content.
After listening for a couple days I got this idea. Team Demon Fabulous, the makeup team from the Devil's Attic ( http://thedevilsattic.com/darknessfalls/ ) hadn't had a makeup challenge in a while and I thought a Billie Eilish theme would be a good one. I have always been inspired by music in my art and I wanted to see how the team would interpret her music. Billie herself has said she doesn't like to explain her songs too much because she wants the listener to be able to make up their own narrative which was perfect for us. The only rule I gave was a time limit and to just be inspired by Billy Eilish. After issuing the challenge to the team I quickly realized I had no idea what I was going to do.
The songs I had been listening to I loved but they didn't speak to me visually. That said I had been listening to the same 5 songs on repeat. I opened up my playlist to all of her music and found my inspiration song almost immediately. When "All Good Girls go to Hell" came on I knew that was the inspiration for me. I saw a dark demonic figure plainly standing with a very sweet and innocent looking girl in my head. I didn't really have more than that though, but that was enough to get started. The next day scrolling through Instagram it really all came together.
I saw a painting by an artist named Natalie Shau titled "Wendigo". The painting was amazing and was a heightened version of what I already had in my head. I posted the image to my Instagram story simply saying "Vibes". I didn't want to give to much away as it was for a challenge. The painting got me thinking about the story of if all, and the seduction of the devil. The painting "Wendigo" was a good first step but the story needed more. Days later completely unrelated I came across another image titled "Secret Date" which played into the whole seduction idea but also the resistance. As it turns out that painting was also done by Natalie Shau. The third painting I was using for inspiration was "American Gothic" by Grant Wood. To me that image speaks to them being equals and living long lives together and embracing the temptation.
Now I had to build a team for this photo shoot to create these images. The first person I asked was photographer Donovan Cole. He shoots a lot of fashion and editorial type stuff and I knew that's how I wanted these images handled. He is young but has been churning out a lot of amazing work. Given the demon makeup I knew I'd be doing I didn't want it to look like a monster photo shoot and a photographer without vision may have taken them in that direction. I knew Donovan could keep the images on track. I kind of figured I would be the model for the demon makeup especially since in past challenges most of the team has been their own models so I figured it was time for me. For the "Good Girl" I needed a model that could really pull of the sweet and innocent look as well as the demon's equal. Working on Steve Squall's film "Mujō" I met actress Olivia Duff who plays the lead Meta in the film. My job when meeting her was to paint tattoos on her that are specific to the character. I knew she had the perfect look and as an actress would be able to pull off the story in these photos.
With my team in place I was ready to get started, or so I thought. As I was doing makeup for a fashion show designer Andie Kaye came up to me saying she had seen the Instagram story where I had posted the "Wendigo" painting and she wanted in on whatever I was doing. I never posted I was up to anything but somehow Andie knew. When she referred to the image as Persephone I knew I had to have her involved. In Greek mythology Persephone is the wife of Hades and they ruled the underworld together. With that I knew Andie got what we were doing and I brought her on as a stylist.
Before I get into our actual photo shoot lets look at the amazing work of Team Demon Fabulous;
Being the go getter that she is Kelsey Eisenhut was the the first to turn in her look. Here is what she had to say about her makeup, "When Matt announced we would be having another challenge I was so excited. I always love the interpretation aspect of the challenges and I might be the tiniest bit competitive. However, I found myself thrown for a loop when the genre of the challenge was announced. I had no clue who Billie Eilish was, what her music sounded like, what her personal style was, or what she looked like. I have never gone into a challenge before so ill prepared so I found myself in a very uncomfortable position.
My first step was to take a deep dive into the music, videos, and interviews of Billie. As I was researching the other team members were quickly reserving the songs that they were going to base their looks around. Although it is not a rule that two artists cannot use the same inspiration, I like to keep myself away from the pack. All the big hits got scooped up quickly so I found myself going further and further down the rabbit hole until I hit the song “Hostage”.
From the opening scene of the video and the first few beats I knew I had found my inspiration. I listened to the song and watched the video around 40 times over the next two days letting the words, music, and feelings sink in. The song has some obvious visual characteristics called out that I knew I wanted to use, gold leaf and gold fingers, but I also wanted to make it mine. About the 35th time I listened to the song and idea started to form.
The thing I found most striking about the song and video was the internal struggle, a struggle I myself have felt. She describes the struggle to want to love and be loved but in the process being self-destructive by being mean and pushing her lover away. I wanted to create something that at first glance was beautiful but upon further inspection showed signs of a fight. At first look you see the gold and the beauty but if you take a closer look you see the busted lip and the bruised eye.
Although I had no idea who Billie Eilish was coming in to this challenge I dug in deep and found something I could truly feel to create this look. Plus I came out with some great new songs on my Spotify playlist!"
With having a 4 person team of all very busy individuals it was hard o find a date we were all available. There was literally one day that we could do the photos on so we got it all pulled together pretty quickly. We debated on having a floral backdrop for extreme juxtaposition but decided against it due to it being a bit distracting. Billie uses a lot of flat color back drops in her music videos so we opted to barrow a nice pink back drop from my good buddy Danny Alexander. Given the subject matter pink was the perfect color which also made the blues in the makeup and Olivia's blue eyes really pop. Andie pulled a few things from her wardrobe for Olivia to wear including her own prom dress.
As far as the makeups there is nothing wrong with red devils or demons I just didn't want to do what was expected. I wanted something dark, very dark. The original idea was just to paint myself all black with black contacts, black horns and a black hood. After some thought I just felt that was too much and a lot of the details would be lost. First I scrapped the black hood for a black suit playing off of the phrase "Trust no Suits", based on a Sketchy Tank design meaning to not trust corporations or really anyone in power. I started off applying some Woochie ( https://www.woochie.com/ ) latex horns to my forehead. I still painted my face all black using Woochie water activated makeup as a base. I then airbrushed EBA Performance ( https://performancemakeup.com/ ) makeup starting in purple and then building to the lightest blue before white to give it a glowing effect. I used a chip brush to flick on some EBA alcohol activated makeup from their encore chrome pallet to break up the color and also give it some glints of shine. I used the Anastasia Beverly Hills Aurora high light pallet on the super light points and my horns. I pre-painted my nails the night before using EBA's Autopsy pallet. I applied the nails after my face and neck makeup were completed. I then added wax around the cuticles to give them a more monstrous look.
I had originally planned on using a pair of lenses from Primal ( https://us.primalcontactlenses.com/ ) that were mainly black with some blue accents. with the makeup already being so dark I changed my mind last minute and went with Primal's White Walker Lenses. The lighter lenses really popped surrounded by all of the darkness in the makeup. With the way the makeup seemed to glow the contacts looked amazing and almost took on a glow like the Night King in Game of Thrones. Ideally I should have done Olivia's makeup first. Unfortunately Olivia couldn't get to the shoot until a bit later so waiting to do her makeup first before I did mine would have put us getting out much later. Due to the timing of everything I had to have all of my makeup applied before Olivia got there which I'll admit caused a few issues. Not Olivia's fault at all, this was just the only day we could all make work. Getting us all there around the same time was like threading a needle in a hurricane.
When Olivia arrived I had a bit of a problem applying the makeup not just because of the nails but the wax around my cuticles. Because of where my brushes would rest when I used them they kept sticking in the wax. I couldn't paint the wax yet which would have cut down on the tack due to fear of transfer of black paint on Olivia's face which was suppose to be a clean look. Looking back I probably should have powdered them. Once I found my grove working with the nails I was able to do a clean understated makeup. The idea was to make her look very sweet and innocent. I really wanted to play up the pink blush on her cheeks and even added a bit on her nose for a bit of whimsy.
Wearing a white dress shirt the nails caused another issue. I didn't want to wear the white dress shirt while I was painting myself black. The problem was with the nails on I couldn't button my shirt or tie my tie. Andie pretty much had to dress me which wasn't embarrassing at all. This also made using the bathroom impossible which once everything was ready I had to do and couldn't. Using the reference images we worked through the story that fit with the idea and lyrics of the song. The first look was more her introduction to Lucifer. Olivia was wearing Andie's vintage looking lace prom dress which was perfect and soft for this uneasy introduction. From there we moved to more of the forceful seduction. Not necessarily being seduced by the Devil but more the idea of being bad and giving into temptation. Andie had Olivia wear the dress off her shoulder to denote the idea of giving in. For the last look she has given into the darkside but we still wanted her to look like "the Good Girl". Andie had her in a darker dress which was still sweet looking and I darkened the eye makeup slightly. Olivia posed as an equal to the demon, accepting her darkside having given in.
I showed Andie the unedited images and she pointed out from a story telling perspective it would make more since to flip the first to images. She thought that Lucifer would start with a forceful seduction which would lead to their reluctant embrace. I respect Andie's opinion so I wanted to give it some thought. After thinking about it for a bit I started to see that she was right. I flipped them and I give you "The Persephone Switch".
Donovan really knocked it out of the park with these images, making everyone's hard work shine. I believe in getting people involved for the jobs that they do. What I mean is to get people for what they do, not what you want them to do. Everyone really did a great job on this and not one of them could have been replaced. I am also very proud of Team Demon Fabulous. It is so cool seeing different interpretations on the same subject matter. I am pretty sure this is why Billie and other artists like her don't like to spell out exactly what their songs are about. Everyone consumes art differently and it's not really up to the artist to tell you how it's suppose to make you feel.
So Billie, what do you think?