So everyone watched the first episode of American Horror Story: Coven, right? RIGHT? Cool witchy girls being cool and witchy at witch school! A witch school started by a Suffragette! Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, revenge fantasy, camp spooky credits and women! SPELLS! A MAGICAL MURDEROUS VAGINA!
Obviously, there are some classically hot young babes playing confused and angry young witches. But Coven’s casting is cooler than that: the key cast is basically all-female and pretty diverse for a prime-time drama, where the good roles are usually reserved for white dudes. Coven passes the Bechdel test with flying colours, and you can’t say that about most things on telly, amirite ladies? There are definitely some questionable aspects (Madeleine Davies at Jezebel sums them up pretty well) but it's camp as hell, and I fell head-over-TV-heels in love with it and its lurid nonsense nonetheless.
The reason I am focusing on the vaguely empowering elements of the feminine in Coven rather than some of the other things is because I am deeply biased (and because this is a beauty website; y'all can read my thesis on cultural appropriations of Marie Laveau, slavery narratives and voodoo elsewhere). I grew up with The Craft and I had a MySpace picture dressed as Wednesday Addams, so I am an automatic fangirl of anything coven-related aesthetics-wise so when the opening scenes included Kathy Bates as Delphine LaLaurie (one of the worst women ever) smearing blood onto her face to make her skin “tight as a drum,” I lost it. Terrifying beauty tips from a historical New Orleans murdereress famed for her looks alongside her propensity for evil? My hideous fascination with serial-killers and beauty products were simultaneously engaged.
So: here’s how to look like Kathy Bates as Madame LaLaurie without resorting to pancreatic theft (“the secret ingredient to her beauty ritual was a poultice made of human pancreas”) and 19th Century torture, because I am obviously not endorsing either of those things.
In the opening scenes, Kathy has this cool braided hairstyle going on. Now, I am no Alle when it comes to hair creation, but if there’s anything I am a dab hand at, it is a plaited hair crown. I used to wear these every day throughout my late teens, when I wasn’t into washing my hair, because they actually work better with dirty hair.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Get your hair as straight and smooth as you can. I’ve used Ojon’s Super Sleek Restorative Blowout Perfector here, which I smoothed liberally through my damp hair before I dried it. This helps tame flyaways and keep things witchy-straight but it’s also packed with ‘Ojon’ oil, a nut oil which helps repelenish lipids along your hair follicles to rejuvenate damaged hair whilst protecting hair against heat, pollution and friction. MAGIC.
2. Separate your hair into two halves and then separate each half into three even sections.
3. Plait tightly.
4. Take a moment to appreciate how funny plaits look when they are braided tight.
5. Swoop the plaits on top of your head and pin there with necessary quantity of Kirby grips (is it only me who just realized that Kirby grips are meant to be pinned with the zig-zaggy bit facing your scalp?! Do you guys call them Kirby grips or is that a British thing?)
Now that your hair is swooped away from your face in an appropriate manner, you’re going to want to apply a poultice to your skin to keep it tight as a drum. Whilst Coven’s depiction of LaLurie uses mushed-up human appendix, I have chosen to use something slightly less evil: Mediheal’s Placenta Revital Essential Mask. I am not entirely sure where they source the "placenta extract" in this mask (seriously though, I've scoured the internet trying to find out where they get it and can't find a source).
I deeply love Mediheal masks, which are cellulose sheets covered in various gels that you place on your face after cleansing and toning, and make you look like a serial killer. You just open the package, unfold them and then leave them on for 20 minutes. After that, you just pat any excess product into your skin and admire your magically revitalized face. Apparently 50,000 pieces are sold each month in Korea.
The placenta extract and the chitosan (extracted from crab shells) smooth and moisturize your skin, whilst protecting it from the elements. Chitosan bandages are used in Iraq and Afghanistan by both the US and UK military; it is hypoallergenic and naturally antibacterial, helping skin to regenerate and retain moisture; and it has proven super-effective on my face which is basically a complete state at the moment. Also, the mask is packed with WITCH hazel, which is both topical and a natural astringent.
Once I had this on, I made sure that my nails were painted red (I used Nails Inc’s ‘Tate’ here), smeared some of NARS Palais Royal Satin Lip Pencil on my mouth to look appropriately witchy, and then went to go pick some herbs for my spells or something.
This NARS lip pencil is killer: you can use it as a dense colour, applied directly from the jumbo crayon, or apply it first to your fingers and then gently onto your mouth for a bloodied stain. It is velvety and deeply pigmented with a powerful staying power for a crayon, plus super-moisturising so, if you get winter-chapped lips like I do, it doesn't go all disgusting and flaky.
And voila! Placenta-soft skin, witchy braided hair and bloody nails and lips. Just like LaLaurie. But without all the evil. She's really evil. I'm sorry for doing a tutorial on an evil lady.
WATCH COVEN! And talk to me about it in comments! Will it get less exploitative? Will the vagina get more murderous? COULD ANGELA BASSETT BE MORE BEAUTIFUL?