Bringing childhood nightmares to life

Clad with latex prosthetics and plastic teeth to portray all kinds of inhuman creatures, Diamond Bar High School English teacher Amanda Avina uses special effects makeup to bring her childhood nightmares to life.

At age 22, when she first started pursuing this form of makeup, Avina mainly worked with recreating minor cuts and injuries. She later began to explore the more complex nuances of her craft after watching ‘Face Off’– a game show and reality TV program on the Syfy Network where contestants compete in various special effects makeup challenges for a $10,000 grand prize.

“These artists started to create these monsters and a lot of them were self-taught [and] seeing that made me feel like, hey, I could be a self-taught artist, too,” Avina said. “So I started to watch YouTube and kinda get little techniques going.”

Some of Avina’s favorite special effects makeup artists include Rick Baker and Ve Neill, both award-winning special effects makeup artists, as well as Matt Valentine— the season 13 winner of ‘Face Off’. 

“He [Valentine] was someone who just created so many cool concepts, like he did a Tim Burton-esque type makeup where he had to pick any occupation, like everyday occupation, so he picked ice-cream man,” she said. “He turned it into this Burton-esque creepy clown.”

A few of Avina’s most time-consuming looks include a voodoo doll makeup and a partial dragon face for a cosplay of the character Daenerys from Game of Thrones— a look that took her five hours to apply.

When creating new special effects looks, Avina usually begins by sculpting the idea with modelling clay. Then, she uses multiple layers of a latex and flour mixture to mold the prosthetics on top of the model; sometimes she refines the prosthetics with extra pieces of clay before she finally moves on to color matching, painting and then application.

“It does take a long time, especially if you have a concept and like the sculpting aspect, [because] sometimes you want to make it realistic, like the skin texture, so you’re taking a while just trying to get it just right,” she said.

Although the process can be lengthy, Avina said that she enjoys doing special effects makeup, because she likes the idea of creating life out of nothing and getting people to take a second look at things. She added that the process is very soothing and that the amount of focus she applies to her work helps to pass the time very easily.

“It’s something that’s just very calming, I wouldn’t mind doing it for a while and then just taking a break, then coming back to it,” Avina said. “There are even some sculpts I have that I haven’t even touched [in] weeks that I need to get back into.”

While she prefers to adhere to the horror genre of special effects makeup, Avina does appreciate its wide creative range and encourages those interested in designing their own looks to give special effects makeup a try.

“Don’t let other people tell you, ‘No, don’t do that, it’s scary,’like, my parents were always saying that every time I picked my Halloween costumeI would say, just give it a try if you’re thinking about it, do it because you never know what the outcome will be,” Avina said.

As of now, most of Avina’s work can be viewed on her Instagram page @halloween.with.mandy.