Halloween is in full swing, with people across the world ordering their costumes and preparing for the annual holiday.
But for some women, Halloween is not just a once-a-year holiday reserved for children. It’s a job.
Ellie, 21, is a professional body painter and social media star from Edinburgh, who has made a career out of Halloween.
“It’s one of my favourite times of the year,” she says. “Halloween gets mad in the makeup world.”
Ellie found fame as a beauty influencer on Instagram, where she creates spellbinding looks which blur the line between beauty and horror.
Ellie’s account had humble beginnings and was originally used to post her Halloween looks before she began painting them all year round.
“I have always been artistic. I studied art and performance at school, and one Halloween I put it all into practice.
“Everyone was going to the Halloween disco as pretty things and I arrived as a horrible creepy clown. That was it really, everyone thought it was quite cool.”
As well as working with brands on Instagram, Ellie also works as a freelance body painter – going to houses and events to turn people into various horror creations.
Ellie says she is often approached by people to produce an array of looks they have seen online or in film, but that ultimately people enjoy their own take on characters.
“The cinema is always a good source of inspiration for people,” she says. “Pennywise from It and Maleficent are very popular this year.
“You do get different ones though. The other day I got asked to do a pretty version of Shrek.”
She says there is a spike in British interest in Halloween due to American influencers online.
“People want more from Halloween because of how they see it online,” she says. “People see it as a chance to be daring and to transform yourself.
“Makeup is evolving so much. Everyone is going bigger and wilder and having more fun with Halloween, and that is partly because of what they see online.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ellie finds Halloween is her busiest time as a body painter in terms of brand deals and her work.
“With my style a lot of companies only notice me at Halloween,” she says. “Which is fine. It’s what I love to do and I’m grateful.”
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“Often the first port of call for beauty inspiration is social media” says Holly Stewart, head of brand for online cosmetics retailer Beauty Bay. “We know that our customers spend hours researching on channels such as Instagram and love to seek inspiration this way.
She notes that in recent years there has been more of a demand for products specifically dedicated to Halloween, to help users achieve the looks they have been seeing online.
“Makeup application is now a pivotal part of creating a Halloween look. Beauty Bay now [offers] specific Halloween ranges from our retailed brands, this can be bundles of looks, for example, a five-minute cat look or single products.”
Influencers can make money from sponsorship and endorsements from companies selling beauty products. But the most lucrative strategy is to launch and sell their own product lines.
For example, the American YouTube star and body painter Lex Fleming, 26 from Chicago, regularly works with cosmetics brands during the Halloween period and is known for her conceptual and intricate looks.
“The ‘Pumpkin King’ is my first look that really took off,” she says. “It was based on my interpretation of Jack Skellington from the Nightmare Before Christmas.
“I see it all over the internet in various styles and colours now.”
Lex began her YouTube channel seven years ago to showcase her talent and connect with others. She now has 2.7 million subscribers.
“I know what it’s like to be the odd kid,” she says. “YouTube showed me that you are never truly alone.
“To my absolute shock, I’ve grown an online family that all share my weird and creative soul.”
As well as collaborating and endorsing brands, Lex runs her own business selling makeup brushes which she markets as “perfect for beauty or monsters”.
“After gaining an incredible amount of supporters from around the world, I took steps to pursue my dream of my own cosmetic line and cosmetic brushes,” she writes on her website.
“My main goal is to provide the best quality of products to give others the confidence to express themselves on a living, breathing, canvas.”
Lex discovered her love of body painting when she was 14 when she began experimenting with eye-shadow to create looks she used as a form of escapism.
“Bullying was rough for me in high school,” she says. “I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
“I would come home from school and turn myself into different characters and imagine how they might handle this kind of stress in life.
“I may not be a superhero, but I like to believe I can paint a pretty good one.”
Despite her large following, she urges others to embrace their own individuality and not pay too much attention to what’s popular online.
“When I first started on YouTube, many people were open to different and original ideas,” she says. “It seems to be more of a trend to look like one individual online, than it is to embrace your individuality.
“I would love to see a swing of things in the future where people become inspired to be themselves, instead of wanting to change into someone else.”