This Friday, San Francisco will once more pour out onto the Mission streets (those poor, battered, and abused streets!) for the 26th Annual Dia de los Muertos parade. Yet another pagan festival turned Catholic holiday, Dia de los Muertos is a hybrid celebration of Aztec/Meso-American reverence and remembrance of the dead and the Spanish-Catholic All Souls' Day. It is also yet another excuse for San Franciscans to don outrageous costumes, fantastical makeup, and dance around in the middle of the road! So, we're obviously excited about it.
Perhaps the most recognizable symbol of Dia de los Muertos is that of the iconic skull, with large black eyes, wide-gaping smile, and colorfully decorated cheeks, chin, and forehead. In Dia de los Muertos tradition, many paint their faces in this manner to honor the dead and celebrate the cycle of life. Marigolds are also a powerful symbol of the holiday, believed to guide the dead back to their loved ones on earth with their powerful scent. The gorgeous and striking representations of the skull and the marigold make for unique and powerful imagery in this sacred celebration of life and death.
But SF Weekly, you cry. I don't have a drop of Latin blood in my body! I can't even say tortilla correctly. How can I still partake in the fun and makeup magic of Dia de los Muertos?
Don't worry, that's what we're here for. We present to you our step-by-step guide for how to get your Dia de Los Muertos face on:
1. Just Say No to Halloween Paint
Not only is it horrible for your pores and super greasy, it also makes your job a lot harder. Painting over grease is no simple task and will never set. Cheaping out may result in your sugar skull looking more like an Edvard Munch painting.
2. Practice Makes Pretty
Sketch out the designs you want on paper first -- getting symmetrical shapes on both sides of your face is harder than it looks, and it already looks kind of hard. Brainstorm and doodle for a little while, then get your muscle memory going with some practice sessions.
3. Take a MAC/Sephora Field Trip
Stock up on tons of colorful eyeshadow and eyeliner to make your designs, and don't settle for cheap face paint. The use of real makeup for your design gives you more control and less mess. For added dimension, combine lighter shades of eyeshadow with darker to create a shading effect. Dia de los Muertos colors run the gamut -- don't be limited by the usual shades. Now is the time to put your Hello Kitty makeup kit to use!
4. For that Ghostly Pallor, Choose Powder
Apply a powder base or cream-to-powder base all over EXCEPT for your eye sockets and nose. Set your foundation with an even coat of powder. Some folks say you can use clown makeup for the base as well, but our experts recommend powder all the way.
5. Think Before You Swirl
A signature feature of the Dia de los Muertos look is swirly black lines for decoration. Before you go swirl-crazy however, consider the placement and make sure you don't end up with lines that look like goofy cartoon eyebrows or awkward mustaches. Also, try to stay true to the shape of your face. When filling in your eye sockets and nose, feel for the bone structure underneath and follow those lines. If you go with straight circles, you'll end up looking more like Steamboat Willie than you may prefer.
6. Get Fabulous
Really turn on your crafty, scrapbooking side and be creative with how you decorate your skull. Go big with the lashes, stick on some jewels, and go crazy with the glitter liner. All of it will just add to the magical illusion. And make you feel like a rockstar. One tutorial even proposes the use of contacts for added effect, but we thought that was kind of creepy.
7. Dress it up
Sew marigolds in your hair, roll up your curls with toys and candy, hang huge tin earrings from your ears, and grab your laciest garb for the parade. The more accessories, the more antiquated your attire, the better.
Now you look amazing and straight out of a Frida painting! Congratulations! We'll see you in the streets.
The 26th Annual Día de los Muertos Procession and Festival of Altars begins Nov. 1 at 6 p.m. at Garfield Park, 3100 26th St. (at Harrison), and the procession starts at 7 p.m. (at Bryant and 22nd), S.F. Admission is free.