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this is what real life Instagram vampires look like

From bat-like dreads to preserving that eternally youthful glow, we talked to four self-identifying vampires to find out their beauty routines

This week marked 22 years since Buffy the Vampire Slayer first aired on television and the occult classic continues to live on in our hearts and on SKY reruns. From Angel and Darla to Spike and Drusilla we all remember what the vampires of the Buffyverse looked like. Ashy skin, gothy hair, brooding stares and a whole lot of leather. Cut to sharp fangs, yellow contacts and prosthetic t-zone wrinkles whenever they turned full vamp mode. But that was the 90s. What about now? What do the vampires of 2019 look like? And, no, not the fictional kind. What do the real-life, vampire-identifying, Instagram-dwelling individuals look like today? What are their beauty rituals? Are they into wellness? Do they like vampire facials a la Kim K? We talked to four vampires to find out. Meet 25-year-old Darsuss, a federal contractor from Washington DC, 20-year-old tattooist Velvet Venom from San Francisco Bay Area; Scottish model Lou Graves, and 21-year old artist Abby Holgerson from Maryland.

How long have you identified as a vampire, and what attracted you to a lifestyle of vampirism?
Abby Holgerson: Ever since I knew about vampires I have wanted to be one, but I didn’t identify with the vampire subculture until I was 18. I remember watching a documentary on The Secret Life of Vampires that included Father Sebastiaan (the leader of the Sabretooth clan of Vampires) and about a year ago Father Sebastiaan himself contacted me on Instagram. This began my initiation and the birth of my true vampire persona within the Sabretooth clan, and it was that summer that I received my first pair of custom fangs made by him. The fangs felt and looked very natural, and wearing them made me feel as if my transformation into a vampire was complete. In terms of my ‘daily life’ as a vampire – it varies. While I attend events such as the Endless Night Vampire Ball, stroll through Baltimore's Green Mount Cemetery, and curate my online persona as a ‘vampire’ – my life is mostly like everyone else's.

Velvet Venom: As a kid, I’d always felt connected to darker themes, and watching classic cult vampire films from the 1980s sparked my interest in vampirism in particular. It then wasn’t until years later, during the summer of 2018 (I had just turned 20), when I purchased my first fangs. To me, vampirism represents confidence and personal identity, and by living this lifestyle it gives me a tangible way to represent my love and adoration for the taboo, the underground, and the unholy.

Darsuss: I’ve self-identified as a vampire for about two years or so, and if the vampiric lifestyle is right for you: it shouldn’t feel new. You’ll already be naturally nocturnal, dressed in your funeral attire, and obsessed with Lestat or whomever. Initially films like BladeUnderworld, even The Little Vampire definitely attracted me to vampirism – but they can only take you so far. I was living out my undead life in The Sims, but it was still innocent. Toward the end of college, I had a sort of ‘ego death’ – your standard mental break down, social withdrawal, academic failure, plus some dysphoria that we all must face eventually. Some people come out of it normal functioning adults; I came out of it a vampire.

How do you ‘present’ yourself (both online, and offline) as a vampire?
Abby Holgerson: I take pride in my appearance online, and try to do so in real life. One of my goals is to look like I crawled out of an old painting or just awoke from my velvet-lined casket. Manners and poise are always important to a vampire, so I try to be as polite as possible in public. Although technically I am human, so sometimes I can't be bothered on my appearance or seeming cool and collected. My wardrobe is usually black and almost always vintage. Besides fashion aesthetics, wearing fangs in my photographs and occasionally in real life is the main (and most obvious) symbol I use to portray my vampirism on Instagram.

Darsuss: The physical presentation I present to the world is really about creating a look and aura that consistently connects me to the mythos. It’s easy to add dark filters to your bathroom selfies; it’s a bit more daunting to walk through WalMart wearing fangs and red contacts.

Lou Graves: Most people say it's my clothes that make me look like a vampire – the combination of vintage and gothic styles that reads as "vampire" to most people. Some say it's the teeth.

How does vampirism affect your approach to beauty and self-care rituals, practises and aesthetics?
Abby Holgerson: Typically my make-up style is refined and dark. To intensify the aesthetic when I’m out, I often line my eyes and play with shadow. I’ll paint my lips with tones of reds, browns, and pinks too – for a subdued but luscious look. Recently, with my hair, I’ve been exploring more mid-century styles inspired by film stars Rita Hayworth and Hedy Lamarr. I try to maintain the illusion of the ‘eternal luxury of vampirism’ without breaking the bank.

Darsuss: For years I’ve tried to develop a spiritual practice, but nothing really stuck until I explored Dark meditation and the Left Hand Path. These approaches focus more on the maximization of the individual – bringing out your ‘worst self’ and mastering your inner demons.

Velvet Venom: I’m definitely obsessed with skincare and youthfulness. The idea of eternal life in terms of beauty. I make sure that I wear sunscreen every day as well. Other than that, when I wear make-up, it’s always very dark and moody. I generally do a wing that I blend out towards my temples while shaving my eyebrows. In combination with that, I slightly overline my lips with blood red lipstick and add a layer of gloss... all with cruelty-free products. I like to keep my hair long and very 70s vamp-esque like, channelling Judy Lang in Bob Kelljan’s Count Yorga, Vampire. It’s auburn blonde naturally too so I dye it black.

Lou Graves: There is no blood in my daily routine/rituals. To me, being a vampire means looking however I like, and having people see the vampire in me. I just wear anything I feel good about and I guess it’s just luck that the things I like make me look like a stereotypical vampire to others. Currently, my make-up look boils down to a ton of red blush that I apply around my eyes. I leave the rest my face relatively bare, aside from shading in where sideburns typically grow with a cool toned contour kit.

Is there a wider community/subculture that you personally are associated with?  
Darsuss: Goth. #Afrogoth, in particular, seems to be really flourishing on Instagram.

Abby Holgerson: I’m initiated into Father Sebastiaan’s Sabretooth Clan. He started it in NYC during the 90s, and Father Sebastiaan (to me) is the glue that holds together the modern vampire subculture. He is a fangsmith and an author and organises all of the Endless night and Sabretooth clan events.

Are there beauty standards within these vampire subculture/communities? And if so, how do you interact with them?
Darsuss: I think we all have the intention of being authentic and subversive, but we are still bound to biases here and there. Being tall, with a delicate frame and long hair fits in well with the image of the romantic immortal. Identifying as a vampire helped me to find a greater self-image and ultimately my aesthetic conveys a preference for the dark, demented, and androgynous over a more mundane, day-lit world. Before I judged myself by what I thought the majority of people favoured, and while I still judge myself it’s now reserved to my own tastes and the gothic aesthetic.

Abby Holgerson: The beauty standard is really what you expect of yourself and how you want yourself portrayed. Beauty for vampires is self-defined which is part of what attracts me to it. Sure, many vampires wear black and put on dark make-up, but some do not. I would say that a large number of self-proclaimed vampires are also part of the goth subculture, although that is definitely not a rule.

Velvet Venom: I don’t necessarily think there are any beauty standards. Other than the occasional dress code for a formal event, my community within the Sabretooth clan is very open to all forms of self-expression through appearance.

As a vampire, what does beauty mean to you?
Abby Holgerson: Beauty to a vampire is timeless and decadent. I think there has always been the stereotype of a vampire being overly luxurious. For me, this is definitely true, as I tend to hoard beautiful things such as clothes and various items to surround myself with. Personally, my beauty comes through in elegance and art. The importance of how one presents themselves to the world is very relevant to vampire culture. In Gothic literature, some vampires used their physical beauty to overpower their victims. Although I certainly do not do or condone that, the comparison can be made about the sense of empowerment in expressing one’s inner and outer beauty.

Velvet Venom: Beauty from my perspective is anything that makes you feel more like yourself; in my case, that happens to be fangs and dark make-up.

And finally, what does vampirism offer you that a typically ‘human’ life does not?
Abby Holgerson: Vampirism allows my imagination to roam free.

Velvet Venom: Self-confidence. I’m still working on it but I am finally starting to feel comfortable in my skin.

Darsuss: In today’s world I don’t think we realize how much we need fantasy and escapism. You might get your's binge-watching Netflix, I prefer to live mine.