Every Halloween, Frances O’Sullivan mixes the macabre with traditional pin-up beauty to create looks that are uncanny yet compelling
If Halloween Town from Tim Burton’s classic The Nightmare Before Christmas had a beauty queen, she would probably be like Frances O’Sullivan. The 26-year-old director and model, also known as Beauty Spock to her internet fans, delights in gothic glamour and every Halloween combines her signature pin-up style with macabre horror tropes for the ultimate spooky-season transformations.
Born and raised in London, O’Sullivan has been using make-up to reinvent herself into different characters since rising to internet fame in 2017. Whether it’s an iconic recreation of Pamela Anderson, Priscilla Presley, Marie Antoinette or a 1940s pin-up girl, her sultry signature aesthetic blends Hollywood glamour with pop cultural references and otherworldly twists. “I love playing with the nostalgic, unearthly worlds and the people who may be living in them,” she says.
Her ongoing Halloween series has seen her craft into glamorous incarnations of characters created from her own interpretations of different cult horror films. While the references are often clear, O’Sullivan transforms them into unique scenes true to her style. “There is never a theme in my series, actually quite the opposite,” she says, speaking on her process behind the series. “I like for all of the images to seem as though they are almost pictures taken from different planets. All entirely different but unified in their unusualness.”
This year, O’Sullivan has turned herself into six different characters, all taking inspiration from different Hollywood horror movies. In one image, she is transformed into a black mermaid tale in a bathroom inspired by The Shining – “I wanted to emulate the perfect, calm horror by putting something beautifully peculiar in a similar monochromatic, mundane setting,” she explains. Others see a levitating woman, a distressed Las Vegas bride and a smoking mob boss gambling in a cheetah print dress.
Below she talks about her make-up journey, the Halloween series and working on her first film.
How did you first get into transformations?
Frances O’Sullivan: I’ve always thrived on eccentricity whether that be fashion, film, photography or make-up. I hate the idea of being one thing. I like doing and being a bit of everything. Obsessively drawing film characters was something I’d been doing ever since I could hold a pencil. This was evidentially the seed that grew into me turning myself into them.
How did the Halloween series first start?
Frances O’Sullivan: I have always been driven by a love for film and began to create a self-portrait series in which I explore uncanny and cinematic character creation on myself. By transforming into these personas, I capture a snapshot of a world or story that is unaccompanied by context. A still from a fictitious film that leaves the background of each scenario to be determined by the audience. There have been times when I’ve thought why on earth am I wrapping myself in bandages or covering myself in conditioner to get into a mermaid tail, but once I see the outcome I know exactly why, I just love it.
How do you come up with the ideas for the looks?
Frances O’Sullivan: I’m of course very much inspired by the great filmmakers over the last century such as Bergman, Kubrick, Argento. Lynch being one of the biggest. I’ve always admired not only his incomprehensible narratives and characters but his process and outlook on creation. I want to enjoy it, I want the ideas to flow over me rather than squeeze something out of me that wasn’t even there in the first place.
What is your creative process?
Frances O’Sullivan: I always start with drawing first. I think it’s essential to get the idea down in its first form before you start diluting it with secondary references. Once I have a basic drawing of the characters down, I often name them or create some sort of background or short story for them. After that, they start to take a life of their own.
How would you describe your aesthetic? What sort of looks or transformations are you drawn to?
Frances O’Sullivan: I’m drawn to high glamour and the uncanny. I love mixing the macabre with traditional old-school beauty to create something enigmatic and unexplainably pleasant to look at.
What have been some of your favourite transformations that you’ve done for the Halloween series?
Frances O’Sullivan: In this series, I loved executing the woman being beamed up to the sky. It was of all of them the closest to feeling realistic before post-production came into play. In previous years, my favourite to create would have to be the recreation I did of Henry Fuseli’s The Nightmare. It was so much fun recreating it as closely as we could while playing both the woman and the demon. I had a great team of people helping me bring it to life which I also did on this series.
What makes a “good” Halloween look, in your opinion?
Frances O’Sullivan: Wearing something you don’t have to worry about having fun in.
When do you feel most beautiful?
Frances O’Sullivan: When I am creating. I feel far more beautiful as a corpse with red lipstick and a fur hat on than I do as myself.
What is your dream project to work on?
To write and direct my own film. I’ve been writing short films for years and to bring one to life is the aim. I will be shooting my first film early next year.
See the full gallery of this year’s Halloween series above and revisit some of O’Sullivan’s favourites from previous years below.
Creative director and model Frances O’Sullivan, photographer Freddie Stisted, stylist Lucy James, make-up artist Carly Roberts, set design Kate Sutton, DOP Filip Plaskowski, producer/AD Amal Solomons, first assistant Robin Bernstein, BTS video Joe Maskall, gaffer Brendan Mcbennett, spark Dylan Schultz-Soo, spark trainee David Zrolko.