Can simple makeup and costumery bring out the evil intentions in a person?
Looking back at a childhood where the worlds of "Sleeping Beauty" and "Snow White" were as natural to me as the one I actually lived in, I can't think of any time where I wanted to be the villain.
I grew up in an ultra-pro-Disney household. My father has worked at Disneyland for more than three decades, and is responsible for keeping Walt's original vision intact while ensuring the technology is current on rides like it's a small world and the Enchanted Tiki Room.
So needless to say, VHS copies of the films, television shows and cartoons abounded in our house — and I knew and loved them all.
But beyond loving the fabulous costumery and artifice of villains like Maleficent, the horned witch from "Sleeping Beauty," or gaping at the extravagently conspicuous consumption of Cruella de Vil of "101 Dalmations," I don't recall ever relating to the baddies like some of my friends did.
No one admitted to enjoying Gaston, of course, because we all wanted to be Belle from "Beauty and the Beast," but some villains — like the Evil Queen — were just too delicious, too skin-crawling, to ignore.
The Evil Queen, to me, was emblemized by the poisoned apple she offered to the wholesome Snow White: In her normal, non-old-witchy form, she was classically flawless, from the disdainful lowered eyelids to the somewhat pouty mouth. But underneath the artifice, her core was just as rotten.
So when given the chance by MAC Cosmetics and Disney to explore the dark side in a bit of frivolous fun this weekend, I had to accept.
South Coast Plaza was given the honor of holding the international launch of MAC and Disney's new collaboration, Venomous Villains, which is centered around four of Disney's most glamourous profligates: the Evil Queen, Cruella de Vil, Maleficent, and Dr. Facilier, the charismatic voodoo magician from a newer Disney film, "The Princess and the Frog."
"We love to bring the element of showmanship and the elements of fashion right to you," said Jen Karsten, global senior artist at MAC.
The weekend-long event area is bordered by four life-size dioramas, one for each of the Disney villains. Cruella de Vil stands surrounded by Dalmatians, natch; Maleficent stands with her orb-topped staff, as does Dr. Facilier; and on the other side, the Evil Queen gazes into her "mirror, mirror on the wall."
"We're here to invite you into the world of MAC and Disney," Karsten said. "Enjoy what it's like to dress up as your most glamourous, and maybe your most fairest of them all."
At this point, dear reader, I have to tell you that I don't often "do" makeup — or enjoy being the center of attention.
MAC Trainer Maria Jones was given the dubious honor of turning my makeup-less face into that of a villain worthy of a red carpet.
At first she stuck with a lightly enhanced eye from the Evil Queen palette and a nude lip gloss, but eventually opted to layer on more and more pigments and elements, incorporating colors from the Dr. Facilier and Cruella de Vil sets as well.
For one who hates being having any eyes on them, let alone many, it was a bit unnerving to hear camera bursts all around; Kent, our photographer, told me afterward that I was surrounded by several cameras at one point. (I was too busy following Jones' instructions to "look down and to the left" during the eyeliner application process to notice them.)
I ended up with hugely smoky eyes; my normally wimpy eyelashes stretched all the way up to my eyebrows, and my lips were high-glossed in a shade of shocking fuchshia. Jones also had applied the barest peach blush — a cosmetic I normally shun, given my proclivity to flush — and the effect was remarkable.
I almost giggled, looking into the mirror at the end.
After profusive thanks and a quick rundown of which products Jones thought would work best with my troublesome skin, we braved the costume areas.
Patrons were invited to pose in the dioramas, trying on their best evil/sultry Maleficient expression; mugging with Dr. Facilier's staff and velvet tailcoat; or, becrowned and becaped, peering into the mirror, with the real Evil Queen towering behind.
All of this is done while being encouraged and photographed by professional male models in black MAC shirts. Photos can then be downloaded with a provided code, and uploaded to Facebook or Twitter.
I had the most fun cooing over dalmatians while wrapped in an outrageous white faux-fur coat, complete with a ridiculous black and white wig, gloves and sunglasses.
Jones even ran up to ensure I was wearing the correct shade of Cruella-red lip gloss, making it feel even more like being at a "real" photo shoot.
Like my fellow wallflowers there, I was rather nervous and stiff in the first diorama session, but by Cruella it was no-holds-barred.
The event was the largest on the West Coast for the new line, Karsten said.
She urged attendees to seek out ways to use the colors in the collection in tandem with fashions fresh off the runway (and available at South Coast Plaza), describing the line as "relevant to any [runway] show concept."
Debra Gunn Downing, South Coast Plaza's executive director of marketing, characterized the partnership as a "brilliant combination" between Disney and MAC.
"This event is the launch event for a weeklong style event at South Coast Plaza," she said; more than 100 stores are expected to participate.
But the Venomous Villains event closes today.