“That girl’s bleeding!” I heard a woman gasp as I walked to the bar to pay my tab at hip McAllen dive Suerte. And indeed I was bleeding, except…I wasn’t at all. The blood dripping down my right forearm was a red-tinted polymer liquid gel, and the incision wound was actually pliable wax. I can’t blame the woman for thinking it was real, though, as I had been carved into by the skillful hands of local special makeup fx artist, Bridgette Trevino.
Trevino, originally from Minnesota, moved to the Valley with her family. She says Halloween is a big deal in her house, with her parents planning monumental haunted house walk-throughs each year (think: Roseanne’s annual Halloween specials). “My family loves Halloween,” she says. “When that time comes around, all of them have Halloween get-ups every day until Halloween Day actually comes, and then they go all out. It’s crazy.” Watching her mom apply costume makeup inspired her interest in character creations – “your basic zombies, demons, stuff like that.” Along with some gruesome personal injuries when she was a child, that may be why she’s cool with the horror stuff. The first makeup she did herself was last year when a friend asked if she could “try to make it look like his eyeball wasn’t in his eye.” They went to the Halloween store to buy a tub of fake skin, and gave it a try. “It looked really cool, and really realistic. I liked it so much that I just kept doing it day after day after that.”
Trevino, who has a preference for listening to triphop while she’s working, has only been doing makeup fx for about a year, but she’s determined to make it in the business. And judging by her internet following, success has to be around the corner. “I’m pretty happy with how it’s been going. I haven’t even been doing this for a long time, and I’ve already gotten a lot of attention for it. And I haven’t even done that much, so each time I do something, I do notice that it does get better and better.” She’s been documenting her progress on her Instagram account, where she has over a thousand followers. If you look at her work, you’ll see that it’s more than just a hobby. She takes her work very seriously. “With special effects, you have to know what you’re making. If you just go at it, doing whatever, it’s not going to look realistic. Always know what you’re doing, don’t do it just to do it. Always do your research. Look up your wounds to know exactly what they look like. You gotta pay attention.” For example, knowing the stages of decomposition is important, especially for zombie work. But, as far as research goes, she draws the line at maggot-infested wounds. “That was too much for me. Seeing the inside of a man’s mouth full of maggots. After a while, I was like, okay, that’s enough.”
Although most of her portfolio revolves around gore fx, Trevino prefers to do creature makeups, and loves Lord of The Rings-style applications. She says as fun as gore may be, it can also be limiting. “I do like gore, but there’s only so much you can do with it. It gets boring.” She does like horror movies, but her favorites are the indies. “I like a lot of independent films because I like to see how they figured it out. I like a lot of sci-fi – I don’t actually make anything like that, yet.” Trevino, like my experience with the bar patron thinking my fake wound was real, recently had an online incident in which she scared a bunch of people. “I had made a special fx on my hand, the trypophobia, where it’s a just a bunch of dots all over. And that went viral. I had people all over the world threatening me, saying ‘you need to take this down.’ I had a lot of people say, ‘this caused me an attack.’ I had a lot of people report it for nudity just to get it down. A lot of people thought it was real, completely real. And I was like, that’s kinda cool.” Trevino understands people’s grief, and doesn’t mean to upset anyone. Since the trypophobia ordeal, she’s learned the importance of disclaimers, and encourages anyone who might find the photos too disturbing simply to hide the posts.
As she’s growing, Trevino has been establishing connections within the local film community, and has made a name for herself among the theater community. She’s available for hire for all kinds of makeup, from gore fx to dramatic stage makeup and everything in between (for the Halloween season, Trevino is on the bill to help do the makeup for Pluma Blanca Community Theatre’s annual Rocky Horror Picture Show held at Cine El Rey. She’ll be designing and applying the makeup for Dr. Frank N. Furter and Eddie.). And, in an industry in which most of the nationally-known, dominant names are males, she says women are changing that dynamic at the local level. “I honestly think in the community, since I’ve become a little acquainted with it already, that it’s harder to be a man. From the amount of people I see who do it, I don’t see a lot of men. Most of the people I see who are getting a lot of attention are women.” She says a lot of children and teenagers are involved as well, ensuring more generations of monster makeup artists.
For this interview, Trevino brought her makeup kit along and indulged me with a quick gore fx demonstration. She spent about thirty minutes carving out an OME speech bubble on my forearm, explaining her process along the way. The whole thing was such a surreal experience that it tricked my brain into thinking I was actually wounded, but I couldn’t feel anything but a slight tickle of pressure from Trevino’s tools as she carved into the wax application. Have you ever had an injury where you needed stitches? Special fx makeup application is a similar experience to a nurse numbing you, cleaning your wound, and sewing you up. You can see what’s happening, but it’s hard to comprehend that it’s real because you can’t feel pain at all. Honestly, the experience was so much fun it made me want to be an actor! Check out this video montage of Trevino working her magic.
This Thursday, October 12th, you can catch Bridgette at the monthly Kraft Night Extravaganza she hosts along with other local artists. October’s event is suitably spooky, with special Halloween-themed art instruction, bands, food, hand reading, vendor tables for local artisans, and lots more. The event starts at 7pm at Yerberia Cultura.
For more information on Alterswitch FX, and for commissions or bookings, check out Bridgette’s artist page here, or contact her by email: firstname.lastname@example.org