Activities For Kids | Halloween Makeup & Costumes |

One of the most sought-after professional makeup artists in the New Mexico film industry is also a Halloween lover who has some great tips on unique, fun — and inexpensive! — costumes and makeup for adults and children.
“I do love Halloween,” said Pepper J. Gallegos, who was born in Hobbs, grew up in Silver City, and has lived in Las Cruces for the last 30 years.

Pepper has been part of the crew for major motion pictures, television series, commercials, documentaries, and student films over the years, traveling to locations throughout Las Cruces and El Paso as well as Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and other parts of New Mexico. She has had the famous and near-famous in her makeup chair, including Oscar-winning actors Christian Bale and Tommy Lee Jones, as well as George Lopez, Edward James Olmos, Kathleen Quinlan, and Linda Hamilton.

Pepper has done makeup for actors in TV series like Breaking Bad and Stargate Atlantis, and she did the makeup for a commercial earlier this year for a state representative who is running for governor in 2022. Pepper also has worked on many local productions, including the projects of New Mexico State University and Doña Ana Community College student filmmakers, and she worked closely with Las Cruces’ own Tony-winning playwright, the late Mark Medoff, whom she considered a mentor.

Pepper has also done a lot of makeup for horror movies — this summer she was on set making all the prosthetics for a horror flick from Buffalo 8 New Mexico being filmed in Las Cruces. And the body count is pretty high among the zombies, aliens, and other monsters she has created, along with crime and accident victims. In one recent film, “I ‘killed’ five people,” Pepper said.

She began doing makeup as a hobby, but her interest in all things Halloween dates back to her childhood and her family’s need to be creative on a budget when it came to costumes and makeup. “When you grow up poor, you learn things,” Pepper said.

In addition to cost, pre-planning can be an important part of a memorable Halloween, she said. “I would suggest not waiting until the night before” to come up with an idea, Pepper said.


Instead, decide a week or so before what kind of costume and makeup you want, whether it’s for yourself, one of your kids, another family member, or a friend. “Find something you like and duplicate it,” is also Pepper’s advice, and practice before you do the final makeup so that on Halloween night it will be exactly what you want. Pepper suggests buying several inexpensive makeup kits available in season from just about any store that sells Halloween costumes.

She also suggests buying some Elmer’s Glue along with tissue paper and spirit gum. (Speaking of Elmer’s Glue, it comes in a variety of colors and can be the main ingredient in homemade slime, which is simple to make and a great Halloween prop. You’ll find a bunch of slime recipes at Type “slime recipe” in the search box.)


Here are some of Pepper’s favorite tips for Halloween costumes and makeup, all offered with economy in mind:

• Buy one costume and use its pieces as elements in several different costumes. Use Silly String to add color. “Kids love capes,” Pepper said. When they were children, she recalled that her brother had a cape that served him during many Halloweens and “every year, we would make it a different color.”
Dressed all in black with a red-lined cape, vampire teeth, and a little makeup (try black lipstick), your kid is a low-cost but scary Dracula. Attach a few latex warts with spirit gum and you’ve got a witch.

• You can make a tail out of a pillowcase or a half-yard of fabric that you can buy for $2 or $3, Pepper said. Cut the pillowcase along its sides so that it’s one long sheet, then cut it in strips, sew the pieces together, fill your “tail” with cotton, paint it if you want to, and either safety-pin or sew it onto clothes. With a really cool tail, you might not need any other costume or makeup to be a Halloween hit. (If you want something even freakier, use the same idea and add a bit of creative decorating to make fake intestines that can be draped around the neck.)

• Trace your little trick-or-treater’s hands on pieces of inexpensive felt, cut out two for each, sew or glue them together (then turn them inside out to hide the seam) and you’ve got homemade gloves that can be painted or decorated any way you want — you could add hair, scars, spikes, warts, or even green Martian paint.

• Decorate shoes by adding colorful laces, ribbons, or fake jewels. Or, buy an inexpensive pair of slippers in a large size to cover your shoes. That way, you can paint them and add ribbons, buttons, jewels, or any decoration you want.

• It’s easy to make a crown out of cardboard and spray-paint it any color. A plastic holiday wreath can be fashioned into a headpiece, a wrist decoration, and even earrings.

• Kids love magic wands, which can be purchased for little money or made for free out of cardboard or other materials. Even the simplest design can be spectacular when you add paint, glitter, or fake jewels. Sprinkle body glitter on the face, arms, and legs, and you’ve got a princess.

• You can buy a bag of fake nails and use them for costumes for your entire family, painting and decorating them to look silly or scary. Paint them first, and then use tissue paper and glue to create layers for ridges and lines before trimming with scissors.

• Latex and tissue paper can be used with a plastic cone as a mold to create horns you can attach to the forehead with spirit gum. With one horn for a unicorn, two for a goat, and two (or maybe more) for a devil, plus some face paint and lipstick, your Halloween makeup could be done.

• Take an old pair of jeans, split the sides, and sew or glue in a different color fabric and you’ve got an instant flare for a disco dancer. You can also decorate leggings, leotards, and tights.

With a little imagination, some planning time, and little or no money, you and your family can be ready for the most demanding costume and makeup contest this Halloween!

“You can do all kinds of things!” Pepper said.


Written by Mike Cook

Originally published in Neighbors magazine.

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