Less than a minute into her latest YouTube tutorial, makeup artist Fernanda Machado, under her nom de brush Pompberry, is visited by an unexpected guest: The grey-furred, seed-toting forest spirit Totoro, who proceeds to amble across her skin in a charming, captivating stop-motion makeup animation homage to Hayao Miyazaki’s beloved creature hero.
Totoro’s delightful cameo in Machado’s latest viral makeup video begins simply, then blossoms into a wholly unique new way of experiencing the magic of My Neighbor Totoro, Miyazaki’s critically acclaimed 1988 classic. As he plants a forest that springs up across her chest, rainfall brings the iconic Catbus and then, a flurry of susuwatari take over the entire scene—which has unfolded on Machado’s face and body.
YouTube is already dominated by an estimated 14.9 billion beauty videos teaching amateurs how to achieve that perfect cat eye, or how to contour like a Kardashian. But amid the endless basicness inundating the world of highly-paid online makeup pros, celebrity vloggers, unboxers, and amateurs—the elite of whom make millions per year for telling their public what cosmetics to use and how to use them—Pompberry has quickly amassed over 2 million views from a global fan base responding to her work using makeup as a richly creative medium of expression, not just adornment.
Machado, 25, is currently competing in the NYX Face Awards, which runs in multiple stages through August seeking the next great beauty vlogger. (View the field and vote here: http://www.nyxfaceawards.com.) But in a tight competition stacked with popular beauty vloggers, some with camera crews and impressive production budgets, she tells The Daily Beast, she had to draw on ingenuity to create something new with limited resources.
“I was like, ‘Okay, I do not have access to all of that, I don’t have a crew to film for me,’” recalled the Chilean-born Brazilian, who is currently based in Los Angeles. “Studio Ghibli has some of my favorite movies, and Totoro is pretty special. It’s one of my favorite movies of theirs. And I’ve never seen an animation done with makeup.”
She created her viral Totoro video for the contest’s anime-themed Top 20 competition drawing on her lifelong love for the animated masterpieces of Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli, and shot the entire video herself with two Canon cameras, painstakingly applying and reapplying paint to her body over the course of 60+ consecutive hours. On the last day—the Catbus day, in which she created the memorable forest transport on her face using a cheated perspective trick she teaches in the video—she didn’t eat or sleep at all.
The work paid off: Within days of posting her Top 20 contest entry, Machado racked up over 140,000 views and glowing write-ups from geek blogs across the web. Her subscriber base has nearly tripled, and the messages pouring in so far from around the world are, surprisingly, deeply emotional.
“I’m getting an insane amount of people contacting me, telling me they cried watching it because they grew up watching Totoro,” Machado shared. “I got a message from a mom who said she started crying when she saw her little boys watching it, and they just became so happy watching it they asked to watch it over and over again. I thought sure, people like Totoro so they might like this—but I never expected people to have such an emotional response.”
Machado, the daughter of a diplomat who grew up living all around the world, traces her influences back to comic books, video games, the movies—and YouTube. “I’ve always drawn and painted since I was a kid. I wanted to be an illustrator and work in video games doing concept design for games,” she said. “But I started learning beauty makeup off of YouTube.”
Mostly self-taught from online tutorials and online courses, Machado got into makeup artistry before crafting her first pair of homemade prosthetics, a “rudimentary” pair of clay-molded Elf ears, inspired by The Lord of the Rings films. She got hooked on special effects makeup by watching Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, which took home three Academy Awards including Best Makeup.
“I watched the behind the scenes of Pan’s Labyrinth and saw photos of them applying the Faun makeup,” she remembered. “I was like, ‘Whoa—people do this for a living! They make creatures! This is something that happens!’ And that’s what made me want to get into prosthetics.”
Click through Machado’s earlier posts and you’ll find similarly inventive, outside the box uses of makeup beyond beauty and cosplay, two of the most popular kinds of videos on YouTube. Her “Needles and Brushes” project is an ongoing series of makeup videos replicating two-dimensional tattoos on her face and body, creating the effect of a living tattoo that brings some of her favorite tattoo artists’ work to life.
“That’s a really special project for me,” said Machado, who created her first tattoo makeup video inspired by her favorite tattoo artist, whose waitlist for new clients was two years long. Instead of waiting, Machado decided to recreate the art on herself using her own skin as her canvas. “I’d seen people do paintings and characters, but I had never seen anyone take a tattoo and do makeup with it. I’ve always loved that world. I think it’s an art form that’s really underappreciated and I wanted to do what I could to pay tribute.”
The idea of creating tutorials for her unusual makeup art was planted when she began posting makeup videos for fun on her YouTube channel. “I started because my friends were like, how the fuck do you do this?”
Her future goals include putting together a book of her tattoo looks in collaboration with a tattoo artist, and continuing to create new ways of expressing never before seen artistic visions using makeup—and teaching others how to see makeup as a medium of vast creative potential.
“I want to continue to try to push myself to make things that people haven’t seen yet,” she said. “I think that’s essentially what I’m trying to do with my makeup, to innovate and make something new, which is really hard to do. Usually in this world you draw inspiration from something else, or your work is influenced by other people.”
Her dream job, however, is working in special effects makeup for film—preferably science fiction or fantasy. “I would die happy if I worked on Star Wars,” she said. “I really want to work in the movie industry. I really want to work with prosthetics. And I’m super squeamish. My main goal is to make pretty creatures instead of blowing someone’s head up.”