Vintage Inspiration: Apollonia Kotero in “Purple Rain”


Thirty years ago, a very tiny 26-year-old genius convinced Hollywood execs that a highly sexual, sort of violent love story set against the backdrop of Minneapolis’s music scene—starring a pansexual, multi-racial band that played unclassifiable music (pop/country/R &B/rock?)—would be a winner. And, oh, it was. Purple Rain changed the face of music, and musical movies, forever. 

It also introduced the world to Apollonia Kotero, a former lingerie model with a kissy-kissy berry-glossed mouth and 1984’s most perfect teased-and-sprayed waves outside of David Lee Roth (whom she was dating at the time). She rocked lace bustiers to the club, garters for day—and hurled herself into Lake Minnetonka topless in November to impress a dude she thought could hook her up in the music industry. Apollonia was no one’s feminist role model, but her look inspired an entire generation of girls—mostly late-thirtysomethings who still have purple fingerless lace gloves stashed in an ancient Caboodle somewhere. Here’s how to get her look!

Luscious lips

Apollonia’s lips were everything. Supernaturally shiny, raspberry-hued perfection. The look, fortunately, looks good on pretty much anyone! Get it by lining your lips with a deep pink pencil, and then filling in with an opaque, fruity gloss. We love Kevyn Aucoin The Flesh Tone Lip Pencil in Cerise ($25) and OCC Lip Tar: Stained Gloss in Meta ($18).

Lavender eyes

One cannot convincingly portray the vixen in a film called Purple Rain without rocking purple eye shadow. In some scenes it was rosy-violet, in others she went lilac, and sometimes it was metallic, paired with rainbow stripes. The Too Faced Cat Eyes Eye Shadow & Liner Collection ($36) has it all in that color family from soft lavender to smoky plum, plus complementary neutrals.

Big bangs

Since this was the mid-’80s, Ms. Kotero’s hair was massive: huge and curly, with swirly bangs. The only way to score strands this old-school is through old-school methods. Spritz a volumizer all over (try SACHAJUAN Volume Powder, $32), and then set hair on jumbo hot rollers. Let cool for five minutes, release, and finger-tousle. Instant sex kitten. 

Tia Williams has been a beauty editor for 15 years, at publications like ElleGlamourLucky, and Back in 2005, Tia created one of the first beauty blogs, Shake Your Beauty, where she wove her love of products through hilarious vignettes from her life as a beauty expert and mom living in Brooklyn. She’s also written several books, including the best-selling novel The Accidental Diva and supermodel Iman’s The Beauty of Color. Follow Tia on Twitter @shakeyourbeauty.

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