Make Yourself Look Like Any (Or All!) Of Riverdale’s Leading Ladies

This show is bananas, dudes. I originally read it described as “Archie meets Twin Peaks,” and…yeah! That’s what it is!

I want to start with some POSSIBLE MILD SPOILERS* because really, who cares? Does anticipating a known plot point really ruin everything for you?? In any case I definitely won’t tell you who plays Archie’s mom, which was the most delightful surprise of the whole season. *AHEM.*


I LOVE Camila Mendes (the actor who plays Veronica) so much that I immediately followed her personal Instagram account after watching the first episode just so that I can gaze slack-jawed at the perfection of her face.

Ashleigh Murray, who portrays Josie, is also a vision to behold, and I would present a poor Riverdale makeup piece if I left her aesthetic aside as well.

My whole *thing* in Make Your Face however is about transposing various ideas, aesthetics, and imitations onto my own face, it would be stupid and frankly wrong for me to omit Josie or Veronica.

So what I’ve done here (and have tried occasionally to do in past, and will try to do more in future) is purely adapt and appreciate these glorious characters’ surface-style while leaving their inimitable skin tone and hair texture to them and other women who own it naturally.

My skin is the color of Wonderbread. My hair will never grow into a ‘fro; I will never be able to rock cat-ear bantu knots like Ashleigh-as-Josie does.

That acknowledged: people I idolize? I want to emulate. Appropriation is not appreciation! Don’t “borrow” an incredible hairstyle that would get somebody else fired just for naturally growing out of their head, you know? Sharing lipstick colors however, is totally cool.

Did you guys watch Season One of Riverdale — (you know the pseudo mash-up between Twin Peaks and the Archie comics? — on The CW? Never fear! It just (finally!) arrived on Netflix in full, so now you’ve got a beautiful weekend binge ahead of you.

I grew up as a major Archie comics fan. Archie, along with The Babysitters Club, gave me good reason to learn to read, and also made me desperately wish to fast-forward through my childhood so I could just be a teenager already, Mom. *heavy eye roll*

By the time I actually became an adolescent, perhaps predictably, I was OVER it. Archie was a thing of my childhood and I was ready to be an ADULT. *another heavy eyeroll*

I was pretty right on: being an adult is way better, mostly. You get over your distaste for “kid” stuff and can go back to enjoying your childhood comics, plus a whole raft of excellent new imaginings of the characters by your adult-discovered favorite comics creators, and then, THEN y’all, at the ripe old age of 31, the powers that provide the universe with Archie entertainment properties JUST MIGHT BLESS YOU (personally, it feels) with Riverdale.

Being an adult is way better than being a teenager—mostly.

This show is bananas, dudes. I originally read it described as “Archie meets Twin Peaks,” and…yeah! That’s what it is!! A gloriously lit, over-the-top absolutely nonsensical soap opera, featuring the archetypal characters from the Archie comics. It isn’t perfect, of course. There are elements that could be improved, going into Season Two. But if not perfect, it’s damn close.

Maybe it’s just the huge shining swelling love I feel for this bonkers-ass show that makes me feel that way. Maybe it’s the dignity and gravity with which it treats its teen characters’ emotions. Maybe it’s the parade of middle-aged former teen dream actors who play the teen characters’ parents, flashing sexy, lined faces around in the midst of young-to-mid-20s “adolescent” emoting. Maybe it’s the skill of all the actors featured on the show, who bring a grounding, believable humanity to the stylized sets and improbable plot points.

Hell, maybe it’s just the makeup.

To look like all four of the leading teen ladies on Riverdale, first you must oversleep until 7:21 AM, the exact time when, if you were still in high school, you’d be rolling into the parking lot in order to walk into class exactly when the first bell rang at 7:23 so as not to have to spend any more time at school than absolutely possible.

Realizing you are definitely going to be late and piss your editors off if you don’t get your hustle on, shower at speed, then immediately commence with the task of turning yourself into your favorite character: Cheryl Blossom.

Cheryl in the old-school comics is a tangential character, richer even than Veronica Lodge, who occasionally turns up to temporarily steal Archie’s affections away from Veronica and Betty and, along with her brunette twin brother Jason, wreak havoc on the entire social structure of Riverdale.

Cheryl in the show is still rich, still red-haired, minus the twin brother (now formerly red-haired; his murder kicks off the season), and completely on another level than everybody else. This chick is over-the-top, yeah? And not just in your usual fictional queen bee cheerleader Regina George way — Cheryl of Riverdale is fully living in a sprawling gothic horror novel that just happens to take place alongside and occasionally overlap with other characters’ realities. Other than her tendency to utilize red lipstick as armor, nothing about Cheryl makes any sense to any real human living in our more typical mundane reality, but that’s okay. Cheryl knows what she’s doing. It is not for us plebeians to understand.

Cheryl of Riverdale is fully living in a sprawling gothic horror novel that just happens to take place alongside other characters’ realities.

Unlike Riverdale, I am (unfortunately) not sponsored by CoverGirl, but I did use one of their products in the making of my very own Cheryl-face! CG’s eyebrow/liner pencil in “honey brown” is an excellent fake for “natural” red eyebrows. Cheryl typically keeps her eye makeup fairly neutral, the better to contrast with her ENORMOUS lashes. If you, like me, have no money or desire for eyelash extensions to better mimic Cheryl’s blinkers, you can always temporarily make it happen with falsies. Let the glue dry to a tacky consistency before stickin’ ’em on.

Cheryl goes pretty hard on the under-cheekbone contour, with just a *dusting* of classic blue-red on the apples of her cheeks. Then, after popping on your long, shiny, Amazon-sourced plastic Cheryl hair, comes the most important element of Cheryl-ness: the lip. Overlining your lips always feels clownish at first, but it’s necessary if you’re a lil’ lipper like me who wants to make like you’ve got a Madelaine Petsch-plump pout.

First, a matte blue-red, then, depending on how evil and/or vulnerable you feel, a layer of gloss. RED gloss, not just clear on top of your matte red — please, we’re not trying to insult Cheryl here. (“Wow, that’s the perfect shade of red!” exclaimed my husband, who was leaving for work. “I know!” I chirped in reply, having fully entered into Cheryl Blossom-brain upon applying the gloss.)

Find yourself a dark corner with dramatic greenish lighting to pose in, and…*gasp*! Hashtag Cheryl Bombshell, indeed.

(Plus a little Instagram Juno filter set to 66, because when you’re Cheryl? you really want that red to pop. And when you’re Jennifer Culp, “66” just strikes you as an appropriately devilish amount of filter to put on your Cheryl face, particularly when you bump the Saturation up to 6, too.)

I really didn’t want to wash Cheryl off, but this is the kind of sacrifice I make for you, dear readers. Besides, it was time to take the face of my favorite comic character and other favorite show character, Veronica Lodge.

When I was a tiny little blonde kid who liked to get dirty and be viewed as a competent person but also tragically suffered from a lot of seriously unrequited crushes, I identified with comic-Betty, no question. By the time I hit adolescence and discovered a thing or two about makeup and the way the world typically treats post-pubescent women, however, I’d totally transformed into a Veronica stan.

Veronica of the comics knows what she’s worth: a lot. Veronica of the show likewise has a healthy sense of personal esteem, but is also a bit of a reformed brat. Formerly a mean girl, as she tells it, she’s determined to put her undermining ways behind her and forge herself into a better person by working to elevate others.

She’s not always successful, but she strives, and that conflict creates an interesting and admirable character. Show-Veronica fascinates me because, where the comics tend to focus on her father and his relationship with Archie, Riverdale’s Ronnie is openly feminist and, from an overarching show perspective, largely driven by her close relationship with her mother. What is it, essentially, to be good, and kind…or complicit? How do you know who you should really trust, and how does one manage to build a functional adult life with strong relationships when the very foundations upon which your previous childhood worldview were built have been betrayed?

When I was a tiny little blonde kid who liked to get dirty and be viewed as a competent person but also tragically suffered from a lot of seriously unrequited crushes, I identified with comic-Betty, no question.

Cheryl operates in a sublimated-incest and candelabras kind of world, but Veronica, for all her flawless tailoring and pearls, lives somewhere much closer to the average viewer, experience-wise: she’s in the midst of realizing that her parents are real people, with real flaws, and trying to suss how they’ve shaped her, how their problems affect her, and determine the boundaries she needs to set for herself to grow into the independent person she wants to become. She might screw up, but when she does, she tries her damnedest to set it right with flowers and/or baked goods. I love her.

What is it, essentially, to be good, and kind…or complicit?

Veronica rocks a slightly smokier eye than Cheryl, still rendered in neutrals. (Veronica probably owns every iteration of the Urban Decay Naked palette, or the even-more-expensive super rich person equivalent.) Veronica’s eyebrows are perfect and probably require no daily effort at all because she just grows amazing brows and then has them professionally shaped into flawlessness.

In attempt to imitate them, *I* required a black eyebrow pencil, some black eyeshadow, a clean mascara brush, and small angled brush. Here’s the deal: you draw the basic shape with the pencil, avoiding the inner edge of your brow where your brows come together above your nose. Just do the arch, the point, and blend toward the middle a little. Then, brush the pencil pigment into an approximation of naturalness with the clean mascara wand.

Get your angled brush wet next, then dive on in with the shadow. You wanna start with the arch-to-point area while you’ve got the most damp pigment on your brush, then work toward the middle. That’s the toughest spot to artificially pull off convincingly: go easy on the shadow, maybe add a little more water to the brush, and blend that bit with a light hand. Achieving your effortless brows will take forever, but DAMN can you level a GLARE once they’re done!

Veronica wears stiletto-sharp winged liner and, if she were real and not a fictional person, could definitely draw it on perfectly from muscle memory without even looking in a mirror. Veronica wears her blush higher on her cheeks than Cheryl. I chose a plum tint for both cheeks and lips because Ronnie of Riverdale displays a marked preference for purple. And, of course, pearls. (You can buy a strand of oversize glass pearls at Michael’s for $1.99, fyi.)

You know, I was almost named “Veronica”! My mom fought hard for it, but Dad wasn’t wild about the diminutive “Ronnie,” so here I am today, blithely perma-ignoring anyone who ever refers to me as “Jenny.” (“Jenn” is fine.) I gave my Ron photo a *hint* of Clarendon filter, but the purple sidelight I picked made the pic look so unreal to start with that heavy IG filter looked totally unbelievable. Perfect.

Now for my other favorite character, Betty Cooper!

Betty’s makeup is “natural” in that pervasive nonsensical cultural sense that means “default pretty white blonde lady with features and colors slightly emphasized” — that kind of “natural.” What that means in practice is pink. Light pink-brown neutral shadow in the crease of the eyelid, then cover the whole biz with light pink-white shimmer. Light shimmery pencil on the lower waterlines. Pink blush *right* on the apples of the cheeks, no obvious contour.

Pink lip gloss. Pink pink paaaaaank. When it comes to blonde girl brows, however, the color is “taupe.” “Taupe,” according to Google, is “gray with a tinge of brown.” Taupe looks, as a product, like the worst possible choice of color to put on your face in any capacity, in any situation. But if you got a case of invisbrows like mine, girl, it works. It’s weird! But it works. See?

Look y’all, straight-up: I didn’t want to be a Betty fan, when I started watching Riverdale, because I am a Betty. How boring! “Middle-class blonde perfectionist faces pressure to succeed in all aspects of life; hot jock with abs doesn’t want to kiss her (yet, anyway).” I know that story, dude. I spent the span of my teenage years trying to rewrite it, rewrite myself into someone else. But good lord, here comes my beloved Shelly/Aunt Wendy/Mädchen Amick chewing up ALL the scenery as Betty’s overbearing mother, functioning as a sort of fictional surrogate not for my own mother, but rather the entire array of difficult adults who affected my teenage existence.

Here come Lili Reinhart’s ginormous expressive eyeballs to inject me forcibly with empathy when she cries, make me jump up off my couch and CHEER when she gets angry and almost-murderous! Here comes Betty’s first real relationship and first love (spoilers?) with the smart, sensitive guy from shitty family circumstances who most everybody else views as “dark”….guys, I am a Betty, and I am dead now from the experience of seeing Lili Reinhart’s portrayal of something weirdly sort of resembling my own adolescence on this ridiculous TV show. Also I am going to need the crown sweater she wears in Episode 10 delivered to me beyond the grave, thanks.

It’s really hard to pull off a tight high ponytail with a wig, y’all, so the above is what you’re getting. Also….whoa. I look sort of like a freaky created-in-a-lab artificial woman when I really lean into the Bettyness. No wonder I eventually went Dark Betty! And then Weird Betty. I’m glad my parents didn’t name me Bett — wait, fuck! My middle name is Elizabeth. There is no escape from being a Betty when you’re born one, but both Lili Reinhart’s performance and fictional Veronica’s adoration of Betty make me love my own default setting a little more than I did before.

I love you, Betty Cooper, and I really love the self-assured raven-haired Veronicas who have helped me learn to admire myself over the course of our own real-life plot. You know who you are. Or you probably don’t, because you’re all too obliviously humble and one of you notoriously has dyed-red hair, but I know. ♥

Lastly for the purposes of this article, leastly in regard to screentime, but ULTIMATE FABULOUS FAVORITE OF EVERYONE’S HEARTS, we are now gonna discuss Ms. Josie McCoy for a minute.

In the ancient comics, Val was the only black member of the Pussycats; Josie was a pragmatic white redhead with a bob and Melody was a bodacious bubble-headed white blonde chick. In Riverdale, all three Pussycats are black, mind-blowingly talented, and GORGEOUS, but there’s only one superstar: the band’s name is historically JOSIE and the Pussycats. (That said, Val deserves her own appreciation post, full-stop.)

I suppose it’s a compliment in a way that my greatest criticism re: all three of the Pussycats is, I WANT MORE. More more more more!!! In the comics, they did their own thing that rarely overlapped with the doings of Archie and the gang, and I appreciate the way the show has blended their separate circles thus far.

On Riverdale, Val dated and dumped Archie in a heroic fashion that I hope inspires real living teen women in dealing with the unworthy boys in their own lives, and Josie?! From her “read my glossed lips, Justin Gingerlake,” I was in love, SUCH love. I was disappointed to see her sacrifice some spotlight to Archie at season’s end. It *is* his show, I guess, but here’s seriously hoping for more Jos (and speaking lines for Melody at all) in Season Two.

Of all the characters on this show, Ashleigh Murray as Josie McCoy rocks out my own current personal makeup #goals. My high school self, who preferred to wear a Veronica eye paired with a Cheryl lip, would have laughed you out of town if you’d told her that in future she’d covet pastel shimmer.

Well, old self, consider yourself played. Josie is a star, everywhere she goes, always ready for the stage. Pop of color on the eyes (so transgressive, given the neutral shadow festival on this show!), highlight, highlight, highlight on the skin, gloss on the lips, and cat-ears on the head: the Josie McCoy aesthetic. I left my Betty brows on as my own best attempt at emulating Josie’s defined arches, then added shimmery blue shadow, some bright waterline, and a rainbow of cheekbone highlight with shimmery shadows — purple, pink, and green.

Which all…just blend together in a sort of whitish glare in this supposed-to-illuminate-the-process, front-facing camera pic, but daaaaaamn did it look amazing in person! Trust. Lips: slightly darker than my own lip-shade liner, nude-for-me over inner mouth, a bright highlight in the very center, top the whole biz off with super shiny iridescent-glitter gloss.

Pipe cleaner ears (cuz girl I’m just a fan, not a Pussycat herSELF) and major accessories because have you seen Josie?! Even though my hair is busted from being squashed under three wigs in succession, I still like to imagine that Josie might shoot my homage a brief smile from center stage, if I paid for a front-row ticket.

Alright peace out y’all, this is running long and I’ve dreamed up some fanfic to write in the process. If you watch the show and want to scream about whatever went down with that sketch queen Jennifer Gibson in the first four episodes or squeal about Kevin and Joaquin (KEVIN & JOAQUIN!!!), hit me up on Twitter.


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