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Bringing the Day of the Dead to Life

A Watsonville woman's artistry with makeup is award winning, but her passion for Dia de Los Muertos is more than skin deep.

In talking about Halloween and Dia de los Muertos, Bly Olivia Morales shares several facts in quick succession:

Halloween is her favorite holiday.

She has a thing for skeletons.

Makeup is like art to her.

Knowing this, it makes sense that Morales was crowned the winner of Pachuca Cosmetics Day of the Dead Makeup Competition last weekend in San Jose.

Morales, a mother of three, Watsonville resident and part of the promotions team that has made Second Harvest Food Bank and Grind Out Hunger household names in Santa Cruz County, can also paint intricate designs on tiny sugar skulls and never allows her children to wear store-bought Halloween costumes.

A self-described perfectionist, Morales learned how to create the skeleton Day of the Dead look with makeup by practicing on herself. She did her parents' makeup for Halloween last year (her dad is 75) and rouses her kids before dawn to get them ready for the holiday.

"It's no joke at my house," Morales says of Halloween with her children. "I get them up at 5 a.m. but they're like the rockstars of school."

She discovered the Pachuca contest the way news travels these days—Facebook—and made it through a preliminary round online by submitting a photo of her son's makeup last year. As one of the final five contestants, Morales had to do the makeup live and in front of an audience, whose members were the judges of the competition.

Morales' niece, Jessica Guerrero, modeled for her. Guerrero had been a canvas for Morales in the past. Last year, she got her face painted like a rag doll for Halloween, which took about an hour. The competition, in contrast, lasted three hours and people were constantly watching her.

"It was fun," Guerrero says, smiling and adding that she has no desire to be famous now.

Over coffee on a recent morning, Morales explains her love of Halloween and Dia de los Muertos while a Day of the Dead purse hangs from her chair and sparkly skull earrings—part of her winnings from Pachuca Cosmetics—dangle from her ears.

First, she says, Halloween is for the kids.

The following day, Nov. 1, the Day of the Dead is for the whole family and community.

"It's basically welcoming back the spirits," Morales said.

Her mother taught her the traditions of Dia de los Muertos, but the day took on special meaning for Morales three years when her brother died.

"I like the idea of honoring the dead and celebrating their lives," Morales says.

The altar the family builds at home follows certain traditions: there are three levels, a bowl of water so the spirits can wash their hands when the come back, toys for the children, the spirits' favorite foods, photos of relatives, friends and animals that have passed are displayed.

Living relatives paint their faces "to make the spirits feel welcome, so they're not out of place," Morales explains.

She will teach this to her younger son's first grade class at Bradley Elementary School in Corralitos later this month, and also at Juvenile Hall in Felton.

Morales also is taking appointments to do Halloween and Day of the Dead makeup. Contact her at bly79@yahoo.com for availability.

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Genevieve Diamond October 18, 2012 at 07:52 PM
I am so proud of you sister not only for your talents but again honoring the traditions of our family and what mom & dad taught us! You ROCK!
Watzon McWats October 18, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Bly is the coolest! Rock on. Stoked to see your skills got some news coverage.
G Nutter October 18, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Her passion for life and the arts should be a lesson for all of our youth today. Her work and dedication is but one of the paths to self-respect and discipline.

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