Maintaining the title of Queen of Halloween is something Heidi Klum takes seriously.
For more than 20 years, she's been holding her annual party and arriving — via gurney, onion cart, smoke cloud or biohazard truck — in costumes that take more than half the day to put on her body. That's in addition to the months that went into conceiving them. The model and TV judge, 49, has taken weeks of dance lessons to nail an entrance. She's hyperventilated under prosthetics and had restroom malfunctions. She has "a guy" just to help with tricky costume contact lenses. And once it's over, it's many more hours of "chiseling" everything off.
"I don't know why I always do this to myself," Klum tells Yahoo Entertainment with a smile, ahead of her first Halloween party since the pandemic, "but I just love the outcome and I love the art side of it. So I always go through it, over and over again."
Besides, she says, "I love being the host. I love seeing all my friends. I have friends coming from all over the world to the party," happening this year on Monday night in NYC. "People are really enthusiastic — and that's what I love … I'm always like: 'Bring it on. Show me what you got.' … When people come with outrageous costumes, that makes me happy." And her over-the-top looks set the tone. "Being the host, I have to be so outrageous … so people feel like, 'OK, now I can really go for it too.'"
The America's Got Talent judge has spent 14 and 15 hours in the makeup chair on Halloween perfecting her look before a party, explaining, "We start very early because there's no dress rehearsal. Things can go wrong. So I always leave myself enough time. And even though I start super early, sometimes I'm still very late because we weren't ready. I will not leave and hit that red carpet if it's not, in my eyes, perfect."
Klum's costume this year is... a creepy life-sized worm. Yes, she's under here. See her face?
"I really thought so hard after a two-year hiatus … to come up with something outside the box," she says of the look, which involved lots of prosthetics. "Plus, I'm always looking for unusual things."
Totally extra — extraterrestrial
It was hard to top her past looks — like being a totally out-of-this-world alien in 2019.
"I had tubes coming out of my nipples and things coming out of my head," she laughs. "I just wanted it to be really weird."
One of the most fun parts of creating the look was that she and Mike Marino, the movie make-up artist who she's been collaborating with for several years, brought the public into the prep experience with Klum getting ready in a New York City storefront. Starting with a fresh face and body, "people could see in the duration of 14 hours how all these prosthetic pieces were put on me," she says.
While the results were incredible, from tip to toe, "That was also a very claustrophobic costume," she admits. "Every part of my body was covered with prosthetics and paint and whatnot. And you cannot just rip this off... I can't get this off. Sometimes you have those moments like: 'Oh my God, what am I doing?!' And I'm hyperventilating. Plus, I also have contact lenses in, which for me is probably one of the hardest things" about the costumes.
Who Framed … Kim Kardashian?
Sharing teases with her fans is a big part of the fun. However, in 2015, when she was Jessica Rabbit, people guessed she was a certain reality star.
"I always like to show little pieces here and there," says Klum, who first teased this year's costume in June. "As soon as they saw my big butt and boobs, they were like: 'Oh my God, she's Kim Kardashian' and I was like, 'No, not quite.'"
She loved turning into the fictional cartoon character, whom she calls "the ultimate sex symbol," and bringing the va-va-voom. But could she see with those crazy eyelids? Yes, but the look in general "was not easy," she says. They made an imprint of her face for the prosthetics while her eyes were open because she needed her real eyelids to be able to blink beneath the oversize and dramatic faux ones. But the hard work was really for Marino, not her, who has decades of modeling experience. "I just sit there — and I'm just there for the ride," she smiles.
For the howl of it
Becoming the werewolf from "Thriller" in 2017 was another masterpiece, but the costume was only one part. The other was arriving at the party in a smoke cloud and doing Michael Jackson's dance, with 15 backup dancers, on the way into the big bash.
"I love to have, like, a fun entrance," she says, and making it the "whole package" was learning the dance, too. "I don't know how many weekends of lessons [I took] for them to teach me the dance. I was like: If I do the 'Thriller' dance, I have to really know how to do it. I didn't wanna mess up."
The night of, it all came together. "When we got there, we had smoke in the streets of Manhattan and we all came dancing down the street … Then I ripped my shirt open and I had this big breast plate. Mine were all tied back and squished and I had this werewolf chest with hair and I loved it."
And like the other prosthetic-heavy costumes, "My face was fully moving. It was not just … a mask and that's it. Every little piece was perfectly placed."
And, again, special contact lenses were needed. "I actually have a guy with me in the night that comes to take them out," she laughs, "because also I have these long [nails. And] anything in my eyes I have a hard time with."
At the end of the day this was a fave among her looks because, "I thought, no one will expect for me to come as the "Thriller" werewolf … because I'm blonde, and … I thought, that's just really something very different."
Klum was so into Halloween by 2011 that she had parties in two cities with two costumes.
"I had just met Bill Corso, another amazing makeup artist, and he had worked on the Planet of the Apes," which came out the same year, Klum explains. "Ding — lightbulbs went on. I was like: I wanna be like that, too."
"What I remember was we didn't really think about, you know, going to the bathroom," says Klum whose then-husband Seal was also aped out. "So it was very tricky. We left a zip, zippity zip zip there for me, but then with all that hair, it was messy. Let's just say it was messy. It was very messy."
Messy — but cozy. Despite the potty problem, "It was very comfortable," she says, explaining how all the hair was cut and glued on, bit by bit. "It was just amazing how they did it, but, yes, it was the people who actually did Planet of the Apes."
Body of work
The other look that year was inspired by Body Worlds, a traveling expo of dissected and preserved human bodies. She arrived at the party on a gurney.
The creator of that exhibit, Gunther von Hagens, whom Klum had done a TV show appearance with, "takes the skin off and shows what a human body — or different animals — look like" underneath, she explains. "I was like, 'I wanna do that. I wanna [see] what I look like with all that peeled off.' Then I thought it would be fun to arrive on a gurney."
Klum was rolled in by two men playing doctors who were spattered with fake blood.
"I was just laying there and they took the sheet off of me and I was … milking it," she says. "The teeth were really weird, I had contact lenses in again, and [the rest was] all hand-painted."
And accurate. They had a photo of the human body they modeled it after, putting muscles and veins exactly where they were supposed to go. "So, again, all kudos to the artists that did this. It's one thing to have a fun idea, but you need to have the amazing hands that can actually then make it come to life."
Seeing the future
Klum was a senior citizen version of herself in 2013 — and faced criticism for it, despite having good intentions.
"I was turning 40 and people were like, 'Oh, now you're 40, you probably should hang up your modeling gigs," she remembers. "I was like, 'Old? I'm gonna show you old.' That's how I thought of turning myself into an older me."
She continued, "Some people got upset that maybe I was making fun of older people, but I was just [looking] into my future … I wanted see what I might look like when I'm like in my 80s or whatever."
The process involved prosthetics, painting on age spots and, again, the dreaded contact lenses.
"When you get older, you have little yellow spots in your eyes, the neck, the breast," so the artist created that down to "every knuckle on my hands, because it's all about the detail. So many different kinds of spots — pink spots, brown spots, bigger spots." She adds, "And I have to say: They are starting for real already."
It again took many hours — 14 to 15, like the others — to also change her hair to white, age her teeth, give her a hump on her back. "And I found this beautiful old Chanel costume that I wanted to wear because I wanted to be old and very chic," she says.
Klum says many, many people work on her at once to perfect a look — and she's been told they love how game she is for everything. "'Only you let us do this crazy stuff,'" she says they tell her, noting that they do makeup for movies and the actresses often "don't wanna go through so many hours" in a makeup chair. "So they're always appreciative that they can show their art on me. That I'm their canvas and they can do all the tricks and things that they love to do. And I love being their canvas."
Ogre the top
In 2018, transforming into Princess Fiona the ogre, with then-boyfriend and now-husband Tom Kaulitz as Shrek, was all about love.
"Fiona and Shrek was a dream of mine to do for many, many years, and I never really found my Shrek," she says. "That was always the problem. You need to have a man that is OK to go through all of that, because it is a lot to go through."
She notes that her costumes are more complicated than others, explaining, "It's not like Disneyland, where [characters] put the belly on, a shirt over it and take an entire head and stick it on … It's not a mask and you only see eyes blinking in a hole and a mouth to breathe … There are many pieces that they glue on. Every piece moves. It's so incredible what they've done."
How did the rocker fare? The Shrek costume "was so heavy and my husband is petite. He's not a big buff man … So he was like: 'Oh my God, this is boiling hot and it's heavy.' But he was such a good sport."
On top of that, they arrived at the party in an onion cart — a nod to the movie — which was difficult to procure in Manhattan. But "it was my dream to, with my husband, drive through Manhattan with this onion cart that also Fiona and Shrek were in in the movie. It all happened, it all came to life, and I just loved it."
How she became the Queen of Halloween
Klum held her first Halloween party in 2000. The Germany-born star said the idea was born after she moved to Manhattan and found that, while the city never sleeps, its Halloween felt a little dull.
"I was like, 'How come there is no big Halloween party?'" she recalls. "I couldn't really find anyone who took it seriously or really dress[ed] up … They'd put a red nose on or some funny wig [and] call it a day. I was like, 'Really? This is New York City. Someone needs to have this party.'"
So she stepped up — imposing her infamous no "costume, no entry" rule. "I was like, 'I'm gonna make the biggest Halloween party, and if people are not dressed up, they aren't going to come in,'" she says. "So that's kind of how it started."
She says that the party takes place in NYC because New Yorkers party harder and stay up later than in certain other cities.
"I did the party once in Los Angeles, and after going through hair and makeup and all of that stuff and arriving, people, at like 10 o'clock, 11 o'clock, [were like], 'Oh, it was so nice … What a lovely party. We have to go to sleep.' And I'm like, 'Wait, what?'" she laughs. "I was like, I can't do it here, guys. New York is really more up my speed because they're up all night … No one even shows up until 10, 12, 1 o'clock in the morning and they stay until the cleaning crew is like sweeping them out. So I love doing it in New York City."
After two years off for the pandemic, during which she made mini horror movies that she posted on social media (which she says took more work than throwing her party), it's going to be big this year. "Now that we can all go out again, have a good time again and see all friends, we're back on and having a big party," she says.
Klum's bash will take place at Tao Group Hospitality’s soon-to-be open Sake No Hana at Moxy Lower East Side Hotel. It's presented by Now Screaming x Prime Video and Baileys Irish Cream Liqueur. Partygoers will dance to a DJ set by Questlove, and the guest list, so far, includes her daughter Leni Klum as well as Bebe Rexha, Christian Siriano, Delilah Belle Hamlin, Heather Graham, Ice-T and Coco and Martha Hunt.
After the party's over?
So we all know what Klum does on Halloween night, but how about the day after? Well, for one, she starts thinking about next year's outfit. Yes, that far in advance. But first, it's off with the old — and that can take hours.
The prosthetics "are specially-made pieces — and they're also quite expensive — [but] once they're done, they're done. They go in the garbage," she says. "Because when they take them off, they're literally like chiseling them off and ripping a piece, putting [on] some more solution and chiseling away, getting the stuff off. It's not just makeup remover and, boom, off it goes. It takes hours and lots and lots of people afterwards to take this off. It's not a pretty sight."
After that, well, it's "sleeping, sleeping and more sleeping," she says, "because I am one of those people [at my party] that gets swept out at the end."
— Video edited by Leese Katsnelson