Gothic Icon: Akasha

Queen of the Damned may not be an objectively good movie. It is definitely not a good adaptation of Anne Rice's book. But it did contribute something very important to goth culture: the image of Aaliyah as the vampire queen Akasha.

In the world of the Vampire Chronicles, Akasha is known as the first vampire, mother of the entire race of bloodsucking immortals. She had been an ancient Egyptian queen who ruled beside her fellow vampire king, Enkil. The two slept for thousands of years, but Lestat awakens Akasha with the sound of his music. Inspired by Lestat's boldness, Akasha decides that she wants to live openly as a vampire in the world and will kill any humans or other vampires that get in her way. As the oldest and strongest of the vampires, with godlike powers such as the ability to fly and to ignite fires with her mind, Akasha is a force to be reckoned with.

In the film, Akasha is portrayed by the R&B artist Aaliyah, in her final role before her tragic death in a plane crash in 2001. Aaliyah brought a powerful elegance and sensuality to the role, exemplified by the dance scene in the Admiral's Arms, in which she undulates to the song "System," sung by Chester Bennington, before massacring the dozen other vampires in the bar.

One of the most important things about Akasha is that she contradicts the myth of the exclusively white, pale-skinned vampire. In Queen of the Damned, not only do vampires come in all skin tones, but the most powerful of them all is portrayed by a black woman. Though a villain in the film, Akasha is nonetheless its most iconic character, and her alluring looks have won over the hearts of many fans.

Akasha's style is inspired by her backstory of Egyptian origins. Her makeup is done in the fashion associated with Cleopatra, with trailing eyeliner that extends in a parallel line with the end of her brow. Her outfits are skimpy but bedecked in jewels that signal her status as queen. For her most iconic scenes, Akasha wears an elaborate metal headdress with a matching collar necklace and a reality-defying metal bra. The rest of her outfit is like a goth-ified Cleopatra costume, with a belted skirt and flowing sleeves attached to metal arm bands, all in black. In fact, her wardrobe throughout the film seems to consist of the colors black, red, white, and various metals. And of course, we can't forget the fangs.

The character of Akasha strengthened an already pre-existing link between goth fashion and Egyptian imagery. This connection has a complicated and at times messy history, going back to the Egyptomania of the Victorians and the haphazard absorption of other cultures and their symbols by early occult groups. Given that most of what we known about the ancient Egyptians comes from their heavy focus on death and the afterlife, it's no wonder that this civilization would appeal to both goths and the authors of vampire stories. And in the end, Cleopatra's eye makeup is just undeniably a great look.

 Akasha is a particularly important gothic icon for women of color to see themselves represented in the goth style. Anyone can be a vampire! And anyone can be a goth! Just lay on that eyeliner, pop in those fangs, and channel your inner royalty.

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