Vampires have an excellent PR agent. They’re being thirsted after in Baldur’s Gate 3, they have us watching Twilight again on TikTok, and even Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer is getting a second shot at fame with a new audio series. It’s undeniable: Vampires are in again, even while the lore surrounding them is still complex and at times contested.
Does their skin sparkle sexily in the sun or turn to ash? Can they cross moving water? Are their fangs permanently on display? What we can all agree on, however, is that vampires, whether they’re hot, grotesque, or living on Staten Island, drink blood. Queen Regent of Pop Rock Olivia Rodrigo bit down on the pulse of culture when she released her single “Vampire” over the summer, crooning about bloodsuckers, and K-pop group ENHYPEN’s cinematic release of the concept album Dark Blood pulled no punches, inviting listeners to remember one thing: “Bite me.” Nowhere is the influence of vampires now more evident than in celebrity culture and its obsession with youth, glamour, sex, and, of course, blood.
Even though it’s been over a century since Bram Stoker published Dracula, the vampire myth lives on in innumerable cultural adaptations, remixes, and interpretations in films, video games, television shows, and books. But where vampires are most alive and scarily closest to reality is in the sphere of celebrity. Core components of vampire lore — eternal youth, aristocratic glamour, and of course, a kind of dark sexiness — are still haunting us, but this time in Hollywood. To begin with this serious pop culture inquiry of celebrity bloodsucking, one must start at Kim Kardashian’s infamous “vampire facial” way back in 2013, immortalized forever on Instagram. The post has been lodged in my millennial-Gen Z-cusp brain for over a decade. The silent generation might have had sexy-scary Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula, but we have Kim.
If the words “Kim Kardashian vampire facial” mean little to you, allow me to tell you a tale. Kim, to promote the E! spinoff series Kourtney and Kim Take Miami, snapped a shot of herself receiving a vampire facial — smiling coyly at the camera with her perfectly sculpted face covered in blood. Vampire facials are not far off from Bioré pore strips, except, well, it’s blood. A vampire facial involves a microdermabrasion of the skin followed by a blood draw, then an application of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) slathered back onto the skin for absorption. All this to keep the skin smooth and youthful, just like our good-looking undead friends. Price tag? Between $1,000 and $2,000. And if you want to spring for the more intense vampire face lift where you get to inject your own blood, that’ll run you about $3,000.
Kim Kardashian, like any celebrity, is no stranger to bizarre beauty treatments, but the extreme action of harvesting one’s own blood to reabsorb it in pursuit of better skin captures a key aspect of the vampire myth — eternal youth — that is central to our understanding of contemporary vampires. There’s a disturbing overlap between the vampiric embodiment of immortality and our own obsessive desire for youthfulness, which we pursue through skincare, makeup, or even surgery-adjacent techniques, like the vampire facial. This is no surprise if you’re a person with a smartphone, given the explosion of facial editing apps and even bespoke plastic surgery procedures all to achieve the much sought-after “Instagram face.”
Where once in fiction and film vampires were distinguished by sallow skin and bloodied mouths, today a vampiric look involves being both smoking hot and rich. Even Vogue is in on the trend, lavishing praise on Olivia Rodrigo’s style by calling her new look “positively vampiric.” Our modern vampires have washboard abs or a perfect no-makeup makeup look. Those without million-dollar incomes might not be able to spring for a vampire facial, but anyone aspiring to Undead Chic can get close through trends like “vampire skin” tutorials now proliferating on TikTok. First popularized by influencer August Sombatkamrai, the glowy complexion is achieved by mixing foundation with glitter eyeshadow and applying liberally to the skin. Kim might now regret her facial, but it’s instances like these that show how many celebrities will take any bloody means necessary to achieve everlasting beauty and power. In this case, it’s the dark powers you get with an increased follower count rather than turning into a bat or swirling cloud of mist.
Smearing blood on your face, though, that’s vampire-spawn energy. Other folks, like Bryan Johnson, reported billionaire and biotech entrepreneur, are veering toward full-blown vampire. Johnson, one of the many vocal rich guys on X (formerly known as Twitter), recently performed a transgenerational blood infusion between himself, his 17-year-old son, and his 70-year-old father, in pursuit of eternal youth. The process involved taking a liter of blood from his son — which, to give you a mental image, is a little more than a trenta Starbucks iced pumpkin spice latte — and injecting it into himself. This blood-swapping practice has been around for ages, but the latest iteration is part and parcel of Johnson’s $2-million-per-year self-care routine that he describes as designed to “reverse the aging process” by mainlining “young blood.” This is not Johnson quoting Bram Stoker, to be clear.
And while Johnson’s bloodsucking habits connect to our larger cultural fixation with youth, the backlash he received also connects to another historic part of vampire lore: their representation of wealthy glamour. If we remember all the way back to Stoker, Count Dracula’s first order of business was to go apartment shopping in London — typical rich guy behavior. And what about the Cullens’ ultra-modern house in Forks populated with how many luxury cars, exactly? Affording that house on Carlisle’s single salary is harder for me to believe than vampires actually existing. As a culture, we can’t help it; we love to both revile and “glamorize the bourgeois wealth and power of the vampire lifestyle,” or the lifestyles of celebrities.
Vampires today aren’t only known for being rich and hot, they’re also known for being horny. What else is there to do if you’re undead? Play pickleball? Some of the most outrageous examples of celebrity bloodsucking aren’t dressed up with the clinical language of infusions and platelet counts — they’re shocking instances of celebrities drinking each other’s blood in a dramatic show of romantic possession. After all, vampires and sex have been “bedfellows” long before Brad Pitt, Robert Pattinson, or even Bela Lugosi wandered onto our screens playing the part of bloodsuckers.
We’ve probably all forgotten about Angelina Jolie’s marriage to Billy Bob Thornton, but I assure you, once upon a time they strolled around red carpets wearing vials of each other’s blood because they were so in love. Later in life, Jolie fondly recalled engaging in knife play with another boyfriend where they had an “exchange of something” and “were covered in blood,” illustrating the endurance of the literal celebrity blood fetish. And like all beloved Y2K trends, sexy blood play has had a big comeback. Rapper Machine Gun Kelly and actress Megan Fox, star of the underappreciated teen horror flick Jennifer’s Body, which features some delightful literal bloodlust by a demon-possessed teenage girl played by Fox, went beyond cute little vials and drank each other’s blood for “ritual purposes.”
Vampires might be mythic figures, but they’re also mirrors reflecting our own cultural anxieties, predilections, and beliefs back to us. Today, we’ve come a long way from the original Count Dracula, and we’ve also moved between other vampiric iterations — the darkly charming Damon in Vampire Diaries, Edward Cullen with his sparkly skin, and Jasper the Confederate vampire soldier from Twilight (truly for the best). Today, the most recognizable bloodsuckers aren’t lingering in musty European castles; they’re more likely to be found in the extravagant mansions of the Hollywood Hills or coastal penthouses. After all, whenever the century or wherever the place, “vampires go where power is.”
And our own celebs, fictional and otherwise, have taken a page from these creatures of the night. Twilight, after all, served as the inspiration for E.L. James’ souped-up fanfic that eventually transformed into the 50 Shades of Grey series, featuring sexy, damaged billionaire Christian Grey. Blood drinking might not have been in Christian’s BDSM repertoire, but with his wealth and tendency to only hit up Anastasia in the dark hours of the night, he played the part of vampire pretty well.
Our vampires today have skin smooth as glass or perky vampire breasts (yes, in addition to getting a vampire facelift, you can get a vampire breast lift to give you the perfect tits of the undead!). They don’t deal with the messy realities of stalking their prey; they pay for it, performing blood infusions at medi-spas and posting #sponcon on social media. And these fundamental elements of vampire lore — eternal youth, rarified glamour, and dark sensuality — aren’t just metaphorically on full display in today’s social media-driven celebrity culture, they involve literal bloodsucking. Olivia tried to warn us after all: “Bloodsucker, fame fucker / Bleedin’ me dry like a goddamn vampire.”