Style Icons: Maila Nurmi (Vampira)

STYLE ICON: Maila Nurmi (Vampira)

The concept of the horror host was born in the 1950s, when Screen Gems released a package of old scary movies to be syndicated on US television, encouraging the idea of employing hosts to introduce each feature. Many of them were simply members of the studio staff, but some became Hollywood legends.

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Maila Nurmi was the first of these media personalities, initially working as an actress (and hat-check girl on Hollywood Boulevard). In 1953, she attended a party in a costume inspired by Morticia Addams from Charles Addams’ original comic strip. Her outfit caught the attention of television producer Hunt Stromberg, Jr., who eventually hired her to host her own show. The name, ‘Vampira,’ was suggested by her husband at the time.

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Both Vampira’s look and characterization broke boundaries. Her deadpan wit and sex appeal endeared her to viewers and heralded a new subculture. Maila herself was a trailblazer in personal style (although she was forced to shave her head after her hair was burned in a salon, she wore the result with nonchalance), and retained a unique glamour right up until her death in 2008. Channel her subversive charm with dramatic eyebrows, claw-like nails and dangerous necklines.

Words: Sam Handley