Marilyn Manson Is Completely Unrecognizable In Real Life

If folks came across Marylin Manson for the first time nowadays, they might be forgiven for thinking that he's always looked like someone's glammed-up aunt poking through perfume at the local mall. In the '90s and early '00s, however, Manson made a very different first impression. Some folks thought he was horrifying, with his macabre, tattered, goth-industrial aesthetic, creepy contact lenses, craggy voice, and lots of big, toothy grins on stage. Others thought he was laughable. Yet others howled the standard "Satan! Satan!" declared of everyone from Alice Cooper to Elvis Presley.   

Of course, there's always been a man under the mask and makeup (and sometimes wig) of Marylin Manson — a man born Brian Warner. Early childhood photos of Warner show a cute, bright-eyed kid with a bowl haircut. Teenage photos show a young man with a mullet who wouldn't have looked out place in a part-time job at RadioShack. Nowadays, Manson looks like anyone you might pass in the street and not notice — at least without makeup, outfits, jewelry, etc. 

That being said, Manson is also one of those chameleonic people who looks completely different depending on hair style, facial hair, clothes, pose, and such. In some photos, he even resembles the edgelord of yore. But no matter what, you'd have difficulty connecting Brian Warner, the person, to Marylin Manson, the character, if you saw him in real life.  

Sweet dreams were made of lipstick

If not for Marilyn Manson's carefully crafted public image and make-up-heavy persona, we wouldn't be talking about how different he looks in real life. That persona, he said in 2015 interview with The Fader, started in early childhood. Manson said that his mother used to put lipstick on him and dress him up. "I have one weird picture of me as a toddler with an unlit cigarette in my mouth, wearing her blonde wig and a diaper, sitting on the couch," he said. "Wonder how I ended up here." 

Makeup, he explains, was one part lifelong fascination with the visual arts and one part "hiding something." He experimented with makeup on his own as a teenager, particular in unconventional ways like putting it on his teeth. He didn't have any insecurities about his appearance, he says, but rather wanted to use makeup to "look worse." At an early performance someone threw a beer bottle at him and it cut his chest; he just smeared the blood on his lips and rolled with it. Later on he took influence from makeup used by morticians, particularly in instances of asymmetry where one part of a body had suffered some injury or deformity.

Manson's preoccupations worked to not only buoy his early career, but obscure his features. Even by the time we get to his infamous, assless chaps-filled MTV Music Video Awards performance in 1997 — two years after "Sweet Dreams" blew up on MTV — no one really knew what he looked like.

Different phases of faces

It's a little difficult to say whether or not Marilyn Manson looks so different without makeup and costume because folks are just used to seeing him in character, or if he actually looks super different in general. By now there are plenty of articles and photos of a makeup-less Manson milling around online, and footage of him in places like LAX and in court. He's also been makeup-less in movies like 2007's "Rise: Blood Hunter" and on TV in shows like "Sons of Anarchy" and "Eastbound and Down." That last entry — seen above — might be the most unsettling, even veering into uncanny valley territory. Manson not only doesn't have his makeup on, but his hair is brown and wavy. He's almost completely unrecognizable even if you watch him knowing that it's him.

To compound matters, Manson's gone through many, many aesthetic phases over his 11 studio albums. We've already dwelled on his early, goth-industrial look circa the mid-90s, complete with a lack of eyebrows. The late '90s saw him play around with androgyny and/or ostensibly feminine appearances (the cover for 1998's "Mechanical Animals" comes to mind) before he dipped his face in glam. Then goth again in the early '00s, then glam again, and then a sort of pared-down, business-chic thing with a choppy haircut starting around 2015's "Pale Emperor." That's roughly where he's stayed since then. Like we said: He's a chameleon. Manson might be easier to spot in a crowd now than in the past, thanks to less makeup and a less shocking appearance, overall — but only a bit.