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Discussion in 'Behind the Lens' started by TrailerCouture, Sep 29, 2003.
Pat Mcgrath is my ultimate but Kevin was the first make-up artist that had star status in my eyes.
Kevyn He was a genius...
Kevyn was a genius
Kevyn... I just love his making faces book.
Kevyn as well for me.
I loove kevyn!!
i only know one make-up artist really
and it's pat mcgrath
but i think she's sensational!
Kevyn Aucoin was genius
Pat McGrath and Kevyn Aucoin.
Kevyn was my favorite
im goan soudns really dumb but who is kevin?
Im nto veyr familiar with make upa rtists otehr than pat mcgrath whom i lvoe
I asked Kevyn Aucoin to describe his hands. They have been everywhere, and have touched no lesser faces than those of Elizabeth Taylor, Tina Turner, Audrey Hepburn, Whitney Houston, and Isabella Rossellini, to name just a few. I said I thought his hands were like long Southern country roads, full of turns and twists. Kevyn Aucoin says he has never met anyone with bigger hands, but isn't sure about the turns and twists. "My hands really are big," he says. "I suppose I can still do so much with them because I think of myself not as a big man, but as a little kid."
Kevyn Aucoin was born on Valentine's Day 1962 in Shreveport, Louisiana, and adopted a month later by Thelma nd Isidore Aucoin of Lafayette, Louisiana. "I was the first of four children they adopted, and like every family in America," Kevyn says, and laughs, "ours had its share of dysfunction."
"But my mother was very patient and encouraged me in everything I wanted to do creatively. She never questioned my strange fascination with rearranging all our furniture every couple of days. It became just another hobby. She even let me buy a pair of lime-green patent leather penny loafers with gold buckles. I wore them to my first day of school and every day after that until they fell apart. My mom gave me a very strong feeling that I had talent - something different to offer, which later got me through some very hard times."
When he was 11, Kevyn started taking pictures of his 5-year-old sister, Carla. He knew that a major difference between his Polaroids and the photographs in books and magazines was makeup. So he searched out and found his mother's only cosmetic, a tube of orange lipstick. He applied it on Carla, and she looked changed. Entirely self-taught, he read fashion magazines and studied the work of makeup artists like Way Bandy. He "borrowed" - he still has it -Bandy's Designing Your Face from the Lafayette Public Library. "I became intrigued with the idea of transformation," he says. "I figured if I could make my little sister more beautiful, she could model and we could get some money and get out of there. If I could just make things look better, things would be better!" In a scrapbook of Polaroids he kept of the makeovers he did on Carla and their younger sister, Kim, you can see Carla, age 6, with a navy piece of stretch fabric around her standing next to a rug nailed to the wall, and, a few years later, in a disco inferno phase or done up like Brook Shields in Pretty Baby.
"At first I would just sneak my father's film but as I got older, I stole it. I went to the store and shoplifted film, records, movie magazines, and, especially, makeup…because I had no money." By the time he was 15, he had stopped shoplifting. "I realized it was wrong, and I realized I couldn't keep doing this because, God knows, in Louisiana you don't want to be a boy caught stealing a lipstick - they'll put you away for the rest of your life; they'll kill you!"
Kevyn's small hometown of Lafayette is in the heart of Cajun country. "It is a place where if you are different, they'll try and destroy you. I knew I was gay when I was about 6." It was not a pleasant revelation. As a child, he read things in newspapers, and heard people talk - in church, in school, at home - and figured, because he was gay, because he was different, that meant he would turn out to be a maniac or pervert. "Then, when I was about 12, I realized that it was all lies. I knew I would never molest children or kill anyone. I knew I was sane. It was the others who were a little crazy. My whole world said I was a bad person, but I knew I wasn't. I was luck y to recognize this so early on. I learned not to care about what anyone else said." Kevyn's best friend growing up was his cousin Jay, who, like Kevyn, was gay. Their other common bond was Barbra Streisand. "She believed in herself despite the fact that she was unconventional. I saw in her my desire to accept my own individuality. Her beauty to me, as to Jay, was so intense." In school, if Kevyn had to do an assignment, it always involved Barbra. In English class, a typical story would begin with, "Barbra and I went to the store," he laughs. "Or in math class, I would formulate problems to solve like: "I went to see A Star Is Born 21 times. If the price of a ticket is $5.00, what is the total cost to me?"
Nevertheless, things went from bad to worse to life-threatening. "At school, I would find death threats in my locker. I had rocks and bottles thrown at me. The teachers' attitude about it was, 'Well, you wouldn't get beat up if you didn't walk like that.' I was arrested because I wore a pair of purple Williwear jeans in town one day. Finally, when two teenagers tried to run me over with a truck in a field and I lost my books, I decided I was never going back to that school."
Kevyn enrolled in a Louisiana beauty school, which turned out to be a frustrating experience. Louisiana requires applicants to pass a cosmetology test in order to be licensed to do makeup, but the beauty schools only teach hairstyling. "I hoped they would show me secrets and help me to become a 'professional' makeup artist. Little did I know that in between hiding in the laundry room, so I wouldn't have to do anyone's hair, the teacher for the makeup class would be me!"
A few years later, in 1982, Kevyn met his boyfriend for the next eight years, Jed Root, now his agent, and moved to Baton Rouge. Kevyn got a job at a shop where he did women's makeup and sold skincare products. "People in Baton Rouge were not really into having their makeup done, and they freaked out that a boy sold makeup. I kept losing my jobs."
Moving to New York was never his plan until one afternoon at Godcheaux's, the premiere department store in Baton Rouge at the time. Kevyn and two friends went to the store to check out the newest makeup. They had been there about five minutes when a security guard came up to them and said, "upstairs or downtown," meaning the security room in the store or police headquarters. Fearing they would be killed at the police station, they opted for "upstairs." There they were stripped, beaten, photographed, and eventually dragged out of the store.
"The police investigation consisted of the officer staring at me for a very long time after I told him what had happened at Godcheaux's. He then picked up the phone and called the man I had just accused, after which he put down the receiver, told me the other officer had denied it, and asked me to leave. I did everything I could after that, but the lawyers said there was no way they could ever win our case. I had thought Baton Rouge would be better, but it was still the South and I realized that I had better get out of there if I was going to survive."
Jed and Kevyn sold Jed's red Volkswagen beetle to Kevyn's parents for $1,500 and moved to New York in January 1983. They lived that winter in a walkup apartment without heat. "Get out the violins, honey, we ate every other day, and would break the frozen toilet water with a spoon," he recalls. "We got thrown out on my birthday in a blizzard - look it up; there was a huge blizzard that year on my birthday."
Eventually, they found an apartment in Hell's Kitchen. Kevyn spent his days doing test makeup on models for free, hoping for his big break. Jed helped him on all his shoots. They often worked 16-hour days.
"The Ford Agency was the most supportive," he remembers. One day, the model Paulina Porizkova was at a studio where he was testing, and she agreed to let Kevyn do her makeup. The pictures went right into his book. He lost 25 pounds that winter waiting for his fortunes to turn. He made a few dollars painting women for what he later found out were X-rated shots. One day he accompanied a model friend on her "go-see" at the Vogue offices. The assistant to the beauty editor asked to see his book. She liked what she saw, and showed his book to her boss. He remembers being told that his work had promise, and they would like to see his book a few months down the road when he had more to show. "I walked out and cried," he says. "I thought that they were just being nice to me, that I had blown it."
Some three months later, and eight months after arriving in New York, Kevyn happened to answer the telephone at a testing photographer's studio. It was the assistant to the beauty editor at Vogue. "Oh, my God, we've been looking for you," she said. "We want to see your book again, can you bring it back?"
He figured she was kidding, but just in case, he decided he'd better get himself an agent. "So Jed and I went to the Salvation Army and bought him the best suit, even though it had moth holes, and he wore it to Vogue pretending to be my agent. He left my book, and the next day they called and said, 'We'd like to book you for Vogue with Steven Meisel and Meg Tilly.'"
Such are the vagaries of the fashion magazine business that sometimes even the best work does not appear. But Kevyn's pictures ran. Not only that, Kevyn worked with Steven Meisel nearly every day for the next year and a half. "What I really have to credit Steven with is not trying to make me into someone else; he did not decide what I should be. He helped me to see things for myself. He would say, 'hmm, I think the eyes need to be stronger,' and then I would look at what he was looking at, and I would see the dress, the lighting, and the balance. Balance doesn't mean that everything has to be even. It just means that it all has to work in a certain way. It has to have an edge, it has to be beautiful, and classical on some level too. That is what Steven's pictures are like: they are beautiful, they are very modern, but they hold up over the years. He always finds the new edge to something but brings along something old to anchor it."
Kevyn worked, in 1986, with the formidable sittings editor Polly Mellen. She arranged for Kevyn to do his first cover shoot with Richard Avedon. A few days later he was booked to do another cover. "There was a new girl with a mole. It was the first time I met Cindy Crawford," he remembers.
Over the next three years, Kevyn did the makeup for eighteen American Vogue covers. At one point, 1987-88, he did nine Vogue covers in a row, and seven Cosmopolitan covers as well. "A monumental moment in my career," he says, and laughs. Kevyn earned only $200 for each Vogue cover. Editorial work doesn't make you rich. "You do it," he explains, "in order to get commercial work like cosmetics and fashion ads, music videos, CD covers, and publicity shoots. That's how you make a living."
Kevyn's a long way now from Lafayette, Louisiana. Once shunned for being "odd," he is now in demand 24 hours a day because, in the sophisticated world of style, he is considered uniquely talented. He keeps company with some fast paced people, but he is surprisingly unlike them. They ran away from home to chase their dreams of glamour; Kevyn Aucoin likes to go home with his.
Kevyn's family eventually came around not only to accepting but to actively supporting him. Thelma and Isidore Aucoin would found the first Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (P-FLAG) chapter in Lafayette and spent seven years as Southern Regional Directors for the group. "They realized that because my civil rights are not assured even in this, the greatest democracy on earth, that, as my parents, they had to fight for them, and they did: through countless newspaper articles, on television, at the Louisiana State Senate, even in Congress. But, most importantly, they have helped a lot of gay teenagers who were on the brink of suicide. By counseling these kids, by talking them out of their despair, my parents have literally saved many, many lives."
Kevyn began searching for his birth parents the day he left Lafayette. The process seemed hopeless. He wanted to find them "not because I wasn't happy with my adoptive parents, because I adore them, but a part of me was missing. I didn't know where I came from or who I looked like."
The breakthrough came in 1992, when a friend of Kevyn's hooked him up with someone who calls himself "the searcher." Within 24 hours, Kevyn knew his birth mother was alive, and one evening less than a week later, he found himself home alone with her name and phone number on a slip of paper.
He dialed the phone and hung up. He dialed again, and hung up again, terrified that Nelda Mae Williams of Atlanta, Louisiana, would not talk to him. He dialed again, and a woman answered the phone. "Hello, may I speak to Nelda Mae Williams?" Kevyn asked. "This is she," a voice answered. "My name is Kevyn Aucoin and I am calling regarding a matter that is very personal. Is this a good time to talk?" "Yes," she said. But Kevyn could not find the words. Then he heard her crying. "Oh my God," Nelda Mae Williams said, "I think I know who you are. Is it you?" "Yes, it's me," Kevyn answered.
They talked again the next night. He told her his photograph was in the current issue of Cosmopolitan, so she could, if she wanted, see what he looked like. She sent him pictures of herself and of his half brothers, coincidentally named Kevin and Keith (Kevyn's adopted brother is also called Keith). They met a few weeks later. That Christmas, Kevyn met his birth father, Jerry Burch. The prospect of meeting his son so daunted Mr. Burch - a strict Pentecostal Christian - that he broke his leg in three places (he was sawing wood and thinking about the son he had never met and suddenly the log went flying). When they did meet, Kevyn discovered not only that he looks a lot like his father but also that he has two half sisters, Jeanna and Christy.
With his makeup and brushes, Kevyn is an alchemist. He helps creatures of reinvention transform themselves. His favorites are the performers who inspire transformations in others, namely their fans, and for Kevyn, too. He says he can pledge his life's work 24 hours a day to the leading ladies who have given him so much: women like Barbra Streisand, whose belief in themselves made him believe that he, too, could succeed. For Kevyn and his cousin Jay, Streisand symbolized real beauty because down South "she was not considered beautiful because she wasn't a Barbie doll." Jay later became a hairdresser in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where he had a boyfriend for 17 years. When Kevyn moved to New York, he often telephoned Jay, but Jay's boyfriend did not encourage Jay to visit Kevyn. "He was scared that I would keep him here." Years of Louisiana-style homophobia did little for Jay's spirit, nor did it encourage new dreams. He finally did visit Kevyn in New York, and "we had a wonderful time together. That's when he told me that he had AIDS and was not well. Jay was so beaten down his whole life and, unlike me, never learned to fight back. His diagnosis, as devastating and horrible as it was, represented to him an escape from all the pain. He died very quickly."
A year after Jay's death, Kevyn was booked to work with Barbra Streisand. His excitement at this invitation was not only "because I finally got to work with Barbra, but also because a dream had come true, a dream I shared with someone when we were just little kids, a dream I shared with someone that had helped me survive. I kept thinking how different out lives might have been had we known early on that anything was possible, if someone had just told us that."
That anything is possible is the message of Kevyn Aucoin's success. Possibility, if you will, in all its rainbow shades and contours, is the real foundation of his remarkable career in the pixie-dust makeup artistry business.
A few pics...
With Tori Amos
He and his boyfriend...erhm..ex boyfriend, he passed away
The Art of makeup
Face forward, my favorite
They launched a new book, but I cant find anything about it...
thank you very much veyr intrestings tory, i rember seeing his face before.
that was very sweet of you to post, Alejandro
Thanks TGP, I love Kevyn
me too-it is nice to get a little reminder of him and all he believed in after a long yucky day. thanks
Kevyn, Kevyn, Kevyn!!! B) He rocked the make up world! Pat McGrath is super, but he was the master in this case...
It's in many senses thanks to him that there are Pat McGraths now...