In the world of legendary makeup artists, we have a few names that simply inspire gasps and nods of awe and approval when their names are invoked. For many in the fashion, beauty and entertainment industry, the name Kevyn Aucoin is more than worthy of that kind of response.
Kevyn Aucoin raised the “artist” in the title Makeup Artist to a level of gallery show-worthy proportions, using makeup in a manner that made every single face he touched a flawless, beautiful work of art. Born in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1962, he moved to New York in 1982 and was soon discovered by Vogue after working on test models to build his portfolio. He did countless covers for the magazine partnered with legendary photographer Steven Meisel. A cover shoot with Cindy Crawford in 1986 took his career into the stratosphere, producing nine Vogue covers in a row and an additional seven Cosmopolitan covers in under two years. Aucoin would do countless more covers in his career, but the supreme gift he gave us all was the birth of makeup that suits a variety of skin tones.
After consulting on the Nakeds collection for Revlon in 1984, the company came calling again in 1993 and hired Aucoin as the Creative Director for their Ultima II prestige cosmetics line, where he launched The New Nakeds collection (later simply called “The Nakeds”) that marked the first time in beauty history that there would be one line of makeup for all skin tones, not a separate line for white and black women. He introduced yellow-based complexion products, brown-based lip colors and neutral tones in other products. Many of the lines we use today are based on the groundbreaking work that Aucoin did in the past.
By the way, the list of celebrities and models who owe him a debt of gratitude for their amazing images is seemingly endless. Cher, Mary Tyler Moore, Sarah Jessica Parker, Janet Jackson, Beverly Peele, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tina Turner and Hilary Swank are just a small smattering of the faces he turned to gold.
From the books he published (if you don’t own The Art of Makeup, Making Faces and/or Face Forward, go get them; every woman needs to own these books) to his even-now cult favorite namesake makeup line (AMAZING products, available via Barneys New York,) it’s clear to see that Aucoin is still doing what he had hoped to do when he was alive: he made – and continues to make – the world a beautiful place. Here are some of my favorite quotes from one of our industry’s greatest talents.
“I work in an industry with some of the meanest people who have ever walked the face of the earth, who live and die for the surface. But the way I see it, I have a responsibility to do the most I can do, the way I know how. Since I know how to apply makeup, that’s what I do and use it as a platform.”
“Life is too short to spend hoping that the perfectly arched eyebrow or hottest new lip shade will mask an ugly heart.”
“Beauty has a lot to do with character.”
“Beauty is about perception, not about make-up. I think the beginning of all beauty is knowing and liking oneself. You can’t put on make-up, or dress yourself, or do you hair with any sort of fun or joy if you’re doing it from a position of correction.”
“I’d rather have huge success and huge failures than travel in the middle of the road.”
Let’s all follow in this legend’s footsteps today. What will you do to make the world a more beautiful place?