Sunday, April 26, 2015
Kevyn Aucoin: All About the Faces
Kevyn Aucoin, the makeup artist who attained an unusually wide-reaching fame ministering to faces both iconic and ordinary, died in 2002 at the Westchester Medical Center. He was 40.
The cause was complications relating to a pituitary brain tumor, said Marcy Engelman, his publicist.
With clients ranging from Catherine Deneuve to Cher, Julia Roberts and Gwyneth Paltrow, Mr. Aucoin stood as a symbol for an era in which the definition of celebrity had grown broad enough to include once-minor players in the process of star making.
Mr. Aucoin achieved his well-regarded position in the worlds of style and entertainment in some part because he railed against a look of labored excess.
"He was an advocate of the natural look as far back as the 80's," Linda Wells, the editor of the beauty magazine Allure, said yesterday. "At first, it was a laughable concept. Makeup is artificial, after all, and the idea seemed oxymoronic."
Today, Ms. Wells said, neutral shades and the idea that a woman should look as though she has not spent more than a few seconds in front of a mirror, remain the prevailing fashion.
Born in Shreveport, La., in 1962, Mr. Aucoin had an emotionally wrenching childhood about which he spoke often and publicly. Brought up by adoptive parents in Lafayette, La., Mr. Aucoin knew he was gay when he was 6, he said in an introduction to his 1994 book "The Art of Makeup" (HarperCollins).
"Kids threw rocks at me, told me I was ugly and left death threats in my locker," he told a Time magazine reporter two years ago.
Growing up, "he felt ugly and unacceptable," Ms. Wells, a friend of 20 years, said. It was a recovery from these painful feelings, Ms. Wells said, that moved him to celebrate difference in his makeup work. "If you had a big nose, by golly, he'd say, `Let's make the most of it,' " she said.
In his adult life, he became a staunch advocate of gay rights, working closely with the Hetrick-Martin Institute, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of gay teenagers. He was also known for his outspoken views on the lack of racial and physical diversity in fashion magazines and advertising.
His interest in the transformative powers of makeup began when he was 11. Then, he began taking pictures of his sister Carla and experimenting with cosmetics on her. Mr. Aucoin dropped out of school when he was 15. Six years later, in 1983, he traveled to New York with his companion, Jed Root.
Mr. Root got a suit from Goodwill Industries and accompanied Mr. Aucoin around town, pretending to be his agent, Ms. Wells recalled. Soon enough, Mr. Aucoin began getting makeup work with modeling agencies. Eventually, Mr. Root became his actual agent.
In addition to "The Art of Makeup," Mr. Aucoin produced two coffee-table books on the subject of face painting that featured his ruminations on the notion of beauty as well as photographs of women, well-known and unknown, whose images he had reconceived with his alchemy of lip liners, foundations and glosses.
His second book, "Making Faces" (Little Brown, 1997), made its debut at the No. 1 spot on the New York Times best-seller list.
Mr. Aucoin is survived by his parents, Thelma and Isidore Aucoin; his partner, Jeremy Antunes; his sisters, Carla and Kim; and a brother, Keith.
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