Kevyn Aucoin was passionate about makeup even as a kid. He would do his three sisters’ makeup and photograph the results with a Polaroid camera, something he’d do for the rest his career. Afraid to buy makeup, he would shoplift it.
He knew he was gay at six-years-old and he was bullied at school. He dropped out of high school after being chased by classmates in a truck. He enrolled in beauty school hoping to learn more about applying makeup but ended up teaching the class instead.
Aucoin moved to Baton Rouge in 1982 to start a career as a makeup artist. In Baton Rouge, he was beaten badly by a security guard at local department store where he and friends were checking out the new makeup. Fearing for his life, he decided to move to NYC.
In NYC, Aucoin was putting makeup on test models at no charge to build up his portfolio. That was where he was discovered by Richard Avedon for Vogue. He went to work for Vogue photographer Steven Meisel, doing 14 Vogue covers in his first three years. His 1986 Vogue cover shoot with Cindy Crawford brought him so much attention that he did nine Vogue covers in a row, plus seven Cosmopolitan covers. At his peak, he would be booked months in advance and could command as much as $6,000 for a session. He would refuse to do the makeup of models he felt were too young.
He believed that every woman was beautiful from within, and it was important to help a woman feel beautiful. Makeup was simply his tool for helping her discover herself.
Aucoin was one of the best-paid celebrity makeup artists in history. He did makeup for Cher, Liza Minnelli, Janet Jackson, Tina Turner, Courtney Love, Vanessa L. Williams and many more celebs and models. He had a column in Allure Magazine and published his work in books: The Art Of Makeup, Making Faces, and Face Forward, all bestsellers. The books featured celebrities, but also everyday men and women, including his mother.
In 1994, Aucoin won the prestigious CFDA Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the only makeup artist to have received that honor.
In September 2001, Aucoin was diagnosed with a rare pituitary condition, Acromegaly which makes bones increase in size, including hands, feet and face. He began taking prescription to ease his suffering.
Aucoin left this world in 2002, taken by kidney and liver failure due to toxicity caused by prescription painkillers.
Beauty & The Beast In Me, a documentary film that features Aucoin’s own personal videos debuted on Logo TV on September 2017. Another documentary Larger Than Life: The Kevyn Aucoin Story had its premiere at DOC NYC Festival in November 2017.