PROFILE
Name:
Kevyn Aucoin
Birth Date:
February 14, 1962
Birth Place:
Shreveport, Louisiana, USA
Nationality:
American
BIOGRAPHY
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Cher's Favorite

Background:

“It's our hearts and brains that we should exercise more often. You can put on all the makeup you want but it won't make your soul pretty.” Kevyn Aucoin

One of the highest paid celebrity makeup artists in history, Kevyn Aucoin (born in 1962, died in 2002) was the recipient of the first Council of Fashion Designers of America Award for makeup artistry. First coming to public attention when he was booked by Vogue magazine to work with Meg Tilly and Steven Meisel in September 1983, Aucoin went on to create an impressive resume by doing makeup for popular celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Vanessa Williams and Courtney Love, to name a few. He was the favorite of Cher and Janet Jackson and has done multiple video shoots and album covers for both of them. The author of books like “Face Forward” and “The Art of Makeup” was also noted for transforming celebrities to look like other people with the use of costume and makeup, including Winona Ryder into Elizabeth Taylor, Tori Amos into Mary Queen of Scots, and Hilary Swank into Raquel Welch.

Aucoin was a gay activist. In 2000, he married his partner, Jeremy Antunes, in an unofficial ceremony in Hawaii. Prior to the marriage, Aucoin was romantically linked to Eric Sakas. They maintained a good relationship following their breakup and Sakas became president and creative director of Kevyn Aucoin Beauty.


Adopted

Childhood and Family:

Kevyn Aucoin was born on February 14, 1962, in Shreveport, Louisiana, and adopted a month later by Thelma and Isidore Aucoin. His parents later adopted three more kids (Keith, Carla and Kim) into the family. Kevyn did not meet his biological parents, Nelda Mae Williams and Jerry Burch, until 1992, when he was 30. He also had two half-sisters, Jeanna and Christy, from his birth father's family.

As a child, Kevyn, who was raised in Lafayette, Louisiana, enjoyed taking pictures of his younger sisters with his own makeup creations. He learned the craft by reading fashion magazines and studied the work of makeup artists like Way Bandy. He later attended a Louisiana beauty school, which proved to a discouraging experience for Kevyn.

In May 2002, Kevyn died of liver and kidney failure because of Tylenol toxicity. He had been diagnosed with a rare pituitary brain tumor in October 2001 and had become addicted to the prescription painkillers used to treat the pain caused by his condition.


The Art of Makeup

Career:

Louisiana-born and raised Kevyn Aucoin hooked up with his boyfriend-turned-agent Jed Root and moved to Baton Rouge in 1982. There, he worked at a shop applying women's makeup and selling skincare products. Accompanied by Root, Aucoin headed to New York in January 1983 to try his luck as a makeup artist.

Aucoin and Root had a tough time in New York. They lived in an apartment without heat during the winter before finally finding an apartment in Hell's Kitchen in Manhattan. During that time, Aucoin did test makeup on models for free while waiting for his big break. His partner helped him and they frequently worked 16 hours per day.

After struggling for eight months, Aucoin finally scored his first break when he was hired by Vogue magazine to work on a photo shoot of Meg Tilly, which was photographed by Steven Meisel. Aucoin continued his partnership with Meisel for the next year and a half. His first magazine cover arrived in 1986, thanks to Polly Mellen (editor). He did his first cover with Richard Avedon. A few days later, he was booked to do another cover. During 1987-1988, Aucoin did nine Vogue covers and seven Cosmopolitan covers. Despite his hectic schedule, the makeup artist only earned $200 for each Vogue cover, but continued doing the work in order to get work for cosmetic and fashion ads, music videos, CD covers and publicity shoots. Aucoin would eventually reach his goal of becoming one of the most renowned makeup artists in history and worked with numerous celebrities, including Tina Turner, Cher, Janet Jackson, Courtney Love, Vanessa Williams and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Aucoin also published the books “Face Forward,” “Making Faces” and “The Art of Makeup.” He had a monthly column called “Kevyn's Corner” in Allure magazine and wrote frequently for InStyle magazine.

In September 2001, Aucoin launched the Kevyn Aucoin cosmetics line. It was in the following month that he was diagnosed with a pituitary brain tumor, which led to his death in May 2002.


Awards:

  • Council of Fashion Designers of America: Makeup Artistry

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