The Beautiful Life Of Kevyn Aucoin

Peter Philips, Pat McGrath, Tom Pecheux...nowadays we take the superstar status of top makeup artists for granted, but it wasn’t always that way. The trailblazer credited with taking beauty from behind-the-scenes to center stage is the late, great Kevyn Aucoin.
May 7 will mark the 10-year anniversary of his death, and in memory, we asked seven of the fashion and beauty world’s most brightly shining stars to remember the man and his impact on the industry. Ahead, you’ll find their heartfelt recollections, plus some of our favorite looks from Kevyn’s iconic makeup manual, Making Faces. Prepare to be amazed, and possibly get a little misty eyed.
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Photos: Courtesy of Kevyn Aucoin
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"Kevyn was a genius makeup artist — his talent for transforming his subjects into iconic characters and people was amazing, but you could always recognize the woman herself underneath. He made makeup artists become stars — much like what Joel Robouchon did for cuisine, Kevyn did for our craft. I never had the opportunity to work directly with him, but I did know him and we were friends. He was such a wonderful and fun person to be around."

— Tom Pecheux, Estée Lauder creative makeup director


Model Nadja Auermann recreates the glam, models-brawling look from Helmut Newton's famed photo shoot.

Photo: Patrick DeMarchelier/Courtesy of Kevyn Aucoin
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"In my career, Kevyn stands out in so many ways. He was the cosmetics superstar of his generation, and was an ACTUAL celebrity makeup artist, back when no one else really was (or called themselves that).

"He was always so animated; he had a childlike wonder and humor about things — an innocence. The first time I interviewed him, which was over the phone, it was one big TMI fest! Of course, I stayed mum about his forthcomings, but it did kind of take me aback and crack me up. 'Who IS this guy???' I remember thinking. 'He’s so affable and sweet for being so famous!'

"But it’s his influence on the beauty industry that is unparalleled. He could transform one famous face into another, but, more importantly, he showed us — and taught us — the magic of enhancing our own features without looking garish or overdone. His touch just said 'effortless beauty,' and, at the end of the day, isn’t that what we all strive for?"

— Jane Larkworthy, W beauty director


Gwyneth Paltrow channels Sophia Loren in Two Women.

Photo: Courtesy of Kevyn Aucoin
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"I was growing up in the industry and I was just overwhelmed by his artistic abilities. It was a different time, when the industry shined, because he was an artist and he had the personality. He was behind the scenes and in front of the scenes. We are sadly lacking in stars of his magnitude, now. When he walked into a room, you felt power.

"We miss him, we miss the time when muses that had personality and the creative teams behind them had personalities – it made the industry electric.

"He was just a huge talent and I think to this day he’s inspiring young people. How can you not find inspiration in Kevyn Aucoin? History repeats itself and we are in a time when people are finding the things he did in makeup as inspiration for what to to do going forward. I’m glad that his work continues to exist."

— Ivan Bart, IMG Models senior vice-president and managing director


Always ahead of his time, Aucoin was promoting environmentally-friendly beauty before it was cool. Here, Kiara Kabakuru models a minimalistic, "purist" look.

Photo: Courtesy of Kevyn Aucoin
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"Everything with Kevyn was enormous — his life, his talent, his courage, his personality, his heart. He had such a wonderful heart and all that he did was with enormous passion. I admired that he was never afraid to show his true personality, who he was, and where he came from. His talent was unique and distinct and had the incredible, enormous skill to transform faces through his artistry. He is truly a legend and greatly missed."

— Laura Mercier, celebrity makeup artist


Kate Moss takes on the Biba — a '60s-era cross between a silent film star and a romantic Gypsy.

Photo: Thierry LeGoues/Courtesy of Kevyn Aucoin
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"When I first went to meet [my agent] Kellie at Jed Root in the early '90s in the hope of being represented by them, Kevyn was still on their books and pretty much the hottest makeup artist there was. I asked if I could see his portfolio, and when Kellie handed it to me she remembers me saying; 'Here it is, the makeup Bible.'

"Kevyn really believed in the transformative power of beauty. Supermodels, along with world-famous actresses and singers were all awestruck by his talent, but also his kindness and sense of humor. He treated them as real women with real issues and, in turn, the many non-famous women he worked with were treated like movie stars."

— Dick Page, Shiseido artistic director


Aucoin was famous for his ability to completely transform someone into a different persona. Think that's Barbara Streisand? Nope, it's Isabella Rossellini, after Kevyn worked his makeup magic.

Photo: Courtesy of Kevyn Aucoin
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"I was always so happy when I knew I was going to be working with Kevyn. He was one of the loveliest people I have ever met. He always made me feel like like my best self. I felt radiant and beautiful under his hand."

— Kirsty Hume, model


Here, Kirsty models chic dual-liner — a simple, yet still wildly original and graphic style that Aucoin used to great effect.

Photo: Miles Aldridge/Courtesy of Kevyn Aucoin
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"Kevyn Aucoin’s work as a makeup artist and his books inspired so many artists. I feel the business is what it is today, to an extent, because of Kevyn. I never met him personally, but he graciously acknowledged me, among others, in his first book. Anyone who wants a career in makeup must read Kevyn's books. He left an eponymous makeup brand and a huge legacy."

— Sandy Linter, Lancôme beauty at every age expert and celebrity makeup artist


Shalom Harlow takes on Aucoin's beauty interpretation of an anarchist.

Photo: Courtesy of Kevyn Aucoin
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While Kevyn may have passed away a decade ago, his work and his impact endure. If you don't already own it, we highly suggest you pick up your own copy of Making Faces. Not only will you learn his signature techniques, you'll be enthralled by the glamorous photos, and taken in by Kevyn's relatable, charming writing.

While his life may have been cut tragically short, Kevyn Aucoin's impact on the beauty world and beyond will continue to endure.


Courtney Love transformed into Jean Harlow.

Photo: Courtesy of Kevyn Aucoin
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