I can nonetheless vividly recollect on foot into Liza Minnelli’s apartment on New York City’s Upper East Side, just moments earlier than she’d marry her husband, David Gest. I become the assistant to the legendary make-up artist Kevyn Aucoin who, along with hair guru John Barrett and fashion designer Bob Mackie, made up Ms. Minnelli’s glam pantheon for the event. There become so much to take in from that day — from the Andy Warhol paintings on the walls to Marisa Berenson and Elizabeth Taylor chatting idly among themselves. In the corner, a young boy named Evan changed into told by his mom, Diana Ross, to show off his dance movements for her dear pal, Michael Jackson. At one moment, after all of the stars had collected together like a constellation and left the room for the day’s festivities, every other assistant and I locked eyes, grabbed each different’s fingers, and recalled each unmarried minute of the beyond a couple of hours. It was as if we could rarely agree with this become actual existence.
After all, my wildest desires had simply come authentically! I grew up on a farm in a town in Kansas that you couldn’t even, in reality, find on Google Maps, known as Herkimer. Ever seeing that I can keep in mind, I turned into captivated by means of glamour and quickly discovered that I had to discover my manner out of Kansas to make a name for myself. I landed at the Fashion Institute of Technology as a student, and at the same time as I turned into there, I discovered an e-book known as The Art of Makeup, authored, of direction, through the artist Kevyn Aucoin. It turned into, in truth, all I asked for Christmas that yr.
I become enamored with what Kevyn was in a position to accomplish in this ebook — how he would take Drew Barrymore and flip her into Marlene Dietrich, or rework Lisa Marie Presley into Marilyn Monroe. He shattered perceptions no longer just about who those women were, but also what they have been capable of being. Through make-up and reinvention, he taught us that we’re all so much extra than one photo. Clutching my pristine reproduction of his book, I waited for outdoor of Saks Fifth Avenue with a gaggle of other university students and beauty devotees, hoping for my flip to get Kevyn’s autograph — to see him in the individual.
You see, Kevyn became a boy not entirely unlike me — he grew up in a small town known as Lafayette, Louisiana, and by some means defied all odds conceivable to become the maximum well-known make-up artist inside the international. Through his career, he turned into a model of success for a person like me, who changed into ashamed — in the midst of all this glamour — of his origins. Kevyn never misplaced his small-metropolis attraction or his genuine take care of others, and that became the name of the game to his achievement I cherished the maximum.
I was operating at a beauty deliver store on 19th Street referred to as Alcone whilst my coworker dared me to bloodless call Kevyn’s agent and ask if he changed into looking for an assistant. I stated I’d do whatever to assist Kevyn. After one week of being an errand boy, I turned into finally referred to as to accompany him on a shoot. I changed into told that an actress from In Living Color changed into liberating her debut album, and Sony had hired Kevyn to do check pictures for the artwork. Once I arrived at the famed Industria Studios, I determined myself face-to-face with Jennifer Lopez — the past due Oribe Canales building her hair, and Kevyn perfecting the arch of her brow and the bow of her lip like most effective he may want to. I do not forget feeling the significance of her star energy, and sensing that she changed into about to head locations. I did my very high-quality to contain every ounce of exhilaration interior of my frame and stood there very quietly.
At the end of the shoot, it was just Kevyn and me who were left to easy and % up to his package. The track “Tear in Your Hand” by Tori Amos came on, and I lost only a little of my best-assistant composure. “My preferred lyric on this tune is, ‘I know you, I know you properly. Well, higher than I used to,’” I advised Kevyn.
And to my marvel, he spoke back, “The reality that you simply said that to me is evidence which you’re supposed to be in my existence.” Then, he picked me up and gave me a large undergo hug. (Kevyn changed into 6’5” — a mild massive if there ever became one!)
I could come to be flying from side to side throughout the USA with Kevyn for the following few years, assembly and running with everyone from Courtney Love to Lisa Marie Presley and beyond. Immediately after the awful assaults of September 11, 2001, all flights have been grounded for at the least every week, and Kevyn and I were stuck in Los Angeles, estranged from our cherished ones. He requested me to accompany him to his friend Cher’s residence in Malibu, in which she had prepared a meditation circle with a set of Buddhist clergymen. Together, we chanted for what felt like an hour — united inside the conflicting feelings of kindness, compassion, and general fear.
I were given to recognize a lot approximately my hero, and relished the little matters, like delivering him his morning gas of Coca-Cola, which I affectionately referred to as, “The breakfast of champions!” I overjoyed in his easy taste for meals, which was almost childlike in its innocence — chook strips, hamburgers, pasta with plain sauce. We’d spend hours looking vintage films (he become mainly fond of Grey Gardens) and reruns of Amy Sedaris’s Strangers with Candy. Little with the aid of little, I won his accept as true with both for my part and professionally. I nonetheless keep in mind the only day on set that I graduated to lip gloss, and I was given to apply the lacquer below his cautious supervision. The maximum essential thing he taught me about makeup is that one should do it with gusto — if it’s well worth doing, it’s really worth doing proper, and with an actual experience of the cause.
But the fact turned into that Kevyn was in large pain. A scientific condition turned his relationship to painkillers into self-medication. In the wake of his demise, I idea loads approximately what it must have felt like to have such enormous validation from the finest stars or most people — however additionally, just how empty that might sense. In remembering his story, I pick out my personal velvet rage and the one that lives inside so lots of us: that something we’re looking to fill up or validate, it’ll by no means be enough.
This is part of the purpose I agreed to supply the movie Larger Than Life: The Kevyn Aucoin Story, directed by using Tiffany Bartok. So much of Kevyn’s loss of life has been stressed or misinterpreted by using the public because his passing, and I felt I owed it to my mentor to set the document immediately and honor him well. I wanted to inform the truth in order that I could probably set him free.
The reception of the film — and it’s dazzling forged of characters, all buddies of Kevyn’s — are a testament to his legacy. Kevyn executed the whole thing with an experience of honesty and openness that’s not always the norm for our industry. He invited all of us in and created an area for each person to be ourselves — long before it becomes cool or marketable to accomplish that. Among all and sundry in his orbit — from the icons he painted to the assistants he mentored — he saw capability, possibility. And even in any case those years of remembering, mourning, and honoring him, I am nevertheless for all time changed because he noticed something in me. —As told to Phillip Picardi.