Let’s take a moment to pay homage to my dear friend and mentor….Kevyn Aucoin.
I first learned of Kevyn while working a summer job as an assistant to a photographer named Frank Armstrong in Salt Lake City where I grew up.
Frank did it all. He did hair/make up/wardrobe and photography. Working for him was my first exposure to the world of beauty and transformation. I was particularly entranced watching Frank transform women’s faces and begged him to teach me.
The first thing he did was pull out a copy of Kevyn’s first book The Art of Makeup.
First go buy this book. This will be your textbook. Read it cover to cover.
I must have read it cover to cover over a dozen times. I still flip through it several times a year if I’m in need of inspiration.
Frank was able to teach me a thing or two before the summer was over and shortly after that I moved to NYC to pursue my lifelong dream of getting the hell out of Utah.
I hadn’t been in NYC even 6 months before I met Kevyn Aucoin.
I was at a party at a place called Bowery Bar when I saw Kevyn waiting in line for the bathroom. I was awestruck… I had to meet him! Without hesitation I awkwardly joined the line behind him and tried to adopt the illusion of casual recognition.
“Do I know you?”
Kevyn smiled, introduced himself warmly and made me feel so comfortable that I immediately confessed that I knew exactly who he was and was incredibly nervous as I was a huge fan.
I spent the rest of the evening laughing and drinking with Kevyn and his boyfriend at the time…the lovely Eric Sakas. I begged for the opportunity to work for him. He of course explained patiently that there were many other eager assistants with far more experience than I had but I was persistent. I said I did not need to be a make up assistant but an intern. I would do anything. Cook, clean, run errands, anything! I just wanted the opportunity to watch him work.
Thus began a friendship that significantly altered the course of my life. It took a little time but I finally made it on set with Kevyn and was able to watch the master at work.
Michael Thompson was shooting Lil’ Kim , Missy Elliot, and Mary J. Blige for Vogue and Kevyn was doing make up for all three. Vogue! Celebrities! Michael Thompson! Kevyn!
I couldn’t believe I was really there! Watching Kevyn work was beyond mesmerizing . It was staggering. He worked so quickly and with such ease and my god he made those women look stunning! I couldn’t believe my eyes.
I interned with Kevyn for several months before he sat me down and explained that it was time for me to work for other artists. While I had learned a lot…..I wasn’t going to get much further until I assisted artists who would allow me to actually do make up rather than make coffee and run errands. Only then could I gain the experience necessary to become a professional make up artist.
At this point Kevyn no longer did shows and primarily worked one-on-one with celebrities and had little need for assistants in general.
He gave me an A to Z of how to start my career. From who to assist and how to assist to how to build a portfolio, find an agent, etc….
With Kevyn’s recommendation I was able to go on to assist and apprentice for some of Fashion’s greatest make up artists including:
Brigitte Reiss Anderson
and James Kaliardos.
Working for these masters proved to be just the education and experience I needed. After a few years I was able to confidently seek out some work of my own.
Being a make up artist has been one of the greatest joys of my life and I owe that to Kevyn. Without him I would not have found this path and I am forever grateful to him. He was a dear friend and a beautiful person. I will always miss him.