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He's So VIOLET
Written By Lexy Lebsack
HE'S SO VIOLET: KEVYN AUCOIN  |  #VioletGrey, The Industry's Beauty Edit

— PHOTO COURTESY OF ERIC SAKAS

Inciting conversation about the late, great makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin rustles emotions over a decade in the making. “I loved him as a person and a talent,” Barbra Streisand told VIOLET GREY. “He was a trailblazer,” adds Nicole Kidman. Amber Valletta shares the same sentiment: “I feel honored to have had his big, gentle hands on my face and be touched by his generous spirit,” she says about the warmhearted artist who, at 6 feet 4 inches, towered over even the lankiest supermodels.
One could argue that Kevyn was the most influential makeup artist to grace the glossy magazines, and the Hollywood personalities who filled their pages, with his wide range of talents. He had both an uncanny ability to capture his clients’ unique beauty, and the skills to transform them, dramatically, into someone else entirely. Once they discovered the genuine, caring personality behind his talents, each of his clients (Cindy Crawford, Janet Jackson, Tina Turner, Liza Minnelli, Julia Roberts, and Gwyneth Paltrow) became a lifelong friend.  

Kevyn was born and raised in rural Louisiana, a particularly inhospitable place for a gay man in the 1960’s whose talent and passion for makeup became clear long before he entered middle school. It could be said that those years shaped his unwavering compassion, acceptance and kindness toward everyone he met, whether they were a star or not. “Kevyn gave me a place to belong. I think that’s what he did for everyone. He gave everyone a safe place to be their true selves,” says Troy Surratt, a now in-demand makeup artist who assisted Kevyn for three years before the artist’s untimely passing in 2002. His legacy lives on in the form of a namesake cosmetics line established in 2001, Kevyn Aucoin Beauty, three iconic beauty books, and countless memories and photos.  

To celebrate his life, VIOLET GREY inquired about Kevyn, asking his former clients, assistants, and peers to speak to the late artist’s impact on the industry and share their fondest memories. Tidbits from those conversations, and personal photos, below. 

violet
inquires

An intimate conversation with makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin's closest confidants.
Kevyn Aucoin & Shalom Harlow  |  More on #VioletGrey, The Industry's Beauty Edit
KEVYN AND SHALOM HARLOW
 PHOTO COURTESY OF ERIC SAKAS
Kevyn Aucoin & Julia Roberts  |  More on #VioletGrey, The Industry's Beauty Edit
KEVYN AND JULIA ROBERTS
 PHOTO COURTESY OF ERIC SAKAS
1
VIOLET GREY: DESCRIBE WORKING WITH KEVYN.
 
“Kevyn was so passionate about makeup as an art form. His ability to transform people made him such a joy to work with. He could create characters with his makeup. He was a trailblazer, really.”
— NICOLE KIDMAN, ACTRESS
2
VIOLET GREY: WHAT IS YOUR FONDEST MEMORY OF KEVYN?
 
“The first time I worked with Kevyn he shared a letter from his mother where she told him how proud of him she was for all of who he was. It was very emotional for both of us and an extremely intimate moment. We became dear friends from that day on…Kevyn was all love.”
— AMBER VALLETTA, MODEL AND ACTRESS
I loved him
 as a
 PERSON
 and a TALENT.
—Barbra Streisand, Actress and Singer
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3
VIOLET GREY: DESCRIBE KEVYN’S IMPACT ON THE BEAUTY WORLD.
 
“Kevyn got the world’s attention by creating an interest in beauty, he made the beauty industry a part of popular culture.”
— TROY SURRATT, MAKEUP ARTIST AND FORMER ASSISTANT TO KEVYN AUCOIN

“Kevyn opened the door for many makeup artists, such as myself, by making us a visible and vital part of the beauty world.”
— GENEVIEVE HERR, MAKEUP ARTIST

“Kevyn crossed over from the fashion world and into the celebrity world like no one else could. He was a revolutionary artist that inspired people like me all over the world with his unique approach to makeup.”
— SABRINA BEDRANI, MAKEUP ARTIST
Kevyn Aucoin at Isaac Mizrahi's Fall 1996 show  |  More on #VioletGrey, The Industry's Beauty Edit
KEVyn AT ISAAC MIZRAHI'S Fall 1996 show 
PHOTO COURTESY OF ERIC SAKAS
4
VIOLET GREY: WHAT IS ONE THING YOU LEARNED FROM KEVYN?
 
“Kevyn trained my eye to be able to see beauty, and appreciate beauty, in many different ways — not just society’s ideals of what is considered beautiful. He taught me to see beauty in nontraditional ways.”
— ERIC SAKAS, FORMER LONGTIME PARTNER OF KEVYN AUCOIN
Kevyn gave me a place to belong. I think that is what he did for EVERYONE: He gave them
 a safe place to be their
 TRUE selves
Troy Surratt, Makeup Artist and Former Assistant TO KEVYN AUCOIN
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A face chart by Kevyn Aucoin  |  More on #VioletGrey, The Industry's Beauty Edit
A face chart BY KEVYN
 COURTESY OF ERIC SAKAS
5
VIOLET GREY: WHAT IS THE ONE QUESTION YOU WOULD ASK KEVYN IF YOU COULD?
 
“I've always wanted to ask Kevyn what products he used on Julia Roberts for the smoky eye look in his book Making Faces. It’s the number one referenced look for smoky eyes!”
— NICO, MAKEUP ARTIST

“Will you please share your contouring wisdom?!”
— MOLLY R. STERN, MAKEUP ARTIST
6
VIOLET GREY: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE KEVYN AUCOIN BEAUTY PRODUCT?
 
“I'm a big fan of his cream blushes; I use them every day! The colors are very pretty and wearable, and they blend and hold so well.”
— PATI DUBROFF, MAKEUP ARTIST

“After many years my favorite Kevyn product is still the concealer [the Sensual Skin Enhancer]. It has the best coverage and the ability to be diluted with moisturizer for lighter coverage.” 
— LINDA HAY, MAKEUP ARTIST
Kevyn was all love.
Amber Valletta, Model and Actress
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7
VIOLET GREY: HOW DID ASSISTING KEVYN MAKE YOU THE ARTIST YOU ARE TODAY?
 
“Kevyn taught me that you have to know your craft. Just being able to put tinted moisturizer and lipstick on a young, pretty actress will only take you so far. He inspired me to continue to learn; watch old movies, look at old books and magazines, get inspired, speak up, take your job seriously, but also maintain a fun attitude.”
— NICK BAROSE, MAKEUP ARTIST AND FORMER ASSISTANT TO KEVYN AUCOIN

“Kevyn and I came from similar places; he was a gay teenager in the bayou and I was a gay teenager on a farm in Kansas. Kevyn gave me a place to belong. I think that is what he did for everyone: He gave them a safe place to be their true selves.”
— TROY SURRATT, MAKEUP ARTIST AND FORMER ASSISTANT TO KEVYN AUCOIN
8
VIOLET GREY: WHAT MADE KEVYN SO SUCCESSFUL?
 
“Kevyn had an incredible ability to bring out the uniqueness in everyone. His real mission was to celebrate individuality and help women accept their individual beauty.”
— ERIC SAKAS, FORMER LONGTIME PARTNER OF KEVYN AUCOIN
Nicole Kidman in Kevyn Aucoin's book "Making Faces"  |  More on #VioletGrey, The Industry's Beauty Edit
NICOLE KIDMAN IN KEVYN'S BOOK, MAKING FACES
 
PHOTOGRAPHY AND MAKEUP BY KEVYN AUCOIN
He was so passionate about makeup as an art form.
—NICOLE KIDMAN, MODEL AND ACTRESS
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IN POLITE
SOCIETY

In polite society, an artist’s legacy lives on in MAKEUP bags, on bookshelves, and in the HEARTS of admirers.
—VIOLET GREY 
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VIOLET
MUST

NECESSARY
READ
MAKING FACES

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