The beauty world has evolved by leaps and bounds in the past few decades. Perhaps one of the most influential figures at the helm of that change was the legendary makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin, who tragically passed away in 2002 from a deadly dependence on painkillers he formed in order to deal with an undiagnosed pituitary tumor.
As a child in Louisiana, the founder of Kevyn Aucoin beauty faced horrible bullying and discrimination for being gay and eventually dropped out of high school after a handful of peers attempted to kill him. Despite it all, Aucoin managed to break into the beauty industry and became a top-billed makeup artist for the most in-demand supermodels, musicians, and actresses of the ’80s and ’90s.
The Logo documentary film Kevyn Aucoin: Beauty & the Beast in Me airs on Logo TV today, September 14th at 9 p.m. EST
To celebrate the premiere of the documentary, HelloGiggles spoke with the actress, model, and personal friend, Andie MacDowell about her relationship with Aucoin, and the ways she’s seen the beauty world evolve since his lifetime.
HelloGiggles: What was your first impression of Kevyn Aucoin? Do you remember the first time you worked together?
Andie MacDowell: Yes, the first time I worked with him he was extremely friendly. He would have us lay on the ground to have our makeup done, I’ve never had anyone do that before so that was a luxury. He was childlike, he was very enthusiastic, and super open. He connected really well with people, he didn’t have a lot of reserve. He was very friendly and open, after that, he brought me in as part of his family. He’d invite me to barbecues and I’d take my kids over.
HG: Did you two have any inside jokes? Do you have any favorite memories?
AM: We laughed easily, we’re both from the South so we understood that and had history there. When I first worked with him early on I met his parents. We talked about his family and talked about his nieces, it was a very intimate relationship. We joked all the time.
HG: Do you think the difficulties of his childhood helped him develop more empathy for others and came through in his open personality?
AM: Definitely. I think his struggles in life to fit in made him a more compassionate person. I also think it was a component of his childlike nature — wanting to be loved, bonding easily with other people, always having that openness to him, inviting people into his life. I think his desire for empathy was as great as what he exuded towards other people. So, he didn’t have a lot of barriers up. He was always searching, not only for his past family, but I think, searching for love from everybody that he met. But he would also give love back.
HG: What are some of the key ways he influenced the beauty industry?
AM: I definitely think he was deserving, just to be remembered as an artist. He was extremely gifted in his ability to transform people. I think that was something he was doing that was before his time. Kevyn took it a step further, as far as reaching out to every kind of woman, doing trans women, taking everybody and making them feel beautiful. He could do it with models, but he could do it with anybody. I think he was really proud of that ability. He could also do natural makeup, I think he really really enjoyed showing people how beautiful they could be. Partially, I think because he struggled with how he looked and he wanted to look beautiful.
HG: What piece of advice or tips do you think he’d want to leave behind as part of his legacy?
AM: Kevyn you know, he manifested his life. He started dreaming when he was tiny, but he did work really hard — he educated himself. I think he would want people to be able to reach their dreams. I think he deserves to be remembered as an incredible artist. I think makeup artists are the newest art form, it’s a different perspective of art because they’re doing it on humans — I definitely think Kevyn was one of those.
HG: Similarly, what would you want to be remembered for?
AM: What I would want to be remembered for, I think, is someone who broke the rules. When I first started in the business everyone said it was going to be really short lived. I better save my money because it would be over by the time I hit 30. I’ve had a contract with L’Oréal for 30 years, and I’m going to be 60 next year. I would love to be remembered for breaking that rule. There is not an expiration date on beauty. We can be participants as women and appreciate it for our whole life.
HG: What’s one thing you’ve learned from your career in the beauty industry?
AM: I think that there is an evolution to beauty. And what I have learned is, when I first started in this business, I was told I look too ethnic. My real name is Rose and they didn’t want me to use my name in 1979 because they thought it made me sound too ethnic. 1979 was just changing, sometimes they used girls with bigger lips or dark hair or different races. It had always been blonde, blue-eyed, and “All American.” Now I’ve learned that we are evolving to understand that there is not one kind of beauty. That there are no boundaries to being beautiful. You can’t keep people back from wanting to feel beautiful, you can’t limit the fashion world.
HG: That connects to my next question, what are some of the biggest changes you’ve witnessed in the beauty industry since the ’80s?
AM: I think it’s becoming more inclusive, and I think because of social media there is a shift as to who is considered the authority. I think that an average person can become a participant now because of social media. There’s another space, and I think that’s having an effect on the fashion industry.