NEW YORK--Ask Kevyn Aucoin what makeup means to him, and you'll get an open-ended answer. "I have no specific dogma about what it is supposed to do," said Aucoin, the makeup artist who has created looks ranging from the fantastic to the sublime for some of the world's most famous faces. "Makeup can make you another age, another sex," he said. "There is something extraordinary about that. It can be about feminism, self-empowerment. Or it can be candy--pure artifice. It can be fun." The fun is just beginning, and some of Hollywood's leading ladies--including Demi Moore, Cher and Andie MacDowell--are a part of it. The much-sought Aucoin has been busier than usual in the last few months, cramming his own photo sessions with Demi et al. between bread-and-butter shoots, all in the quest to produce his second, yet-to-be-titled makeup book. To be published by Little, Brown, the 160-page tome is due to arrive in bookstores this September. In a 9-by-12-inch format, it is meant to be used as a makeup manual, with step-by-step instructions and key illustrations accompanying glitzy photos. "My message is: You've got to take what you've got and make the most of it," Aucoin said. "I am a big supporter of self-help. I can fix my own air conditioner, I can program my VCR, I laid my floor, I taught myself how to sew. You feel less dependent on other people that way. You want to feel like that when you buy makeup. You want to be able to take it home and put it on yourself. The book contains ideas, but it's about mixing them up to create what you want, too." His debut work, an 11-by-14-inch book published by Harper Collins last year, is a picture-filled work entitled "The Art of Makeup." It is already in paperback. "So many actresses have asked to be in the book that it has grown," said Jennifer Josephy, senior editor at Little, Brown, the 160-year-old company better known for publishing the works of such writers as Louisa May Alcott, Emily Dickinson, John Fowles and William Manchester. "It's a bit of a departure for us," Josephy admitted, "But Kevyn is a serious, creative person who happens to work in makeup, and that interested me." Aucoin just turned in materials for the first half of the book, and he is working feverishly with creative director Donald Reuter to meet the mid-February final deadline. The two men plan to be in Los Angeles this weekend for more celebrity sittings. Reuter will provide illustrations for the new book. Some of fashion photography's top names--Michael Thompson, Miles Aldridge, Patrick Demarchelier and Herb Ritts--are also contributing. But Aucoin decided that obtaining enough photo rights to fill his book would require wading through too much red tape and would take too long. To expedite matters, he has taken up the camera himself. The makeup artist is doing photography for most of the book--although reluctantly. "Photography is definitely not a career choice for me," he said. "The process is so agonizing. I have just the utmost, the most intense respect for photographers. I'm different on the set now. When I shoot, I am so aware of everything going on around me." All the activity does take its toll. Late one afternoon during the holidays, Aucoin was talking from bed, relegated there by a combination of bronchitis, strep throat and a sinus infection. His voice through the telephone line was raspy and low. "This is just from working way too much," he said. "But it's hard to say 'No' when it's all coming at you.You want to experience everything that you can." Born in 1962 and raised by adoptive parents in Lafayette, La., Aucoin left home in 1983 to experience New York. Eight months after arriving, he landed his first shoot for Vogue with Steven Meisel. Now Cindy Crawford, Barbara Streisand, Liza Minnelli, Tina Turner and a long list of others insist on him to make them look good. Gwyneth Paltrow recently dubbed him the most difficult man in America to book. Gena Rowlands penned the foreword in his new book. "I love the intimacy I have with people I work with," Aucoin said. "I am lucky to have a lot of extraordinary women in my life today; they are angels in my life. I really am blessed. I came from such a very different place than I am now. "Makeup has meant different things to me at different times," he continued. "I have learned that my work relates to life. At age 11, it was about controlling my environment. It was, 'Let's make pretend that everything is pretty, that everything is all right.' As long as I could remember, I would draw, and I would rearrange the living room furniture while my parents were out. I had a desire to see the world from so many angles." The new book will treat the subject of beauty in like manner, tackling it from different angles. It will begin with a technical portion, designed to demystify such topics as how to cover eyebrows completely and then draw over them. The second section will be devoted to makeup on "real" people. "There is a huge range of men and women in the book, people of every size, age and ethnicity," Aucoin said. "Models and celebrities are wonderful, but I wanted to include people not involved in arts and entertainment, too, who are significant and exciting; people with exuberance inside them." Discovered through friends, these everyday faces include an attorney in his mid-40s, two 13-year-old girls and a mother-and-daughter team of Asian and Latin extraction. "Models' faces have great symmetry and balance, which makes it easy to access information from them, but there is something interesting about looking at faces with features similar to [the reader's]. It is a little celebration of humanity, of who we are, the choices that we have and our diversity." The next two segments of the book will feature models and celebrities. One will focus on modern makeup looks, including the shimmer face and the neutral face. Aucoin plans to cap the book with dramatic portraits of today's stars mugging as beauty icons of the 20th century. "It's theatrical," he explained. "It's Drew Barrymore as inspired by a sophisticate like Marlene Dietrich, Julia Roberts as a siren, a la Hedy Lamarr, Gwyneth Paltrow as gamine Audrey Hepburn. The most exciting thing for me about doing makeup is to have people look at themselves in a different way." One photo likely to cause commotion is Lisa Marie Presley as a blond bombshell, with a Marilyn Monroe signature mole, to boot. Little, Brown's Josephy said the publishing house plans on a first printing of at least 100,000 copies, and a national book tour. "At times," said Aucoin, "being a celebrity is baffling. When I did my first book tour, people would come up me, practically crying with excitement. I honor that because they have their reasons. It's an interesting experience, but I don't know who they are and they don't really know me."
Issa Rae stopped by WWD's NYC headquarters to talk about season two of "Insecure," which premieres this Sunday on HBO. Click link in bio for all the details. #wwdeye (📷: @jgreenery; Styled by @mayteallende)
A Stella McCartney sketch of a custom dress made from protein-based silk in partnership with biotech lab Bolt Threads. The dress will be displayed at The Museum of Modern Art's upcoming design exhibition, "Items: Is Fashion Modern?"