Director: Tiffany Bartok
Starring: Cher, Tori Amos and Isaac Mizrahi.Time: 102 minutes. Currently at Gene Siskel Film Center, with digital release July 31
The magic was in the makeup for Kevyn Aucoin as he rose from humble beginnings in Lafayette, Louisiana, to international fame in the new documentary Larger Than Life.
The Kevyn Aucoin Story starts with his adoption as a baby in southern Shreveport, Louisiana. His childhood consisted of playing Barbra Streisand albums all day, realizing he was gay at age 6 and being tormented at school. After practicing on relatives and friends, he discovered that he has an eye for painting faces that leads him to a new life.
He moved to New York and, at age 21, walked into the Vogue magazine offices, looking for a job. His Vogue cover shoot with Cindy Crawford in 1986 changed his career and he eventually worked with hundreds of celebrities.
The film features several short interviews with many of the late makeup artist's canvasses, including Cher and Tori Amos, who obviously cared deeply for him. Amos even composed a song called "Taxi Ride" as an homage to him. Aucoin also made a lasting impression in the world of supermodels and they lined up to be a part of this project. Among his other accomplishments were a memorable appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show and playing himself on an episode of Sex and the City.
The relationship between Aucoin and husband Jeremy Antunes is explored, with the two being married in Hawaii. Aucoin's wishes were to have his ashes scattered in that location; however, he was instead buried by his mother in Louisiana after he died of liver and kidney failure.
Larger Than Life refers to Aucoin's acromegaly and the size of the artist who used his hands to finger-paint his subjects. His life grew out of control in the end, but that is not the focus of the film. Instead, it's about how he changed the entertainment world through his love for the craft and the friendships he made along the way. His love of celebrities never stopped, even after he was one himself. ( In face, he had to pretend to be on another planet to be around Streisand at one point. )
This kept him grounded and forced him to work harder.
The viewer is given an intimate glimpse into the world of glitz and glamour, seeing Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson and Tina Turner in brief parts.
Red-carpet appearances were changed forever because of Aucoin, and the way makeup artists are respected today is largely because of him. Many models did their own makeup before Aucoin came into the scene and makeup artists were not paid at the beginning. He made a lot of money while creating jobs for future artists over the years.
His niece Samantha ( who had Aucoin as her legal guardian at 15 ) gives the movie heart as she reminisces about his life and cries at his death.
Like many people that are mistreated, he always felt he had to prove himself no matter what level of success he obtained. He was only stopped when his addiction got in the way. His famous friends and frustrated family noticed his behavior, but were ill equipped to handle it and didn't know how to help him.
The Kevyn Aucoin Beauty brand continues to this day and, thanks to this doc, so will his legacy.
It is a nice tribute to the man who died in 2002, for his important contributions to the world of makeup. Younger generations can see how he has influenced the industry today. People can only imagine what celebrities he would be working on these days.
Will lumberjacks, like Aucoin's birth family, run out to the theaters to see it? Maybe not, but anyone who does will see the story of an underdog who ultimately proved himself.