Kevyn Aucoin and Adoption

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American Make-up Artist

Aucoin was born to Nelda Mae Williams in Louisiana, and adopted at a month's age as the first of four children of Thelma and Isidore Aucoin, in Lafayette. From a very early age he showed signs of being artistic and "different," and by the age of six he knew he was gay. Small-town Louisiana was no place for a gay boy, and he was subjected to considerable prejudice and violence because he refused to conform to local stereotypes. Eventually he refused to go to school and enrolled in a beauty college to learn make-up, although they didn't teach it - he was expected to be the teacher. Years of petty theft to obtain cosmetics stopped when he was 15 and realized that a boy would be killed if caught stealing make-up.

He moved to Baton Rouge, then to New York, in 1983, where he got his big break with Vogue. Soon he was one of the most sought-after and famous make-up artists in the world, making up to $6,000 a day. He refused to endorse commercial products but helped develop Revlon's Naked range, then his own brand. He wrote three books on make-up. He always refused to accept stereotyped ideas of beauty and was an early pioneer of professional make-up for Black women and unconventional-looking women. His family became firm supporters of gay rights, especially active in counseling young gay men in the Deep South.

In 1992 he traced his birth mother and met her, then his birth father, and a number of half brothers and half sisters. He died of a pituitary tumor in May, 2002.


Horwell, Veronica. Obituary. The Guardian [London]. 24 May 2002. Norwich, William. [Biographical notes]. [Includes portraits]. Available at: [1]