"Makeup should be fun, not fascist," celebrity makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin avers in Face Forward, his third book. One of the most adored stylists among fashionistas, entertainment divas, and high-society jet setters, Southern-born Aucoin arrived on the New York fashion scene in the early '80s, a period he ridicules for its '50s-era conservatism and McCarthyist us-against-them values. His career since has been motivated by the feel-good ideals of acceptance, diversity, and self-love, and the vain world of beauty has eagerly participated in his vision. While one may puzzle on how it is he finds fulfillment in an industry known for its superficiality and elitism, Aucoin's words are nonetheless infectious and the touches of his brushes inspired.
Conceived as an exploration of the past, present, and future of beauty, Face Forward is an ingenious showcase of the transformative, creative possibilities of makeup, with portraits of everyone from Julia Roberts to Sharon Stone, Martha Stewart to his mother, Thelma. His crafted visages range from minimal-application makeovers of friends to elaborate re-creations of such Hollywood icons as Audrey Hepburn (Calista Flockhart), James Dean (Gwyneth Paltrow), and Veronica Lake (shockingly, Martha Stewart) and such pop-culture personalities as Cher (socialite Alexandra von Furstenberg) and Siouxsie Sioux (Winona Ryder). The final pages present his ideas for looks to come, such as "Explorer," Mary J. Blige covered in eggplant body makeup with a rainbow of metallic eye shadows over her eyes and thickly glossed red lips; "Floralia," a freckled Lucy Liu resembling a sprite from A Midsummer's Night Dream; and "Venusian de Milo," Sharon Stone as an orange-haired, one-breast-baring sci-fi femme fatale. Throughout, Aucoin augments an already colorful book with step-by-step instruction, chatty commentary on each look and model, and riffs on such topics as friendship, politics (he repeatedly applauds the Clinton Administration for embracing diversity in the '90s), and the environment.
"Appreciating (even highlighting) individuality is one of the great things about makeup," asserts Aucoin, and Face Forward is a dazzling testament to that belief. For those who see the fun of makeup and are eager to experiment with the virtually unlimited possibilities of it, this book is a boon. --Rebecca Wright