Skip to content, or skip to search.

Skip to content, or skip to search.

Makeup Breakup


Kevyn Aucoin with model Shalom Harlow  

"Trying to conceal the fact that I was a gay, effeminate, hyperactive, adopted child with a serious lisp in southern Louisiana would have been like trying to hide Dolly Parton in a string bikini!" he wrote in the introduction to Making Faces. He would shoplift film and makeup, but gave it up because "I realized it was wrong, and I realized I couldn't keep doing this because, God knows, in Louisiana you don't want to be a boy caught stealing lipstick . . . they'll kill you."

At 15, he left home and moved in with his first boyfriend, Glen Neely. "I'd always sleep over at his and Glen's house in downtown Lafayette," remembers Carla. In 1982, Aucoin met Jed Root, with whom he moved first to Baton Rouge and then on to New York City. "I was upset when he left," says Carla. "He always said, 'I'm gonna take you to New York, and you're gonna be my model.' I think that's why him and Samantha had such a close relationship, because he was trying to make it up to me."

Aucoin started out by doing pro bono makeup on models for test shoots (one of his early canvasses was Paulina Porizkova), hoping to get noticed. Eight months after his arrival in Manhattan, Aucoin dressed up Jed as an agent in a suit from the Salvation Army, and the two of them brought his book in to Vogue. "I was an editorial assistant in the beauty department at Vogue, and he would just plant himself in front of me," remembers Linda Wells, now the editor of Allure. "He was more passionate and more obsessed than any other person I've met in my life."

In the spring of 1999, Antunes delivered his first ultimatum to Aucoin. "I was like, 'I can't date you if you live with Eric.' " So Sakas moved out, to an apartment on the opposite side of 23rd Street.

Eric and Kevyn continued their business partnership. "You can't work with Kevyn without working with Eric," says Casey Patterson. "I think ultimately they were like an old married couple: They fought passionately, they loved passionately. Kevyn trusted no one with the things he trusted Eric with. Eric is the person who managed Kevyn's relationships with Janet or Cher or Gwyneth or Madonna."

By this time, Aucoin had made a habit of installing ex-boyfriends in business capacities in his life. Jed Root eventually became his real agent; his ex Donald Reuter was his creative director on all three books. "Eric was like, 'Which one do I do?' " says Carla. " 'Do I take care of the business, or do I take care of you?' If Jeremy had gone and gotten a job, it would have been over."

"Kevyn has a lot of abandonment issues because he was adopted," says Antunes, using the present tense, as he tends to when he speaks of Aucoin. "He has a lot of fear of being left alone."

"Eric was there for Kevyn no matter what," he goes on. "Eric would put up with anything -- not too many people would accept their partner who they live with sleeping around and dating other people. I think Eric thought Kevyn would go back to him. Kevyn would always say, 'Don't confide in him -- he's just waiting for us to break up.' And after Kevyn died, Eric started telling everyone that we'd broken up, that I left Kevyn when I went to Paris. But you couldn't leave Kevyn! He wouldn't have allowed it."

"I didn't feel that Eric was content with his role," says Joanne Russell. "Kevyn had said a bunch of times that he felt that Eric was waiting for something to go wrong between him and Jeremy, and he didn't like that. But Kevyn always wanted to keep people in his life, even if they weren't good for him."

People weren't the problem for Aucoin, however. Pain was the problem. And drugs were the solution -- for a while. Then they became an even bigger problem. "Kevyn could get a lot of prescriptions because he was Kevyn," says Antunes. "He was getting them from more than one doctor, he made friends with the pharmacist. In 2000, while he was working on Face Forward, he was out of his mind on drugs: Every time he had to do something stressful, he had pain and he would take medicine, and then he would take other medicine to keep him awake, and then he'd take medicine to go to bed."

At that point, however, the drug use was a sporadic problem rather than a chronic crisis. They decided to get married that summer in Hawaii. "Our wedding was on July 7 -- our two-year anniversary would have been this Sunday."

Antunes gives a rueful smile. "Eric was pissed. Kevyn would say, 'This is my husband, Jeremy,' and Eric would be like, 'You can't say husband! He's not your husband!' "

Perhaps the more appropriate word would have been wife. The more involved Antunes became with Aucoin, the more domestic his role became.

"Kevyn was more than happy for me not to take another job," says Antunes. "He said we'd only lose money. What Kevyn was telling me was that when he had his makeup line, then I could do my thing; it would be my turn."

"Kevyn wanted someone to take care of him, and Jeremy took care of him," says Russell. "He said he wouldn't be able to have a relationship with Jeremy if Jeremy worked, because Kevyn's life was just so much bigger. Jeremy did the cleaning, the shopping, took care of Samantha -- there's no way Kevyn could have taken her to school every day."

Antunes's memories of his domestic life focus his anger. "I cleaned the house. I painted the house. I took care of it, I took care of everyone in it," he says. "They lock me out of my house, the house that I put together. They offer me $40,000 and a plant stand," he says, looking out the window of the cottage at the sun spilling on all 80 acres of Aucoin's land. "But I don't blame Kevyn's parents. I blame Eric." Antunes thinks Sakas has been telling them he'd broken up permanently with Aucoin. "They've known Eric a lot longer. It's like the ex-wife everyone's known forever, and they hate the new wife because she's younger and . . . you know." And more beautiful? "I wasn't going to say that, but . . . "

Current Issue
Subscribe to New York

Give a Gift