Written by NZINGHA for ZFACEINC,nyc
I remember the first time I met Kevyn Aucoin (of course I stand at 5’2 and he at 6’4 , I had to look up, hurting my neck! Lolol) and the first thing he did was to put his arms around me and hug me and say ” I have been following your work and girl you are awesome. You’re gonna be fine don’t worry”
He began to break down my work to me with such clarity and passion. He showed me his secret weapon which I have since embraced into my makeup technique. Little did I dream that I would meet him in what was only my 3rd year in the entertainment/beauty industry and on this occasion of having to recreate his work on tour with none other than mZ. Janet Jackson! Talk about pressure!! I’d never assisted any Makeup Artist and now to have to recreate what’s already been established by a legend. He didn’t hold my hand but he talked me through it allowing my handwork to flow.
He showed me exactly what he used on her with no reservations, attitudes or fear of client theft. He was generous to a fault and all we did was laugh for the whole day into night. We shared person thoughts and dreams. I loved him. We didn’t get to see each other often (accept for accidentally meeting up on frequent flights to LA) but every now and again I would get a call from him laughing “No …you didn’t. I loved that spread and when I saw your name I was glad for you.That color combo was sick! Go girl!”
I told him that I was in shock about even being invited on this tour because it had only been 3 years of me working in the biz, I didn’t know I had made that much of a dent that anyone would even know my work like that. He said “You would be surprised who’s watching.”
I shared with him that it was only a few years earlier that I was doing sketches of Janet ( I did this with several artists that I liked at the time and surprisingly wound up working with most of them later) as a teen at home in my room living with Mum.
I never knew I would actually wind up working with Janet, here like this right now in what would only be like 6 years later! (Here are some of those sketches)
My Mum was/is/forever in heaven now an angel. Once she settled into the thought of my being a Makeup Artist, she embraced my vision with both hands! I remember it was Christmas and Mum had several gifts for me as always…but there was this one that was large and semi heavy. “Mmm” I thought “I dunno what this one is at all.” And on opening I like to pass out it was it was Kevyn’s first book “The Art of Makeup” 1994. Guess he was in the process of completing the book while I was on tour with Janet.
I can hear her voice now (it was small,gentle, and sing songy) “I thought you may like this one Zing, didn’t you say you worked with him while you were with Janet? I saw him on Oprah. He does beautiful work. What kind of person is he? He seems lovely. Maybe you can get him to sign it for you Zing.” I was in tears because her gifts were always so well thought out and just thoughtful. I felt like I’d just gotten an Oscar from her 💗💗💗💗
forever Mum!! I never got that opportunity for him to sign it, he’d passed away before I could ever see him again. Oddly we’d spoken only months before his passing.
It was Kevyn’s humility that struck me even more than his obviously brilliant work. It wasn’t a fake humility like I’ve seen some of my contemporaries display, it was real, really who he was. He was mature in every sense of the word and secure. It wasn’t about him striving to be famous, and look at me business. He made each woman look like an amplified version of herself not “OOOooh I’ve got Kevyn Aucoin makeup style makeup on!” He said it himself “I want people to say SHE looks beautiful, not her MAKEUP looks beautiful.”
I remember looking at his hand movements as he was painting Janet’s face while we were in the trailer that day and thinking he has to have the largest hands I had ever seen!!!! I handed him his brushes at his request and we all were joking and talking…they (he and Janet) were mostly asking me questions (I guess I was still being interviewed for the position of on tour Makeup Artist).
While handing Kevyn his secret weapon I accidentally touched his hand and was in shock. I asked him to give me his palms and he did and to my amazement he had the softest hands and moist fingertips, he told me that the heat from his fingertips helps him with the blending “Guess it works to my advatage” laughing, he said “Now remember Nzingha, blend this line right here and add just a little bit more of this color.”as he went on with the visual instruction.
I remember thinking I’m gonna die! I can’t believe I’m here…in this fabulous trailer…with the most sought after Makeup Artist in the world and …with Janet Jackson!!! Me a little British West Indian girl born in the Bronx and hailing from a single parent home! ME????…,HERE???? Oh, GOD Lawd’ thank you..help me to do my bes’ an represent mi family well ( my immediate family and my Caribbean family everywhere)!!!
It was this photo that changed my whole visual makeup path. It was so Kevyn yet so Way Bandy (one of my other fave icons). Kevyn admitted to being a fan of Bandy’s too during our convo’s.
Well, now it was my turn to do Jan’s makeup with Kevyn watching and her feeling my hand on her face observing my technique now merging with Kevyn’s (I was shaking on the inside) . She loved it and so did he!!! She said “You’ve got such a gentle hand, Nzingha, I wanted to go to sleep yet, it was firm. You both have a similar way about you, I feel comfortable”. Well, after her 6 month Makeup Artists search with some of the worlds best, she chose me to join her “family”!
Many had come and gone but, I was still standing! I asked why me? “Because you feel like family, you have a great and humble attitude and when asked to perform you went right in on it with confidence under pressure. That’s why.” I never forgot what she said to me nor, did I ever forget the many conversations I had with Kevyn on the road and later on in my growing career. And in that short amount of time he was now to author 2 more beauty books and launch his own cosmetic line! Bravo Kevyn 👏👏👏👏
Kevyn’s final book which I have still yet to get in my estimation seems to be the perfect closure to a life well lived and a work well appreciated by many. He must’ve known when he would leave us, still so generous even in his illness, to give us just one more peek.
I wound up working along side of Kevyn again this time it was a Vogue photo shoot with all three of my then clients Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliot and Lil’ Kim. There was no tension in his doing their makeup, he was very careful to “big me up”. So sweet, I was shadowing him and schooling the ladies on his legendary status, it was such an amazing shoot and most of all to see Kevyn again in work mode. He said “You know Nzingha, I love what you do with all three ladies, mostly cause all of them look different in your makeup. You beat them all differently. You’ve got all these music ladies on their best! Keep up the amazing work.”
Kevyn was an encourager and never a hater. He always had an encouraging word to say and sometimes words of admiration of my work when he’d call me. He was always secure in his skin and in his ability and that’s what truly made him a Makeup Icon. A LEGEND!! Often imitated but not duplicated. So Here’s my tribute to Kevyn…
Peacefully Rest Dear One, your influence still lives on.
Paint On ViZionaire!