Book reviews: Making Faces & Face Forward

The covers of Making Faces and Face Forward, by Kevyn Aucoin. They both feature close ups of a made up woman's face.

In case you think I only read serious non-fiction, here are some entirely frivolous books I’ve read recently. Making Faces and Face Forward are instructional makeup books by the now deceased, internationally renowned makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin.

A black and white photo of a 30s Style man in tux with moustache and glam blonde haired woman.
Amber Valletta as Gable and Lombard. Most images from Pinterest.

Aucoin divides his books into sections, covering everything from tools and necessary makeup, basic makeup application, makeovers of everyday people and celebrities, visionary makeup looks, and transformations of one person into another (say, Tina Turner into Cleopatra).

A photo of a woman with long brunette hair, large gold hoops and 70s styling in a sheer mesh bodysuit. A portrait of a woman with long blonde hair in a 30s style wave with red lipstick.
Alexandra von Fürstenberg as Cher, Martha Stewart as Veronica Lake.

The advice Aucoin gives regarding basic makeup application, as well as his transformations of “everyday” people (read: not models or actors) is valuable. He somehow manages to use the most minimal makeup application, yet transforms his subjects. It’s lovely to see how happy they look, as for many, this is the first time they’ve really been pampered before. His inclusion of those affected by HIV/AIDS, complete with personal narrative, is touching.

A deliberately blurry photo of a 30s style entertainer, with curled fringe and gold and pearl jewellery. Another photo of a woman with bold eye makeup and blonde beehive, staring up to the left.
T-Boz of TLC as Josephine Baker, Isabella Rossellini as Barbara Streisand.

His celebrity makeovers can be stunning – particularly when he manages to completely transform one person into another. Amber Valletta as both Gable and Lombard was a particular favourite.

A photo of a woman with curled short hair, large gold earrings and bangles, and deep cut black dress. A close up portrait of a woman with red lipstick, sultry eye makeup, and curled blonde hair.
Janet Jackson as Dorothy Dandridge, Lisa Marie Presley as Marilyn Monroe.

So far, so good. Now for the bad. Aucoin “makes up” white actors in what can’t be described as anything but yellowface, with eye tape and all (sadly still used in the makeup industry to give an “ethnic” appearance). This is not the only instance he attempts to darken his subject’s skin, or give them the “appearance” of another ethnicity. Why he could not find models of that ethnicity to begin with is unclear, as he includes an otherwise diverse cast throughout the book.

A photo of a woman with a long, slicked-back bob, bold, Elizabeth-Taylor-as-Cleopatra eye makeup, brows and contour, statement necklace and strapless white bustier. A photo of a woman holding an old-style microphone in near-darkness. She has a bold lip and eye, with large flowers in her hair.
Tina Turner as Cleopatra, Victoire Charles as Billie Holliday.

It’s disappointing that someone who collaborated on one of the world’s first mass-market makeup lines for a variety of skintones (Revlon’s New Nakeds in the 80s) and who warned explicitly against the idea that “different is bad, and that otherness is something to be feared” didn’t consider the implications of such shoots.

A photo of a woman with her arms raised and crossed above her head. She wears a casual smokey eye and soft red lip, teardrop shaped earrings and a navy glitter halter dress. A black and white photo of an old screen siren-style woman, with thin plucked, arched eyebrows, smokey eye, bold hair and dark lip.
Kiara Kabakuri as Diana Ross, Drew Barrymore as Myrna Loy.

Author: Siobhan S

20 something, living in country Australia. Spoonie profile: ME/CFS, dysautonomia, anxiety. All about sewing, knitting and food. Unapologetic feminist and disability advocate.

2 thoughts on “Book reviews: Making Faces & Face Forward”

  1. Your opening sentence is great! I’ve made perfect peace with the fact that I no longer remember what I’ve read and have re-embarked on reading lately (yay!). It’s a guilty pleasure of mine as I solely read romance novels, not the smutty ones, just the sappy ones. 🙂 It’s fun to escape reality sometimes. I don’t know that much about makeup but the tutorials are awesome to watch!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s such an entertaining artform! I love seeing what kinds of looks people come up with. And yes, as a former voracious reader it’s hard to come to terms with my foggy brain which simply won’t process information.

      Liked by 1 person

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