Q&A: ‘Larger Than Life’ Director Tiffany Bartok on Kevyn Aucoin and His Impact

LARGER THAN LIFE: THE KEVYN AUCOIN STORY explores the life of the iconic make-up artist who transformed the profession into a prominent and influential art form. Director and fellow make-up artist Tiffany Bartok paints a beautiful and deeply personal portrait of a man who, as both an artist and LGBTQ advocate, dedicated his life to elevating the inner confidence and presence of others. Through intimate archival footage and interviews with his famous friends and clients, Bartok weaves through the journey of Aucoin’s life up until his tragic end—reminding everyone that he truly was larger than life.

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What a fascinating life story you’ve chosen to tell. Please describe LARGER THAN LIFE: THE KEVYN AUCOIN STORY in your own words.

Tiffany Bartok: LARGER THAN LIFE is a feature documentary film that investigates the surprisingly complicated life of an artist who was bestowed with an other-worldly talent with makeup. Defying all obstacles and the inability to fit in, Kevyn left a small town in Louisiana and headed to fashion’s epicenter, New York City, determined to let it be known… He had arrived. Kevyn had only his infectious personality and the ability to transform every face he met into their best self, and all the while he was exploring who he was, who he was becoming as his fame grew, and who he wanted to be.

What in particular inspired you to make this film?

Tiffany Bartok: Anyone who is in the makeup or fashion industry knows Kevyn Aucoin, but I had made a reference to him in a production meeting to someone who responded with, “Who is Kevyn Aucoin?”  I pulled out all of his books and we all spent the entire night talking about Kevyn, his contributions and his life. It was there that it became my mission to make sure everyone knows who Kevyn was and what an amazing person he is.

Did you know Kevyn personally? If so, what did you work with him on?

Tiffany Bartok: I only had the fortune of meeting Kevyn once. I will never forget it. My best friend had heard he would be on Sex and The City, where she worked in production. I weaseled my way into being an extra that day with the sole purpose of meeting Kevyn. My best friend introduced us and it really like meeting Elvis Presley.  

So you started off as an actress, became a makeup artist, and you’re now a filmmaker. What led you down this path throughout your career?

Tiffany Bartok: Well, I couldn’t make a living as an actress, and was the worst waitress in the world. All I had was a degree in the arts and a lifelong obsession with makeup. I found I could make a living doing makeup, and then I met my husband on set. He was acting and I was the makeup artist. We quickly got married and started making films together. When I said I wanted to merge makeup and filmmaking together with this documentary, it was a no-brainer.

What other projects do you have on tap?

Tiffany Bartok: Well, since Jayce produced this one, I will produce the feature he is directing next. In the meantime, I will be developing my next documentary.

What are you hoping audiences take away from LARGER THAN LIFE?

Tiffany Bartok: That Kevyn was more than makeup. Kevyn was an activist, a family man, intelligent, loving and strong. His impact on everyone will live forever and I want everyone to understand why.

What are you looking forward to most at HIFF25?

Tiffany Bartok: I am looking forward to finally having fun with our entire team! It’s been a long, winding, exciting and challenging road and I am ready for us to enjoy ourselves and celebrate Kevyn!

Check out the World Premiere of LARGER THAN LIFE: THE KEVYN AUCOIN STORY in the World Cinema section of HIFF25.  Learn more.  Follow the film on Facebook and Twitter.