In Stories About Fashion’s Behind-The-Scenes Icons, Should Sexuality Matter?

by MR Magazine Staff

The figure of the gay man working behind the scenes to make others — especially women — beautiful, acting as a sounding board and sidekick, has been a dominant trope of queer narratives for decades. This unthreatening character type, which appears in everything from ’80s movies like Mannequin to Queer Eye (old and new) to Sex and the City, helped make gay men respectable by depicting them in service of something other than themselves. It is no accident that the beauty industries — the worlds of fashion and makeup — have historically been some of the few real professional spaces that allowed for openly gay men, or those coded as such, and even bestowed on them a measure of celebrity. Three recently released documentaries attempt to bring real-life queer creatives out from behind the scenes of these industries, focusing on their lives and the meaning of their work. Tiffany Bartok’s Larger Than Life: The Kevyn Aucoin Story takes up Aucoin’s legacy as a trailblazing makeup artist, while celebrated fashion designer Alexander McQueen is the subject of Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui’s McQueen, and Kate Novack’s The Gospel According to André tells the story of iconic former Vogue editor André Leon Talley. (McQueen and Aucoin, who died in 2010 and 2002, respectively, were not alive to help shape their life stories, like Talley was.) Each of these men turned to the fantasies of fashion to reinvent themselves and shape culture, after coming of age before diverse gender and sexual identities — and, for Talley, discussions about race and racism — became part of the pop culture mainstream. Read more at Buzzfeed News.