Francesco Scavullo and what he taught me about beauty.

black and white photograph of kim bassinger by francesco scavullo
Kim Bassinger copyright Francesco Scavullo circa early 1980’s

Francesco Scavullo and his Book “Scavullo Women” was probably one of the most visually inspirational books of the early 80’s. It was the Instagram of my time.

Once Francesco Scavullo’s inspirational beauty book was brought to life. Everyone who aspired to be one of the beautiful people were changed forever. I remember Scavullo’s work as a photographer, first his work for Cosmopolitan Magazine, his coveted covers that were so different than other women’s magazines at that time.

Then came the book Scavullo Women, A book that would influence a generation of would-be models, future fashionistas, and makeup artists, and women of all ages. It was my generation’s version of a highly produced selfie, but for the famous only. As a bystander, I would turn each page in anticipation of the transformation before me. His transformational photos were epic.

I still remember the photos of Kim Basinger above and Patti Hansen wife of famed Rolling Stone Keith Richards. Oh to be that beautiful…it was something to aspire to.

All that over the top hair and makeup and the illusion of photography could transform a woman into a goddess. Makeup and hair was the obsession of the 80’s. Cheap to expensive and most importantly widely available. I was in like Flynn. I wanted some of that magic. Lots of lashes, eyeliner, and power purple eyeshadow and big hair. In the darkness of the dance clubs we all were Francesco Scavullo masterpeices.

cover of scavullo book women of brook shields by francesco scavullo pretty girl with big green eyes
The book that launched a thousand faces and formed epic lines at the Ultima II counters world-wide.

When looking, back; Francesco Scuvullo, Brook Sheilds and Calvin Klein defined this generation. Before plastic Surgery was all rage in mainstream America, these gurus offered women the promise of a total transformation through nothing more than a good set of makeup brushes and some hairspray. I firmly believe to this day that the “Glamour Shots” franchise would not have come into fruition if not for the works of Francesco Scavullo.

farrah fawcett quote from francesco scavullo's book women
Beautiful Farrah Fawcett’s quote from the back of the Scavullo Women Book.

If Scavullo could transform Brook Shields from a sweet sixteen-year-old into a twenty-something bombshell, his kind of magic could turn Texas bombshell Anna Nicole Smith into the girl next door. If Farah Fawcett’s “less is more” aesthetic was true, only Scavullo could make her no makeup look work.

Anna Nicole Smith in a Guess Ad photographed by Francesco Scavullo
Beautiful Anna Nicole Smith a beauty icon for a new generation.

Francesco Scavullo Magic

Beautiful Anna Nicole Smith the second of the women highlighted on this post is now deceased. Who could forget their first glimpse of those guess ads? I think by then I was in my early 30’s living in New York and I was so impressed by these photos artistically. Scavullo had the power to make every woman her most beautiful. It was because of him I believed the simple premise that set me free: with the right makeup, lighting and clothes you can become someone else…or at least pretend.

I have always been a sucker for a good makeover. The before and after photos of “Scavullo Women” were mind-blowing. I learned from him that a lot of the art of beauty was smoke and mirrors. It could be manufactured in a sense by angles, light, makeup and the right environment. Thank you, Francesco, for all of your inspiration and for allowing me to believe I could be as beautiful as I set my mind to be.

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