An acclimation of all things beautiful
Sir John, makeup artist to the darling stars, recently visited Charlotte, NC, for a Maquillage Mastery class about four weeks ago.
However, before setting things off in exquisite and artistic fashion, the astute guru lent us some of his time, to quench our wild curiosity about his journey into the industry as leading man to the luminaries.
Although this is our first time ever conversing with Mr. Fabulous, it felt like we’ve known him for a long while. In fact, Sir John asked more questions than answering our humdrum interview rundowns. His attention locked for a good fifty minutes, allowing him to speak candidly and brilliantly about the thrilling moments of his voyage.
“Honestly, I take my business seriously. All of this could be gone tomorrow. We have to be grounded and anchored into something that’s not superficial. It can’t be an app. It has to be something inside. It’s an inside job before it’s anything else,” Sir John spoke casually.
The 35-year-old curator initially attended college as an arts major in Atlanta, Georgia, sometime in early 2000.
“I went to school for art, art history, and painting. When that happened, I think it [makeup artistry] found me. Literally, it was by accident where I was at a catalog shoot with a [female] friend, who is a model. The makeup artist who was hired to do the job, canceled. So, she said, ‘Hey, I don’t want to reschedule. Can you paint my face?’
I didn’t even know what that was. But, I did it. I used mediums of colors. The photographer gave me two-hundred dollars and asked me to come back and do it again the next week. I was 18 or 19-years-old, and a struggling college student.
Eventually, I moved to New York with Mac Cosmetics. After that, I completely left makeup altogether. I started to do visual windows—I started doing merchandising for Bergdorf Goodman, and I worked at Gucci for awhile. I met one of Pat McGraths assistants while I was on my lunch break. He was a MAC buddy of mine from Atlanta. He invited me to New York Fashion Week. He told me that I should meet her [Pat Magrath] who was super-cool. When I got there, she told me that she liked what I did. She also asked me if I was going to be at the fashion show in Milan. I said, ‘Of course, I’ll be there.”
In all honesty, Sir John didn’t have a clue of how he was going to board a flight to Milan and much less secure a passport so that he could leave the country.
“I made it happen. I had to have a passport rushed. I scrounged up some money to get a ticket, and I slept on a friends sofa, who happened to be in Milan at the time. It was so random, but when you want to do something, the universe conspires and meets you halfway. You just have to walk.
Well, I met the lady there. She took me to Dolce and Gabanna. I did seventy shows that season. I met Naomi Campbell. She was my first client. After the Dolce and Gabanna show, Pat sent me to Naomi Campbell's hotel. It blew my mind to meet her. She is someone that I idolized. As someone who’s ethnic and of color, we [in the black community], idolized Naomi because she was so larger than life pre-internet and Instagram. That Experience was so impactful to me.”
Each moment of Sir John’s career seemed more wowing than the last. It didn’t matter if he was financially stable or hopping, with stars in his eyes, from one continent to the next. He’s in the position that many marvel over because he took a leap of faith when it counted. He didn’t just snatch a seat at the table, he brought the entire table with him.
“When I finally got Naomi, I continued to push the finish line back, and that’s with any successful people. We get to the place of, 'What’s next?'
I have to keep it moving. I never rely on past glory. Yesterday’s win is yesterday’s win. I never look at what I did yesterday. For me, I just did the Grammy’s and I’m still looking for what’s next.”
Sir John travels nonstop, and he's not slowing down anytime soon.
“I love what I do. Also, I work for myself, so I can block off the time that I need, like I took a three-week vacation and flew to Brazil. It’s one of those things—You should be able to charge your own batteries and take off when you can.
The cities that I visit, and the women that I work around, I always feel inspired. You don’t lose inspiration when you work around Beyoncé. You don’t lose inspiration when you work with Serena Williams."
I’ve worked really hard in my career. I always wanted to transcend. For example, I’m a black guy, and I work in the fashion industry, and there are no people of color.”
Sir John applying Beyoncé’s makeup in the White House 2015.
Sir John has to change his portfolio constantly to accommodate different cultures. And even though he’s worked with the most amazing women on the planet, sometimes he can’t even mention it.
“I’m definitely who I am, but when agents are pitching me to different magazines, I know how to play the game. In that, I knew that I didn’t want to do music videos. I needed to be taken seriously so that all demographics would give me contracts, campaigns and covers. I went after that, and I got it.
One thing you have to realize is, in that space, it’s not so much that I’m fighting every day for the race or for the people, but I can’t be marginalized because of something that I have no control over.”
Sir John elaborated that he wanted to belong to every woman.
“As a black makeup artist, even till this day, no matter how many wins I have in my pocket, people assume. There’s micro-aggression, which is another form of racism.
I have to remind them that I belong to everyone, from Harlem to Hong Kong. Basically, I started my career, where I know I’m a black man. I’m not running from that at all. I love it, but I also want to translate everywhere. I went after Loreal Paris , and I went after Streeter’s, which is an agency in London. I wanted to have a global perspective.
According to Sir John, this is the golden age of diversion, seclusion and social media. He loves that the societal platform is deepening transparency, and holding companies accountable for their inequities.
“Social media is a gift and a curse. I always tell people, 'It’s okay to unplug and unfollow people that make you feel bad about yourself.' If you’re following people whose life is seemingly perfect, their rich, and they wear a size zero all the time even after Thanksgiving, unfollow those people who don’t make you have a great sense of self.”
His keen perceptions are dotingly delightful…
“Keep in mind that personal branding is important. If you look at Instagram, everyone is a personal channel. You should look at your Instagram as a producer of content. It should be something that you are considerate of. I would like to post silly stuff, but I don’t have that luxury. I’m a producer of a television show on Lifetime called American Beauty Star . There are so many things that I’m accountable for. That’s the responsibility we must have. Social media, it’s a gift and a curse."
The Buffalo, New York native is working on other projects that he’s secured through social media.
“When you have clients, bosses, lawyers and everyone, they are looking at your social media pages. Everyone is looking because it’s a judgement call.”
Sir John is political savvy as well.
“I think that’s sort of my thing—I don’t mean to be political. I think politics has everything to do with beauty. During the 70’s, people were all about natural hair, and that was a fight against the machine. It was a fight to say, “I love who I am. I’m black and I’m proud, so I’m going to wear this larger than life afro. I’m going to wear things that are completely natural. All that has to do with societies norms, so politics, fashion and beauty, will always intersect.
If I have a voice and I need to speak on something, I’m going to use my platform to speak on the things that I feel passionate about. As a guy, I think we should take a look at women’s rights. You need people outside of your argument, who can campaign around your ideas. As a black person, we need Caucasians to rally around people of color as well. That’s where it all starts. That’s where the conversation starts."
Sir John shared that if he could fight for anyone, he would fight for people that are marginalized or people that are unable to get education.
“I’m actually building a school in Soweta, South Africa, with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, and a company called Woolworths [in London]. I hate the fact that if you have money, your kids will have a great start. I think all kids should have a great start. It’s so many amazingly talented and brilliant children in the world, who don’t have the ability to show people how gifted they are. That’s so heartbreaking to me.”
It’s safe to say that Sir John is a well-rounded gent, who not only cradles compassion, but he’s one heck of a cosmetic artist.
He still uses the same makeup brushes from college.
His absolute favorite look would have to be neutrals with fierce and smoky grey eyes.
His favorite project is Beyoncé’s Lemonade, but during the Grammy’s he had to accentuate Queen Bey’s attire with purple lipstick.
“She put a pair of glasses over my [smoky] eyes,” laughed Sir John.
Beyoncé at the 2018 Grammy’s
“We decided at the last minute to give her a lip [color].”
Sir John said the Bey’s light shines brightly and she is probably the most inspiring artist that he’s worked with.
As for American Beauty Star , Sir John got the call about a year ago, to be a mentor and producer for the show.
“Season one was so much of a learning curve. I didn’t know anything about TV. I did media training. I had to learn a lot by myself, but it’s so much fun.”
Sir John started out, experimenting with paints, and then BOOM he got a passport and now he’s here.
“This is my passion. I love what I do and I love working with strong women. Basically, I’m a feminist. I’ve worked with strong women forever. I grew up in a household with a single mom [my dad came later]. She was a really strong woman. I love working with women who push against the status quo. If you look at what runs parallel between people like Serena Williams, Beyoncé and Viola Davis, they don’t let anyone in society, put them in a box or marginalize what their impact is—So, yeah. I love what I do.”
Sir John with a dapper finish .