As far as we know, there’s almost no such thing as effortless beauty. From facial treatments that leave your complexion dewy and luminous to the perfect winged eyeliner, experts reveal their most-trusted, insider hacks for CR‘s series, Beauty Secrets.
Sir John is a makeup artist who believes that beauty is supposed to be source of strength. “If it’s not empowering, then what the fuck are we doing?” he tells CR.
It’s a message that he’s returned to often throughout his prolific career. Sir John’s celebratory approach to beauty comes through each bold lip and shimmering eye he creates. The artist, best-known for his work with Beyoncé, got his big break assisting Pat Mcgrath and Charlotte Tilbury’s makeup teams during fashion month. Since then, he’s worked with some of the biggest names in the fashion and entertainment realms–those that are celebrated as strong female figures–including Serena Williams, Mary J. Blige, Chrissy Teigen, Joan Smalls, and, of course, Queen Bey.
While he’s accomplished much more–hosting makeup masterclasses around the globe, appearing as a mentor on beauty competition show American Beauty Star, and launching a special-edition Lion King cosmetic collection last year tied to the live-action remake–Sir John says he’s still a student: “There’s so much arrogance at the black belt level that you’ll never learn anything else, so stay a white belt.” But here, the pro shows otherwise, teaching CR about how being a makeup artist goes beyond eye-catching beats, how he wants to build confidence in his clients, and why feminism is important in his work.
You hinted that you’re working on something new, can you share anything about it?
“Right now I have something to say, so it’s going to start a bit earlier than the cosmetics or skin approach. It’s a podcast that creates an ethos and rings into the consumer before we ask them to come where we are. It’s about rallying around women who don’t feel whole. Our business chips away at women so much and there’s so much anxiety and depression that happens because of the glorification of vanity in the social [media] era, that I feel like part of my job is to shed light on, a lot of that shit isn’t real.”
So how do you combat that in your own work?
“Being whole starts with liking what you see in the morning, shaking what your mama gave you. How you look affects how you feel. So how does that impact my day to day? I’m always doing a check-in. For example, Beyoncé sung at Kobe [Bryant]’s funeral, and I had an idea of what I wanted to do, but emotionally I could see she was heavy. And you know, it’s not about me. So many makeup artists and hairstylists, we go in and have this idea of what we want, but really, what is your girl feeling? Can we magnify where she wants to be? It’s not about hair, it’s not about makeup, when you see someone shining on the red carpet or runway, it’s because the team is in harmony. It’s not just because the person is so great. It’s because the team had a flow or an energy that radiated through that client.”
And how do you reflect that in the makeup or beauty itself?
“I was talking to Rosie Huntington-Whiteley for a show we filmed recently, and she asked, ‘Sir John, how do you want people to feel after you do their makeup?’ And I thought about it, and I don’t want them to feel sexy. I don’t want them to feel beautiful. I want them to feel powerful. For me, beautiful is sweet, but it’s also kind of soft. I want them to feel strong. And it can just be a statement lip or great skin, it doesn’t have to be so much of a look as much as it is a feeling. When you feel powerful, you do more, you own more, you expect more.”
It’s about building confidence.
“Absolutely right. That confidence, speaking of social media, it weighs on the younger generation. Our job as elders in the community, even though I’m like 37, is to check in with our younger girls because it doesn’t happen to the guys in the same way. And it started a long time ago. It started back in the ’40s and ’50s when the marketing companies needed to put a hold on someone’s sense of self to sell product. Concealer, foundation, anti-wrinkle cream–all of these triggers we have in terms of advertising affects a sense of self. Coming back to a neutral point is the goal.”
Who inspires you?
“Goes without saying, Beyoncé is a huge inspiration. Massive, massive, massive. When you’re around the sun, you can’t help but feel illuminated. Erykah Badu, and also my mom, my sister–the real women around. Ann Marie Nelson-Bogle who was the senior vice president marketing of L’Oréal Paris and watching what she’s doing in the boardroom everyday. I’m around some warriors. Just being around these strong women. I’m a huge feminist. When I say that, it’s just a modern way of saying that I’m an advocate for women. I grew up with a strong single mom. For me, I’m making sure that’s what’s at the forefront. I’m really there to push the agenda or to allow people who don’t necessarily feel affected by women’s issues know that they are affected.”
What is something you learned from your time working with Charlotte Tilbury?
“Charlotte always wanted me to be myself. When I say that, I was always myself. But being in the fashion industry, growing up as an assistant in the business, everyone has to wear black, everyone has to fit into the back. You’re not supposed to be seen or heard. It kind of took a toll on me. So she saw I was losing a bit of my secret sauce, and she pulled me aside backstage in Milan and was like, ‘Sir John, I want you to bring all of that light here. I want you to be as flamboyant, as fun, as cool as the day I met you. Don’t dumb that down for anyone.’ When she told me that I looked at her like OK. Getting that creative license, no one needs permission, but sometimes you need a reminder.”
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createdAt:Fri, 20 Mar 2020 14:55:54 +0000