(Behind The Glam)
Beyoncé’s Makeup Artist Sir John On Why He’s Proudly Anti-Trend
“Beauty is a feeling.”
Iconic celebrity beauty moments aren’t born without the visionary artists that create them. In Behind The Glam, TZR gives you an inside look into the careers and inspirations of the industry’s top artists
If you know Beyoncé, Naomi Campbell, and Serena Williams, then you know Sir John — well, at least, his work. Over the course of 20 years, the now very sought-after makeup artist has worked his way to the top of an industry where success is contingent on making connections. Sir John started his career working at MAC Cosmetics (where he was fired for being late) before going on to assist makeup artist greats like Charlotte Tilbury and Pat McGrath. Now, he maintains a star-studded client roster and recently, served as a judge on OnlyFans’ Creative Fund: Fashion Edition alongside celebrity stylists Maeve Reilly and Law Roach (who famously dresses Zendaya).
Prior to catching his ‘big break’ Sir John was designing window displays at major New York City department stores like Bergdorf Goodman and Barney’s — and on the side, doing makeup at a strip club in Queens, New York. The dancers put out a tip jar and collected cash donations so that Sir John could travel to Milan to assist Pat McGrath during Fashion Week. It was also during this trip that Sir John had his very first client — Naomi Campbell. From there, he assisted Charlotte Tilbury, who continues to be a mentor in his life.
It was also Tilbury who introduced him to Beyoncé at Tom Ford's New York Fashion Week show in 2010. “She's normal as hell,” he says recounting his first impression of the singer. “The first question I asked her is, and I know that it sounds terrible, but I knew that we were the same age, I asked her 'are you such and such age?' and she started laughing...it made me feel like, 'Oh, snap, like, I can emotionally put like my handbag down and go to work and feel comfortable and free.’”
Given the benefit of mentorship in his own life, Sir John has set out on a mission to pay it forward to young creatives coming up in the industry, which is what drew him to OnlyFans’ competition series. “It's great to be someone who people like what you do, but if there's no teachable moment, what is it all for?” he says. “A lot of the things that we go through isn't for us, it's for someone else. So someone else can have a shortcut. For someone else to actually discover or uncover themselves.”
With two decades in the beauty industry under his belt, Sir John has seen plenty of eras come and go, which is perhaps why he is, as he describes himself, very anti-trend. “If something makes you feel whole or connected to yourself or sexy, or if it makes you want to shake what your mama gave you...roll with it, rock with it, do it,” he tells TZR. “When we take away trends, which are guidelines or training wheels, I think that we'll be freer, and we'll have more access to happiness when it comes to the choices we make in beauty.”
This approach has led Sir John to coin the term “dopamine glam” — an aesthetic that’s informing his work throughout Beyoncé’s new Renaissance era. “The choices that we are taking are all to make us feel something to feel connected to ourselves, to feel whole, to feel fun,” he explains. “And we're not dressing for other people, we're doing it to move the needle inside, we're doing it to raise our own vibration.”
When it came to Beyoncé's instantly iconic Britsh Vogue cover, Sir John saw an opportunity to let this ethos come to life. “I remember the makeup board was like, ‘moisturizer, chapstick, clean lash,’” he recalls of working on the photoshoot. “So I was like, let me establish what I've known how to do best, which is make someone look fresh,” he tells TZR. “And so once I did that, I'm going to keep pushing. I'm like a bad kid. I'm going to keep pushing, and I'm going to keep pushing. And, I [ended up with] cognac, red, vinyl lips.”
Seeing Sir John’s work begs the question, ‘how?’ — his clients are obviously stunning but the artist has a distinct way of enhancing their beauty in a way that is unlike any other makeup artist’s touch, and it all comes down to a natural-looking foundation base. “My hack is that after your moisturizer when your skin is slightly damp is the best time to apply your foundation,” he says. “I always use a sponge, I love egg sponges. A damp beauty blender will not soak up all of your foundation. So I use a damp beauty blender, put a little bit of foundation on the back of my hand and start to stipple it over the face and start to dial up the coverage where I need it and dial down the coverage where I don't. And when your moisturizer dries, your foundation adheres in such an organic way that you can't see where it starts and stops.”
This kind of flawless, radiant makeup technique is at the core of Sir John’s work, but what ultimately drives his beauty philosophy is makeup’s ability to make people feel their best. “I want people to feel,” he muses. “Beauty is a feeling. It's not only seen but it's also felt. What's beautiful is the impression or the feeling you leave on people. And I think that's the more modern take or the modern movement that we want to see. I grew up in an era where beauty was not inclusive. But now, beauty is something that we all can consume, and we all have, and what's beautiful is how we all interpret what it means to us.”