This Interview With Beyonce's Makeup Artist Turned Into The Greatest Pep Talk

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by: Madeleine Spencer
30 Jan 2018

Beyonce’s legendary make-up artist Sir John discusses everything from working on the GAP Logo Remix collection to being mentored by Charlotte Tilbury, and his all-time favourite products…

Make-up artist Sir John has made up a hell of a lot of famous faces. During a chat with him, he mentions Karlie (Kloss), Naomi (Campbell), and, of course, long-standing client Beyonce (I’m sure you don’t need a surname prompt there).

And while his fame may have been built on the back of his impressive clientele, Sir John is passionate about promoting the right stuff: equal pay, gender equality, and jolly hard work until you get where you want to be. 

It’s these beliefs that made him want to work on GAP’s latest Logo Remix campaign in which a global band of exceptional people – be they activists like Connor Franta, mental-health campaigners like Maya Jama, or actors like Awkwafina or Miles Heizer – come together to promote the reimagining of signature GAP styles and logos from the archives. Sir John explains…

#FBF #MetBall vibes 🕶❤ @karliekloss

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#FBF #MetBall vibes 🕶❤ @karliekloss

A post shared by S I R J O H N (@sirjohnofficial) on Apr 28, 2017 at 9:03am PDT

“I got into beauty completely by accident. I’d dropped out of college, where I was studying the History of Art, because it was too expensive, and a friend asked me to do her make-up for a photo shoot because the make-up artist had cancelled and I said yes – even though I didn’t know anything about mascara. From there, I started working for MAC and moved to NYC at 20, doing the windows at Berdorf, Barneys and Bendels. In my lunch break one day, I ran into a friend who was Pat McGrath’s assistant and he said ‘Hey listen, I know you haven’t done make-up in a few years but you should meet this lady because she’s awesome.’ I went to Bryant Park to the shows and met her. You know, things happen.” 

“The first celebrity I ever worked with was Naomi Campbell. It was about a decade ago, and I was really scared of the reputation. Pat had asked me if I would be at the Italian shows and I said ‘hell yes, I’ll definitely be there’ – even though I had no passport! I made it work, and went directly to Naomi’s hotel in Italy. I think she sort of senses fear like one of the big cats – thankfully, I wasn’t scared in person and my energy is quite calming so it was good. We worked together until I met Beyonce at Tom Ford’s first womenswear show and she sort of snatched me up.”

#thowback ish #twinning 🕶🕶

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#thowback ish #twinning 🕶🕶

A post shared by S I R J O H N (@sirjohnofficial) on Apr 20, 2017 at 10:10am PDT

“When I met Beyonce, I was with Charlotte Tilbury. Charlotte’s been awesome and is still so involved in the process of what’s happening with me now. I love her, I really do. She introduced me to Beyonce and told me that I was going to do her make-up. My hands were sweating buckets – I remember thinking “this is the most serious smokey eye I’m ever going to have to do in life.” And then I went about my business and didn’t expect to hear from her again, but she followed my career for about a year and asked me into her offices.”

“Don’t allow anyone to marginalise your dream. Your vision is your vision – it wasn’t given to them. If you have something you want to do, if someone tells you ‘no, you can’t do that; it hasn’t been done’ or ‘you can’t do that because you’re from this place or you’re this ethnicity so you won’t work in this business’, ignore them. For me, it just means that I won’t work with them, that’s all it means.”

“This is the golden age of inclusivity and being ‘woke’, as millennials would say. I want to work with companies and rally around companies that are socially conscious and who are not jumping on the bandwagon but who have led the charge. I feel like GAP embody that. I loved working on the Logo Remix campaign – I met Naomi Watanabe who is such an amazing light and soul. It was so cool to work with people from everywhere, from Harlem to Hong Kong, and to maybe not understand every word but to understand one another. I think that’s so indicative of what this campaign represents.”

“One of the most amazing things about my life is that I work with really amazingly strong women. I’m so glad that make-up and feminism aren’t mutually exclusive any longer. You can definitely be so involved in what’s happening politically and still want equal pay, but also to go to the bathroom and still give yourself individual lashes or a matte lip if it makes you feel good. I look at Serena Williams and she’s completely different to Beyonce or Margot Robbie or Viola Davis, but one thing that all these strong women that I work with have in parallel is the fact that they don’t allow anyone to put them into a box. They don’t allow anyone to say, ‘you’re the greatest female athlete of all time.’ No. Serena is possibly the greatest athlete in general of all time. Working within strong women puts the focus on the idea of pushing back on the status quo.”

Boom 💥 VMA face #JSxSJ Hair @andrewfitzsimons Styling @ericjmcneal

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Boom 💥 VMA face #JSxSJ Hair @andrewfitzsimons Styling @ericjmcneal

A post shared by S I R J O H N (@sirjohnofficial) on Aug 27, 2017 at 5:01pm PDT

Sir John’s Top Three Beauty Tips

1) “Let people see who you are. It’s okay to see pores or freckles. Make skin look like skin. My top tip here? Apply foundation while skin is slightly damp with moisturiser. When you do that, the foundation is going to adhere to your complexion in a really organic way and when the moisturiser dries, your foundation looks like it isn’t really there – like it’s been airbrushed on.”

2) “Next, do whatever is going to raise your confidence or your vibration. That could be an impactful eye or a statement lip. But it doesn’t have to be a whole glitter eye and a thick, matte lip – sometimes that is too much and I’m on the side of being a bit scared when I see a lot.”

3) “I’m all about the eyes. I feel there is an emotional connection that humans have with each other and the reason someone is going to talk to you for a bit longer or remain engaged in what you have to say is because of the connection in the eyes. I love tinted or waterproof eyeliner to enhance that. It’s not really about the brand – just find a formula that glides across eyes easily and doesn’t tug so that you’re not ageing your eye, and make sure you pick a good pigment.”


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