You know that feeling you get when you’re in the presence of someone really special? That’s pretty much how the Makeup.com team felt when we first met L’Oréal Paris celebrity makeup artist Sir John. In addition to being poised, über-articulate and a genius with a makeup brush, Sir John is also about as nice as they come. After our initial meeting with this makeup wizard, who’s worked with the likes of Karlie Kloss, Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyong’o and — wait for it — Beyoncé, we knew we needed to get his full story. Check out our recent sit-down with Sir John (and check out our pic with him at Marie Claire's Image Makers Awards!), where he spills on his accidental start with makeup, his natural knack for social media and, of course, his most essential makeup tips.
Makeup.com: First and foremost, tell us about your journey to becoming a successful makeup artist.
Sir John: Growing up in New York, I went to performing arts school and had always been obsessed with art and brushes. When I was 19 and going to school in Atlanta, I went to a photoshoot with a friend who was a model. I just sat there on the ground watching her do her thing. The makeup artist that was hired never showed up so the model turned to me and asked, ‘Can you put a situation on my face?’ So I did it! The photographer told me I did a great job and asked me to come back next week to do makeup and he would pay me $300. So I went out and bought makeup and returned the next week.
Shortly after that, I started working at a major makeup company at one of their beauty counters where I learned so much about makeup and women. I was eventually transferred back to New York.
After doing that for a bit, I actually left makeup altogether and went into visual merchandising for companies like Henri Bendel, Bergdorf Goodman and Gucci. While I was at Gucci, I crossed paths with a former colleague who was now working as an assistant for makeup artist Pat McGrath. He told me she was looking for a makeup assistant and that I should meet her at a show she was working. I figured I’d show up and give it a shot. When I went to the show, I met Pat backstage and she asked me if I was going to be in Italy two weeks from that day. I told her, ‘Yes,’ even though I didn’t even have a passport at the time!
So I went to Italy where I worked my first major runway show — Dolce — and met my first celebrity client: Naomi Campbell. This got me back into makeup where I continued to work as an assistant for prominent makeup artists, one of which actually first introduced me to Beyoncé.