Sir John is one of Beyoncé’s go-to makeup artists. Image by: instagram.com/sirjohnofficial
If Sir John Barnett (yes, that’s his real name), celebrity makeup artist for L’Oréal Paris, hadn’t introduced himself to Naomi Campbell – against literally everyone’s advice – there’s a good chance he wouldn’t be one of Beyoncé’s go-to makeup artists today.
ALWAYS SAY YES. “I studied art history in college. I started doing visual merchandising for the windows at Bergdorf’s and Barneys. I wasn’t into makeup at all. Then a friend of mine, Yadim, who was a lead assistant for makeup artist Pat McGrath, said they needed some extra hands at a show, and I said, ‘Sure.’ I had no idea who she was.”
TAKE A RISK. “At the show, I met Naomi [Campbell]. I remember seeing her shoulders – she has this very great regal posture; she used to be a dancer. I thought: ‘Is that who I think it is? I’m going to go say hi.’ Everyone was like, ‘No! Don’t say anything to her; leave her alone. It will be a scene.’ I went up to her and said: ‘Hi, how are you? My name is Sir John. I’m new with Pat’s team,’ and she was like, ‘Okay,’ and...I walked away.”
FAKE IT ’TIL YOU MAKE IT. “Pat asked me if I would be in Milan in two weeks, and I said yes. Mind you, I didn’t even have a passport. But the universe aligned, and I got to Italy. Naomi found out I was there because I was at the Dolce [& Gabbana] show, and she requested me to do her makeup for the afterparty that night.”
LEARN FROM THE BEST. “Then I started working with Charlotte Tilbury, who is still like a fairy godmother to me. She introduced me to Beyoncé at Tom Ford’s first womens-wear show in 2010. She said, ‘Listen, I want you to do [makeup for] this girl,’ and she pointed to her name. I’d just finished doing Julianne Moore and Daphne Guinness and I said, ‘Which model is Beyoncé?’ and they just walked me over there and opened the curtains. I saw this big gold hair; I started sweating and I’m like, ‘Okay, I’ll be right back.’ I ran in the bathroom and called my mom. The rest is sort of [surreal].”
STAY IN YOUR OWN LANE. “There’s so much competition nowadays. You can get discouraged by looking at everyone else’s accounts on Instagram, but as long as you’re being true to yourself and your art form and doing the best you can do, you’ll have no competition. Don’t be jealous of your friends; be inspired by them.”
This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of ELLE Canada.