#MakeupMonday: Beyoncé’s Makeup Artist, Sir John

What can I say about #Beychella that hasn’t been said?   As the New York Times review proclaimed, Beyoncé is Bigger Than Coachella:

Let’s just cut to the chase: There’s not likely to be a more meaningful, absorbing, forceful and radical performance by an American musician this year, or any year soon, than Beyoncé’s headlining set at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on Saturday night.

It was rich with history, potently political and visually grand. By turns uproarious, rowdy, and lush. A gobsmacking marvel of choreography and musical direction.

And not unimportantly, it obliterated the ideology of the relaxed festival, the idea that musicians exist to perform in service of a greater vibe. That is one of the more tragic side effects of the spread of festival culture over the last two decades. Beyoncé was having none of it. The Coachella main stage, on the grounds of the Empire Polo Club here, was her platform, yes, but her show was in countless ways a rebuke.

And concluded: “History is her stage.”

Kellee and I watched the re-play straight through on Sunday morning, utterly transfixed. We couldn’t take our eyes of the screen, and the day’s obligations just went by the wayside. It was a revelation.

Those (unlike me) who are experts in the grand, historic scope of her exaltation of black history and culture and music can truly grasp the accomplishment.  Myles Johnson writes in another NYT review:

But she didn’t just kill the performance; she also rewrote the book on black respectability politics. She could have decided to play to the majority-white audience with a show that made it easier to forget cultural differences. Or she could be herself. Beyoncé chose the latter.

In putting on a show that celebrated the diversity of black people, she conveyed that no matter how much fame or money she has, she will refuse to divorce herself from black culture, even the parts that are underappreciated, disrespected or misunderstood by white people. Beyoncé was performing her music, but she was also saying that the performance of respectability — the policing of black people’s behavior and appearance to better appeal to white people — is an oppression we don’t need in our lives.

Black musicians in particular have long been told how they should look and perform to sustain their success and be marketable to a larger audience. That often meant that black artists distanced themselves from the things associated with black culture, especially the things that might be coded as not-respectable.

Craig Jenkins of The Vulture writes, “We’ll Revisit Beyonce’s Coachella Performance For the Rest of Our Lives,”

It was apparent that Beyoncé was playing for keeps in her Saturday Coachella set just seconds in, when she arrived, bejeweled in an Egyptian queen’s garb, to lead a New Orleans–style second line down the walkway to the festival’s main stage, which was outfitted with a seating rig shaped like university stadium bleachers and a lighting rig shaped like a pyramid, while a marching band gave Parliament’s “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)” a maudlin, ragtime twist. Had she simply continued marching past the stage to a jet and flown home, we would still have been left with a powerful statement about black unity.

Before a single note was sung, Beyoncé’s entrance threaded the majesty of ancient African royalty through bittersweet bayou jazz funerals, ’70s funk’s Afrofuturism, modern-day trap insouciance, and a dab of gospel by way of her band’s tease of the new Knowles-Carter classic “Family Feud,” whose sample was lifted from the Clark Sisters’ devotional warm-up “Ha Ya (Eternal Life).” “Beychella” illustrated through dance, dress, and brash musicology that pride and perseverance are the through line adjoining the last few thousands of years of black history.

If you didn’t get a chance to see it, do what you must to see it now.

<–Side note: As my Sunday homage to Queen Bey, I wore a highly uncharacteristic nude lip like the one she wore for most of the show.  It’s Honey Matte Lip Whip, by Black Woman-owened makeup brand (which I mention repeatedly on here!) BeautyBakerie.  Buy this product!  It stays on for 24 hours without BUDGING!

Anyway, for #MakeupMonday, I want to share some insights from Beyoncé’s makeup artist, Sir John. Note that Sir John was fired from his first big job, at Mac.  And now, a decade later—he does makeup for Beyoncé. And Serena Williams.

Which for our purposes here at TPII shows that the job you think you MUST have, isn’t necessarily your best job.

Anyway, this interview is from Beauty Editor, and it’s really great!  And, for a few insights about Beyonce’s makeup look in the performance (very few! Clearly the makeup specifics were not about to be shared!) read this piece.

What are the products in your kit that you can’t do a job without?

Sir John:  For me, concealers are life or death, because sometimes, in a pinch, you can use concealer instead of foundation. If I don’t have any time, or if my kit is farther away from me than I have time to run and grab, I’ll moisturize the skin and use my fingers and concealer to give coverage where I need it and blend out where I don’t.

Beautyblenders are these sponges we have. Any of the sponges nowadays are like the Holy Grail. They’re like an extra hand, or your magic eraser. I like to go over [the skin] with the sponge to make sure there are no fingerprints, so that things are blended smoothly. So this is like your airbrusher.

Beautyblender Makeup Sponge

Pointed cotton buds are my jam, too. They’ll clean up a winged eye. You can put your line on really quickly, and then just take a couple seconds with a cotton bud and even out your wings and fix everything.

Who makes the best makeup brushes?

MAC has great brushes; they’ve always had great brushes. I also love Artis. I use them for the face; I love those babies. And Sigma has really nice brushes. Brushes are key—they’re very, very important.

Artis Fluenta Oval 7 Brush
 Which brush do you apply foundation with?

I’ll apply foundation with my fingers. My body heat is going to change the texture. I’m dabbling, I’m stippling, I’m layering. Doing that, it gets this organic quality that makes everything a second skin.

What kind of look do you do if you only have five minutes?

If I have only five minutes, which is so often… I hate to say this, but sometimes hair gets so long and styling gets five or 10 fittings. And then they look at makeup, “You only have 10 minutes.” It’s like, do you know how long this guy had colour in her hair? [laughs]

If I had only a small amount of time, what I would do is a statement lip. You can’t look at a statement lip and say, “Oh, it’s just because she didn’t have time.” No, this could be intentionally the statement she wanted to make for the day. Eyes take a little bit longer, because you want symmetry and there’s a layering that happens. So I’d do a statement lip, and a lip liner to make the lip last longer.

What are some of your favourite L’Oréal products? (Sir John is a spokesman for L’Oreal)

The Infallible Silkissime Eyeliners. They’re eye kohls. I love these babies because they’re completely waterproof and they do not move. They go on so easily into the waterlines and once they dry, it’s like cement. I use them all the time; they are one of my desert island products. There’s a forest green—I love green—and I love this greige colour we have, it’s really new and fresh. Also, I like to use half and half. I’ll put a darker colour eyeliner on the top and a lighter colour on the bottom.

Pro-Glow Foundation is my jam because it gives a very luminous glow to the skin. It’s sheer but light-reflective.

I love the concealer palette we have. Every makeup artist loves a palette because they can pack lighter, and no one is ever one colour. I mix them every single day. You can cover a tattoo, you can cover a pimple, you can cover dark circles. Also, throughout the week, you’re probably picking up more sun and getting more colour every day so your skin is going to change. Every person should always have foundation and concealer in multiple colours.


How do you cover up imperfections?

First of all, I want to say that there’s no such thing as an imperfect face. I love differences in people. I love a birthmark, or a gap in your tooth. That kind of thing adds swag to your look. When you’re such a cookie-cutter, when you look like everyone else, where’s that individuality?

Okay, so no one loves a pimple. But it’s temporary. Or sometimes, I’ve seen like, hair growth. Not on any of the girls you know! [laughs] It could be hormone things or maybe a pregnancy mark.

So I’m going to give you more coverage where you need it, but I’ll do sheer everywhere else. Women think, “If I need coverage, I need coverage everywhere.” But I want them to get in the habit of doing spot coverage. Minimize your coverage to where you need it. You probably only need maximum coverage on about five percent of your face. Everywhere else, I’ll blend it away so it looks believable, sheer and breathable. I want to see pores and freckles. That’s what you want; freckles are important. If your skin is natural, you can go heavier with the eyes and lips.

How do you deal with darkness around the eyes?

Use a hydrating concealer on top of your eye cream. Look for concealers that are creamy, not dry. You don’t want anything too oily, either. So I’ll use an eye cream that has maybe some kind of de-puffing effect. While it’s slightly damp, I’ll take [the concealer on] my ring finger and I’ll start to tap it in, tap it in, tap it in. It adheres beautifully once it’s dry.

And a final point:

What would people find the most surprising about your job? 

Can I be honest with you? If you don’t listen to anything else I say today, listen to this. So many people work in makeup and beauty and hair. Everyone can do makeup really well. Everyone can do hair really well. But I’m not in the business of makeup, I’m in the business of people. It’s less about how amazing I am with a brush, and more about how I have interpersonal relationships with people and how I make them feel. If you make people feel great, they’ll want to keep you around. They’ll fight for you, you know?

*My regular intro:

Welcome to #MakeupMonday, my weekly series on makeup; academic and postacademic job market and productivity posts will continue on Tuesday and Friday as usual.

Here is my weekly reminder:  I will not engage with makeup-shaming here or on any Facebook or Twitter comment threads. I support your right to not wear makeup, and anyone who dislikes makeup, disapproves of makeup, or wants to argue that no academic woman should be judged on the basis of makeup (which nobody is claiming anyway), I suggest you come back for my other posts on other topics.

For previous posts, see the following:

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About Karen Kelsky

I am a former tenured professor at two institutions--University of Oregon and University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. I have trained numerous Ph.D. students, now gainfully employed in academia, and handled a number of successful tenure cases as Department Head. I've created this business, The Professor Is In, to guide graduate students and junior faculty through grad school, the job search, and tenure. I am the advisor they should already have, but probably don't.

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