Sir John paints the faces of icons, working as a trusted member of Beyoncé's glam team for over a decade. Still, the 39-year-old New York native is an icon in his own right. He's forged a unique path that showcases the limitless possibilities of a modern-day career in makeup artistry. He's gone from working at a M.A.C. counter to becoming L'Oréal Paris' first Black US Creative director. Disney tapped him to collaborate on the 2019 Lion King makeup collection, and he graced television screens as a mentor on Lifetime's American Beauty Star. And that's just scratching the surface of Sir John's trailblazing resume.
While he's become one of the most revered MUAs in the business, many will be surprised to know his debut in the industry was unexpected. A creative at heart, Sir John studied art history at American Intercontinental University in Atlanta. As he spent his days learning about printmaking and sculptures, swatching eyeshadows and foundation was the furthest thing from his mind. However, he began to turn his attention to beauty when a friend asked him to do her makeup for a photoshoot. Picking up makeup brushes for the first time changed everything.
With 20 years passing since that moment, Sir John has reached a thrilling point in his career where there's no shortage of opportunities. One of his latest endeavors is a Sessions by MasterClass course. Sir John is no stranger to teaching his signature skills to global audiences, but he says this collaboration with MasterClass is his most elaborate production yet. In the class, he pulls back the curtain on his artistic approach to makeup application and shares tips on enhancing your skills in 30 days (whether you're a novice beauty lover or glam expert).
Every element of the MasterClass feels intentional—starting with the language Sir John uses to discuss makeup. In this month-long session, there's no place for complicated makeup terminology. When Sir John steps into teacher mode, maintaining the emotionality and approachability of beauty is the priority.
"Beauty is a feeling," he says. "When I talk about makeup, I know I need to come from a place that recognizes people are using cosmetics to make themselves feel better emotionally. Right now, everyone is doing makeup that makes them feel more connected to themselves. So, I wanted to make this class feel practical for people—whether they're in Harlem or Hong Kong."
The course is divided into seven sections, covering everything from skin prep to building your kit. But, of course, the main attractions are Sir John's step-by-step makeup tutorials. There are three included in the class—which he's dubbed the "no-makeup" look, "everyday" look, and "icon" look.
"When it came to the glam, we were thinking about how we can speak to the most people," Sir John explains. "There's something for the minimalist. There's also something for the people who love color and drama. We covered it all with the three looks."
Throughout each tutorial, Sir John reveals some of the hallmark techniques he uses on clients like Queen Bey. His years of jet-setting across the globe for tours and fashion weeks have undoubtedly helped him discover the best products and practices. "When I'm traveling the world with one suitcase of makeup, I have to think about what I need and don't," he says. "Convertible products are something I love talking about. You can use cream blush as a lip color. You can use a brow pencil as a lip liner. There are so many tips in the class that I hope people take away."
Sir John demonstrates his staple looks and tricks on Afro-Latina model (and longtime friend) Joan Smalls. For him, it's always been important to center women of color in the projects he takes on. "I grew up around really strong women," he says. "I always want to be a safe space for the women who raised me and those who look like them."
Beyond his makeup talents, Sir John's sincerity and passion resonate most when watching the class. He's not just an artist—he's an advocate and cheerleader for every person that sits in his chair. "I'm in this business because I love to make people feel good," he notes.
Working with MasterClass provides Sir John with another opportunity to share his effervescent energy and makeup magic with the masses. It also serves as a historical record of the artist he has become over the last two decades. "This class is a time capsule—a punctuation in time," he says.
When Sir John was a college student in Atlanta, he never imagined this would be his life. But, it's clear he's deeply appreciative of every experience thus far and optimistic about all that is to come. 2022 is shaping up to be yet another monumental year for Sir John. Right now, he's basking in the excitement surrounding his partnership with MasterClass, his recent appointment as CTZN Cosmetics' chief creative officer, and the forthcoming launch of a personal venture. "I'm an '80s baby, and we're the first generation to make being a creative an actual career," he says. "I'm grateful I can show up as myself every day. I feel free."
Enrollment for Sir John’s session will be open until May 19. You can sign up here.