- U.S. celebrity makeup artist Sir John is most recognised for his client, multi Grammy-award-winning artist Beyoncé.
- The global artist and activist has collaborated with WBeauty - Woolworths' cosmetics line - on limited edition cruelty-free makeup ranges since 2018, and now he brings us the third edition - Sir John x WBeauty Vol. 3 - but virtually this year due to Covid restrictions.
- W24's Afika Jadezweni had a Zoom afternoon chat with the artist and his 2020 muse, local muso Unathi, ahead of the launch of the product offering from this collaboration, and shares her top recommendations from the range that is now available to shop.
His first celebrity client was Naomi Campbell - a deep dive for someone who was just dipping their toe in to test the waters - and the heavyweight celebrity makeup artist's fate has been sealed since.
Speaking to me in 2017 when he first caught the curiosity and affection of South African women, Sir John told me he met Naomi during his first Paris Fashion Week, and "next thing I knew I was getting called to go do her makeup at her hotel!"
"I remember all of it being so new to me. I was like, ‘Okay, there’s no train back. This is business'," he marveled.
Several runways and red carpets later, and Sir John is one of the most highly acclaimed personas in his field.
How privileged we are then, to not only have had first-hand experience, in-person encounters, and not one but three limited edition makeup ranges (exclusive to SA) from the global artist that has the likes of Beyoncé, Gabrielle Union, and Naomi Campbell as his regular canvases, while he adds our very own talents to his list of muses too.
With every annual encounter with Sir John, beauty lessons are amassed. So before we get to 2020's lessons (and boy, has this year been one of many-a-lesson), let's take a quick retrospective look at the Sir John beauty playbook because well, you know... lessons before practicals.
In 2017, there was no product offering from Sir John just yet, but what we did not get in swatches we certainly gained in the wisdom of vanity.
These were the most memorable bites of beauty advice from his buffet of skills and knowledge:
Red lipstick lessons
Whenever you want your skin to pop, you should always want to choose an orange-based red. Think ‘50s red or tomato red. Those will always make your skin look healthier.
On the contrary, if you want your teeth to look really white, and your smile to illuminate, go for a blue-based red. Anything from raspberry to dark Merlot lips. A blue-based red lipstick makes your teeth look really brilliant, while an orange-based red makes your skin look healthy.
Sir John x WBeauty Volume 3 lipsticks. Image supplied by Conversation Capital
Use waterproof mascara as seldom as possible - it dries out your lashes, so stop using it if you still want to have lashes in your 50s. Brands usually have both a waterproof option and a normal mascara, find the [latter].
Volume 2 lessons
All about beauty with a conscience:
Firstly, switching up your product placement is one way to be more economical about your makeup. What is meant by switching up product placement is simply that you can use one product for more than one purpose or not necessarily using it for its intended purpose - wearing lipstick as eyeshadow or as blush, for example.
Sir John x Wbeauty Volume 3 dual sticks. Image supplied by Conversation Capital
Secondly, support brands that ethically produce their products. The packaging should tell you. "Cruelty-free', "vegan", "eco-friendly" are just some of the tags you should be looking for. If it ain't ethical, then maybe you should chuck it out... in a recycling bin, though.
Thirdly, understanding that "less is more" is more than just a phrase can really change the way you consume beauty, starting from treating foundation as an occasional option rather than a necessity. Sir John even notes that "full makeup is no longer modern", so doing less means buying less, which in turn decreases our harmful impact on the environment, and so the turtles get to live longer.
Featured in this edition's visually striking campaign are Idols SA judge Unathi, and top SA models Anyon Asola and Ansolet Rossouw (amongst others) who've walked for international fashion week shows including Philipp Plein, Chanel, D&G, and Vivetta.
Ansolet (left) and Anyon (right). Collage by writer. Images supplied by Conversation Capital
Volume 3 muse, Unathi (left). Image supplied by Conversation Capital
I opened this year's conversation with Sir John by asking what motivated the team to go ahead with Volume 3 in 2020 despite it being a stagnant year of characterless faces. To this, he explained that production and shooting were underway last December already, where he enjoyed South Africa's warmth and red sunsets that keep him returning year after year.
The MUA therefore considers this year's edition a "love letter to South Africa", sharing that "we have to keep loving on ourselves regardless" of the pandemic upon us.
So in his own words, this is what Sir John shared with me about Volume 3:
A love letter to South Africa
This is a love letter to South Africa. There’s no better time than now to love on ourselves. Everything is locally sourced and sustainable, and we wanted to make sure that we are highlighting the artists within South Africa. Bee Diamondhead styled it, while Unathi is the face. Additionally, the Protea flower illustrated on the packaging of the palettes was done by Robin Pretorious. This isn’t about me – it’s about all the women who are holding us up [in South Africa].
Everything in the making of this edition was about celebrating powerful, strong women of colour. It's really important for young women to see themselves represented and to see where they can go one day.
Big on pigment. Big on inclusivity.
The colours are inclusive. Anyone looking at the range can’t say that ‘this is not for me’ – we’re leaning into an inclusive mindset. That’s just the name of the game right now, and all the equity and social justice we’re fighting for right now starts with us.
Image supplied by Conversation Capital
Of course, I had to ask the question on everyone's lips this year - colour (or rather, the lack thereof thanks to masks).
"You’ve given us lipstick in Volume 3 - lockdown’s least used item - why? And would you say this volume’s theme is therefore optimism?"
To which Sir John further supplemented my ongoing sermon on mood economies, saying the following;
The lipstick effect
Lipstick has the power to change a lot of things. The thing about lipstick is that there’s something called the lipstick effect – if a woman is in hospital (having a baby or surgery), the hospital knows she’s ready to go home when she first reaches into her bag and puts on her lipstick again.
There’s an emotional connection to lipstick that we don’t have to eyeshadow [the people seeing you connect to your eye makeup]. There’s an inside job that happens when you put on lipstick – you may have no makeup on, but when you put it on, it raises your vibration.
So we’re all on Zoom and social distancing, but everyone is meeting up virtually, so the best time to wear them [lipstick] is now, and when you go outside with your PPE on, then you can switch to [accentuating] your eyes.
A summer of realEYESation
"You love playing with colour, but you also do a phenomenal soft glam look. What should we do more of this Spring/Summer?"
(I had to ask about soft glam because I mean, have you seen Beyoncé?)
With regards to this Spring/Summer beauty trend predictions, it appears all eyes will be on... eyes, and that's not just because of the masks. Sir John says "eyes will have a moment" - fittingly so given the fact that the Sir John x WBeauty eyeshadow palette has been a big crowd-pleaser since Volume 1.
"Makeup is going to minimal with skin, and we'll have fun with eyes and lips," he reveals.
At this point of the conversation Unathi, who appears on the latest cover of Glamour SA magazine in an electric blue eye look alongside her Picasso (Sir John), shares that she's previously never been confident enough to experiment with makeup. Earlier on in our conversation she had also described the range as one that "caters to the tomboy in [her]".
"I didn't have a relationship with lipstick, but when I started playing around I realised that this one makes me sombre, this one makes me feel powerful, this one makes me feel like a vixen," she enthuses.
Now, let's see what's out there for you to play around with too this season...
Shop my top recommendations from the range:
Eyeshadow Palette, R399 on WBeauty
Velvet Touch Lipstick, R160 on WBeauty
High Shine Lip Gloss, R159 on WBeauty
Eye & Cheek palette (far right), R330 on WBeauty
All images provided by Conversation Capital on behalf of WBeauty.
Sign up to W24’s newsletters so you don't miss out on any of our stories and giveaways.