Sir John Barnett, Celebrity Makeup Artist & Fashion Icon, Skincare Anarchy Editorial Exclusive

Sir John Barnett, born July 1st, 1982, in Buffalo, New York, is a globally known Celebrity Makeup Artist, working with stars such as Beyonce and Naomi Campbell (his first major client). Barnett continues to be a leader in the beauty and fashion industry, but his story with beauty is not as typical as one would believe. In the Fashionista Magazine article, “How Sir John, Makeup Artist to Beyoncé and Joan Smalls, is Conquering Both the Red Carpet and Fashion,” by Cheryl Wischhover, Barnett recalls his love for the arts began at an early age. “I’d been in school for arts since I was six years old. I went to a performing arts high school and grew up in upstate New York. My mother immersed me in painting and things like that. Makeup happened by mistake.” (Wischhover). But how does one go from being a young art student at Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts to working with cosmetics worldwide? It isn’t easy to believe that such an extraordinary talent like Barnett happened by surprise. So, how did his journey into the beauty industry go full circle?

In the Fashionista Magazine article, Barnett tells the story of their first experience in a makeup shoot. “Although Sir John went to school for the arts since he was six years old, he started doing makeup completely by mistake. When he was 18, and in college in Atlanta, his model friend didn’t have a makeup artist for a local magazine shoot. The photographer asked for Sir John’s help doing her makeup and was so impressed by his work that he booked him for a shoot the following weekend” (Wischhover). Barnett says, “I was 18 and a struggling college student, and I didn’t even know it was a job.” (Wischhover). From then on, Barnett would continue to push on in the industry working in companies such as Mac Cosmetics and Gucci. It sounds like a dream come true to be so young and able to do something we could only imagine. But Barnett’s work and determination speak for themselves, and his effect on the beauty industry is endless.

One of Barnett’s most incredible milestones in the beauty industry is being the first person of color to serve as a Celebrity Makeup Artist for L’Oreal Pairs. The Coveteur Magazine article, “The Wonderful World of Sir John,” written by Ama Kwateng, honors his triumph for people of color in the beauty community and his monumental innovation of the ‘trending age.’ “Sir John is L’Oreal Paris’s first Black US Creative director. He appeared as a mentor on Lifetime’s competition show American Beauty Star. He launched a special-edition Lion King makeup collection tied to the live-action remake. He’s ahead of industry trends — remember when everyone on TikTok was buzzing about brushing your brows with glue and contouring with sunscreen? Sir John dropped those tips on a beauty podcast Fat Mascara episode six years ago.” (Kwateng). It is tremendous that the amount of work that Barnett puts into his craft and his journey is endless. But there is consistency in Barnett’s craft, which is his respect and empowerment of women. For nearly a decade, one of Barnett’s most notable projects was his aid in Beyoncé’s iconic productions, such as her album, Lemonade and Coachella performance.

Barnett’s website, https://www.sirjohnofficial.com/about-sir-john-barnett/, recalls some of his most iconic female clients’ unique approaches to their signature looks. “Sir John’s magnetic presence and unique creative approach have allowed him to work with some of the world’s most iconic women, including Beyoncé, whose tone-setting signature looks he has been trusted with since 2010. His other clients include Naomi Campbell, Serena Williams, Priyanka Chopra, Margot Robbie, Zendaya, Mary J. Blige, Iman, Celine Dion, Erykah Badu, and many more. A true master of his craft, his looks have appeared in print and video across the global media spectrum.” But what makes Barnett stand out as not only an artist but a leader in beauty is the humble and optimistic wisdom he has. He sees the world through multiple lenses of life where the differences in gender, demographic background, race, and more do not matter to the world of beauty.

In the Creative Cultivate article, “How Beyonce’s Makeup Artist Sir John Hustled His Way to His Dream Job (Plus the Best Career Advice He’s Gotten from Queen B), Barnett opens about his experience working in a strip club. Also, his passion for women’s empowerment recommended pushing through a competitive and divided society. “I was in the strip club for about three years, and it was one of the best experiences; I learned so much about people and compassion. And that’s honestly one of the places that really hit inside me, the advocacy I have for women’s rights and taking down this patriarchy.” he goes on to say, “So the advice I have is, continue to hustle; that fighter mentality that you must initiate within yourself. No one will push you to do that, so lean into it and cultivate that. Lean into your curiosity.”

Barnett is very genuine in his love for women, and he believes that his mission is to speak for women and all in the world of beauty and to have people love who they are. It takes a strong person to see their work through the eyes and impact of the world aside from their desires, which made Barnett the iconic artist he is today. In the InStyle Magazine article, “Sir John Loved This Indie Brand So Much, He Used the Products on Beyoncé — Then Joined the Team,” by Kayla Greaves, Barnett shares his belief in the mission that artists share in the beauty industry and the goal of his work. “We share a mission to make sure that we are echoing the sentiments of the beauty community and what their needs are in real-time. One thing I love is that there is this parallel commitment to diversity, inclusion, and making sure that we are inviting everyone to the party — I think that’s the goal. The goal is to ensure that for the people who aren’t always championed, we are leaning into what that looks like them.” (Greaves).

Regardless of his career, Barnett believes that there is beauty in diversity and his humble beginnings are a testament to that dream. He understands the power of cosmetics and its impact on the lives of many, especially women. Barnett is an artist who thrives in the industry but uplifts every individual he meets, making him unique. Many find it difficult to mix the world of stardom and individual values, but Barnett does both effortlessly. He adapts to the changes in beauty as social media drastically affects the spectrum, but at the core of his work, he only wants to produce timeless art. It is because of an artist like him that the views of normality and stardom can thrive together in a competitive world such as beauty. Referring to the Coveteur Magazine piece by Ama Kwarteng, she puts the idea of Barnett’s career and personality into pure bliss. “In the beauty and entertainment industries, the overlap of a Venn diagram where one grouping is ‘extremely talented’, and the other is ‘genuine and authentic’ is small. Yet, Sir John sits comfortably at its intersection.” (Kwarteng). Sir John Barnett is a force to be reckoned with, and his vast triumphs in fashion and beauty continue to grow. A leader, an icon, an advocate, and most importantly, an artist whose journey proves that no dream is impossible, and no one ever knows the path life will take them.

Authors: Remy Vidal, Jasmine Boskent, Stephanie Friedman, Katie Nugent

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Works Cited

Greaves, Kayla. “Sir John Loved This Indie Brand So Much, He Used the Products on Beyoncé — Then Joined the Team”. InStyle Magazine. 14 June 2022. https://www.instyle.com/beauty/makeup/sir-john-cztn-cosmetics-partnership. Accessed 27 July 2022.

Kwarteng, Ama. “The Wonderful World of Sir John”. Coveteur Magazine. https://coveteur.com/sir-john-closet-home-tour. Accessed 27 July 2022.

Wischhover, Cheryl. “How Sir John, Makeup Artist to Beyoncé and Joan Smalls, Is Conquering Both the Red Carpet and Fashion. Fashionista Magazine. 22 June 2015. https://fashionista.com/2015/07/sir-john-beyonce-makeup-artist-loreal. Accessed 27 July 2022.

“About Sir John Barnett”. Sir John Official. Sir John Inc, 2021, https://www.sirjohnofficial.com/about-sir-john-barnett/. Accessed 27 July 2022.

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