Sir John Loved This Indie Brand So Much, He Used the Products On Beyoncé — Then Joined the Team

"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," the celebrity makeup artist shares with InStyle.

Sir John
Photo: Courtesy

There's no question that the beauty industry is oversaturated these days. There are a plethora of brands on the market and no sign of things slowing down.

And while it may be easy for a celebrity-backed or -founded collection to make headlines or sell out after going viral on social media, it can sometimes feel like an uphill battle for indie brands. So ensuring you have products that can knock people off their feet is key.

Luckily for CTZN Cosmetics — best known for its universal nude lipstick shades — the formulas did just that, catching the attention of celebrity makeup artist Sir John who has worked with numerous notable stars, including Beyoncé, Molly Sims, and Joan Smalls.

"[CTZN Cosmetics stood out for me because] 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," Sir John shares with InStyle. "One thing I love is that there is this parallel commitment to diversity, to inclusion, and making sure that we are inviting everyone to the party — I think that's the goal. The goal is to make sure that for the people who aren't always championed, we are leaning into what that looks like for them. We also need to make sure that the beauty community sees that and not just how you market to them, but also in the product development."

The makeup artist was such a fan of the brand that he even used the Nudiversal Kuala Lumpur and Lipstroke Cinco liner on Queen Bey for the 2022 Oscars. Then a few months later, he joined the CTZN Cosmetics family as the Chief Creative Officer.

Here, we spoke to Sir John, about his partnership with the brand, genuine diversity in the beauty industry, summer trends, and more.

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A lot of brands these days claim to be all about diversity but often miss the mark, sometimes tragically so. In your opinion, how does CTZN hit the nail on the head when it comes to genuine inclusion?

Genuine inclusion, I believe, starts with not being afraid to have conversations. We are not afraid to have conversations and to be the vehicle for dialogue to happen, so that's the goal — getting in front of the message. Real diversity isn't something that you just wear as an umbrella through a storm, or situational — it's emotional. It's emotional for so many people and so I think that's what we take in. It's that emotional footprint that we want to leave behind and have people think of us for, first.

What do you like most about CTZN Cosmetics' formulas?

I love the payoff [color] first. As a makeup artist, when you give a lipstick to a client or when you're on set, we don't always have time to work something up, or see it immediately. [These lipsticks] go on like velvet with a beautiful texture. They're not a drying matte like we saw a few years ago with all of the liquid lipstick crazes. So it's a moisturizing matte, and actually, even though they are nudes, I do find they are lip-enhancing natural colors. And then the gloss has a beautiful quality to it also, but it's not too sticky or tacky.

Any key products that stand out from the entire collection for you?

I do love the Code Red collection. It's really thought out, with specific attention to complexion, to undertone, to even geographical locations. We are in a space where the global complexion is changing. So in a few years, and even now, we are making new foundations or new colors, and concealers because we are so much more multicultural than we've ever been. One thing that I love is that the reds collection paid attention to that from inception, but the Nudiversal range is always going to be my jam. It was my entry point to even knowing about the brand, and it's why I fell in love with the brand in the first place.

With red carpets back in full swing, what have been some of your favorite makeup looks so far?

Thinking of The Met or Billboards, my favorite look so far is people that are wanting to have fun. I just wrapped Masterclass and I went with the no-makeup makeup look, an everyday look, and an iconic look. And people want to look like something. They want to get dressed up again, they want to feel good. A term I've coined for this look and feeling is what I like to call dopamine glam. I do feel like there is this resurgence into the art of getting ready, but one thing that I think I see everyone taking away from the pandemic is 'skinification'. Since we were so normalized seeing ourselves without lacquering ourselves from forehead to chin for a year and a half, everyone's kinda inching back into what actual complexion looks like and not giving themselves a full beatdown, like a demi beat down with gorgeous eyes and whimsical liner. But I've seen skin looking more like skin, which I love.

What makeup trends do you think we'll be seeing in summer 2022? Any surprises in store? How about even as far as 2023?

I honestly think we are coming away from trends in a sense because it's not so much about doing things to look like one woman or one girl or one celebrity, like we had this prescription in the '90s and 2000s. But now I think it's about how can I get myself ready and it makes me feel something. That's why we are seeing all of these beautiful liners and Euphoria-inspired glam, things that you wouldn't think we would normally do but also the positioning of how we used to go to work changes. A lot of people are working virtually, so we have a creative license to really do whatever we feel and we aren't marginalized by our working, conservative environment. What we are gonna see is just a rush of color, for sure.

How do you think CTZN will change or disrupt the beauty industry as a whole moving forward?

As long as we continue to be authentic and keep our ears to the streets, to basically have the consumer on our radar immediately. The cool thing about a smaller brand is they have the ability to be almost like the David and Goliath story 'cause you can move and maneuver and operate and really hear people in real time and affect change. That doesn't necessarily happen when you have a huge massive conglomerate and change can't be activated 'til two to three years from now when the whole tone of voice from that atmosphere is different. So that's the beauty of what we are doing right now and it's gonna be fun to unpack that with the beauty community.

What are your personal hopes for the brand's future?

The brand has a series they do that I love called Culture-Tutorials. And I love that there is a personal, tribal, or heritage around the way we do makeup. Like, "Hey, I'm gonna do this glam myself but there is something about the way my mom used to do it, there's something about how my aunt did it in the '80s, or my grandparents are from Pakistan, or Senegal, or Harlem." Whatever that looks like, and that is something that I want us to snowball and make into a bigger thing, and I think that's really amazing if we can capture that audience to stay in that space. I want us to continue spreading cultural awareness through beauty.

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