PSA: Sir John Just Launched an Epic Collab With Barbie

Ama Kwarteng
·5 min read
Photo credit: Khadija Horton/Courtesy Image
Photo credit: Khadija Horton/Courtesy Image

From Cosmopolitan

Whether he’s launching a Lion King makeup collection, doing a Met Gala beat for Joan Smalls, or hosting a masterclass in Iceland, makeup artist Sir John’s goal has always been consistent—using beauty as a source of confidence. And it’s this same energy that he’s bringing to his latest client: Barbie. Yup, Sir John did all of the makeup looks for a diverse group of Barbie dolls and the digital campaign drops today (!!!).

Equity and inclusion have been a part of his M.O. since day one, and it’s no different with this latest collaboration. In an Instagram post, the brand stated that they teamed up with Sir John "to celebrate his extraordinary craft and showcase our shared vision for diversity in beauty." Ahead, Cosmo caught up with the artist over the phone to discuss what he hopes to achieve with this campaign and why it’s about more than just makeup.

On the collection and how it came to be:

Photo credit: Mattel
Photo credit: Mattel

"Well, I've always been a fan of Barbie. But back in February, I saw Shiona [Turini's] collection that she did with Barbie, and I was like, 'Whoa, this is so amazing.' So I put that intention out there. The collection was all over social media, and someone commented, 'Oh, wow, it would be so cool if Sir John did the makeup.'

"And then I got a DM from her team. And so it started out with a lighthearted conversation that ended up in this of journey. I met the team virtually, Mattel for Barbie, and I really fell in love with the people."

"For me, I work with a lot of brands often. So I can always tell the culture of a brand by the people who represent it, the people who are leading the charge daily. It was just important to see that our journeys and values align. I've been really vocal this year about equity, justice, and representation. And Barbie checks those boxes–she's the ultimate icon. She's had over 200 jobs. She's also now in so many different homes and looks like all of us. It doesn't matter if you're from Harlem or Hong Kong."

On the impact he wants this collection to have:

"I know that we just need to continue the conversation of inclusivity in all directions—this includes an equitable future for our children. This year has just been a really eye-opening experience for me as an artist, as someone who is a storyteller, as someone who is a thought leader in our industry, to make sure that we are championing all voices. Do all women, all people, know that they are on our radar?

"For me, I'm every woman's guy. I don't just belong to one demographic, even though I am Black Lives Matter [laughs]. I've been all around the world doing masterclasses in Iceland and Paris, and South America, Brazil, South Africa. And in all of these classes, everyone has the same concerns. We all go through the same feelings, we all age the same. So in terms of representation, it's just important for me to make sure that I just continue that talk. And Barbie's kind of holding my hand right now, or rather I'm holding her hand, on the journey."

On the inspiration for the collection:

"The inspiration came from archives of my work. I looked back on previous projects I've worked on, like Disney's The Lion King. We pulled past campaign imagery for Barbie, including looks from past fashion weeks. It's really all about the perspective of the work that I've done in all of these different areas. And they're different—the red carpet is completely different than an editorial cover shoot, which is different from a concert or Coachella, or the Super Bowl. I'm happy that the looks were able to be executed that way, and that I got to highlight all of these different beauty perspectives."

Photo credit: Mattel
Photo credit: Mattel

On his favorite looks from the collection:

"I mean, I can't say I have a favorite because they mean different things to me and they represent different points in my career. But I do love the Barbie with the big 'Lion King' hair. I love her lips and eyes, but also I love the bold purple color we used.

"I love the dots that one of the other Barbie dolls has. That was something we did from Soo-Joo Park, the model. Oh, and I also love the baby hair look. Baby hairs are so linked with the journey of loving your own skin, loving your ethnic heritage, so they just had to be on these Barbie dolls."

On how the collection reflects his personal relationship to beauty:

"My personal relationship to beauty has grown, it's changed. I've been doing makeup for 20 years right, since 2000. The business wasn't so inclusive when I started. I remember being the only person of color backstage at shows or on set. Inclusivity wasn't even really a thing in beauty at that time.

Photo credit: Mattel
Photo credit: Mattel

"So it's amazing for me to see women who were not championed or who weren't invited to the party, now rule the party. That democratic nature has happened because of social media; if we were waiting on the beauty and fashion industry to be more inclusive or to lead us into the future, we would still be waiting. One thing I love is that everyone that has a voice to make someone listen."

"In terms of my relationship with beauty and what that looks like for Barbie, I just think that as long as Barbie and I are on a dance floor, the story is not just about what's on her face, but it's about making sure that she's a part of the conversation. For me, it's not about just a lash or lipstick application, but the walk that we're walking together, or at least her joining my team. It means that this is a conversation that's going to be about making sure people from all around the world, from Harlem to Hong Kong, feel like they're just as powerful as a supermodel. That's really my whole goal in life."

This interview is been edited and condensed for clarity.

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