Interview with John Stapleton

He applied and entered the highly competitive High School of Art & Design in Manhattan (which boasts johnstapletonillustrious alumni including Steven Meisel, Marc Jacobs, Vladimir Kagan and Art Spiegelman) on the age of 13. He went on to study at the School of Visual Arts where he won an award for screenwriting and received scholarship in his third year. John Stapleton obviously has more than one artistic bones in his body. He’s the real deal.

When I met him for the first time, he was wearing all black (naturally), his hair was disheveled (in a stylish way of course) and he spoke slowly as if carefully. He showed me a green BIN scarf that the MAC people have given him as a present and when I asked him if he likes the color, he jokingly said “Yes, it matches my eyes” while widening his lovely green eyes. He then laughed and said his eyes actually change colors.

“Like Edward Cullen” I pointed out

“Yes. But don’t worry, they just fed me, so you’re safe” he said

He also told me that back in LA, he just finished working at the set of the new The Osbournes reality TV show – reported to air in Spring 2009 on Fox – where he did makeup for Kelly. He spoke fondly of the family. He said they bicker like everyone else, but they’re really tight.

To him, family is everything. “I know a lot of people don’t have that. But I think it’s very important for me to have that connection”. And it makes him all the more adorable.

Read on!

How did you get started in this industry?

Well…Embarrassingly enough, I was a model before…

You were a what?

A model..

Oh! Well I can see that!

{laugh] why thank you..I hold on to it with good skin care for years! Well yeah, I moved to LA, went to Art School and I had some experiences with painting and I got scouted and so that was really my first foray into the fashion world.  A lot of the times, when you’re a male model, you get dressed up and you’re being kind of the extra and they didn’t always use you in the scenes so you were just redressed for the next one and you’re always waiting. So the only way that I found that I could be utilized is if I went to the makeup trailer and asked them to put some kohl on my eyes or to mess up my hair. So I found a lot of power in what the makeup artists and the hairstylists were doing and inevitably they always put me in the next scenes after that because that was sort of what they were looking for but didn’t know how to achieve it. So I had a really strong connection with the makeup artists. And the other thing is, models on the set usually put on their headphones and they don’t talk to you while I’m a pretty social person so I spent a lot of times talking to the makeup artists about what they do and why they do what they do. So when that career came to a close – and it was just kind of boring anyway – I thought “What am I gonna do to make a living?” and I started looking into makeup. There was a job opening at MAC at the Beverly Center and I went in and I lied and told them I was makeup artist. And I got the job!

img_4152Did you have any artistic background from your family?

When I was a child, my mother used to take me to a live drawing class and sketching when I was only 4 years old. We went to museums and they had to sketch columns and stuff like that and my mother got me my own sketch books. She’s still very skilled at scenic paintings and live drawings and I took to it. I’ve always had good pencils and pastels and things that were sort of beyond my age at that time. I continued that, I went to an Art High School in NY which was hard to get into, I created a portfolio so that at 13-year old I could go to that high school to pursue an art career.

I heard your dad is a cop?

[surprised] That’s right!

Did he want you to be a cop too when you were growing up?

My dad said that I could make a great cop because I’m a compassionate person and I’m an empathetic person and that’s what my dad is like. When I was a kid my friends used to say “Ooh we’re scared of your dad ‘coz he’s a tough guy” but my dad is the sweetest and most sensitive person I know that I admire. And…(to my surprise his eyes started to get misty at this point! I was so scared I had unknowingly touched a sensitive subject)

Oh I’m sorry!

No, It’s okay. They always supported whatever I wanted to do, there was never any “no”. They always said that whatever I wanna do they know I could do it and they really believed in me. So I was always supported. But anyway, when I was going to college, my dad thought I should take the police test just so I had something to fall back on in case I didn’t like school.  So I took the test and I passed very well. I got called but I’ve been going 6 months into college and  I loved it so I declined.

What do you like best about working as a Senior Artist?

I really enjoyed the travel, meeting people. Like this morning, I got to meet the staff (of MAC Indonesia – ed) in a img_4138market that’s really booming. It’s really cool for me to be a part of that. And hopefully I can instill in people a measure of success that I had and tell them that they can also do that. And I really mean that. Becoming a makeup artist is a great and fulfilling career because you can help people feel better about themselves so in a way I am still a compassionate person just like my dad used to say, I just do it in a different way. So I really really love the fact that there’s enough room for everyone and there’s tons of growth and there’s opportunity beyond your wildest dream.

What’s a typical day for you?

It varies all the time. Like today, I got to meet the staff this morning and meeting the interviewers. Tomorrow I’m doing photo shoots for 2 major magazines. In LA, I was doing makeup for Kelly Osbourne for the new The Osbournes show so I had a meeting first with MAC and sometimes there’s a training I was involved in. On the downtime, I like to go to the store and work with the regular people there. That’s where everything’s happening!

What do you do when you’re not working?

I LOVE to talk about my days off {laughs} I made two resolutions this year. The first one is to work out more so I got a personal trainer – which is more affordable than you think, it just sounds really luxurious. The second one is to spend more times with friends, not just sitting down to a dinner, which is always fun, but also taking friends on a hike with me so we’ll walk together and we’ll have 2 hours to decompress and getting exercise and talking about what’s going on in our lives. If I visit my family in NY,  I just want to stay at my mom’s place and have her cook for me. Talk to my brother and sister and tease each other and just be stupid, see my brother’s baby and get hugged and kissed by my parents. That’s a dream vacation for me.

What would you say the most memorable moments in your job so far?

{thinking for a few seconds} I’m gonna give you two! I was lucky enough to have this job where, at one time, Gwen Stefani – back when No Doubt has just released their Best Of album, came down to the MAC store in LA and met with me. I made face charts for her and I got to pick out her makeup kit for the tour and put it together, recommended products that she loved, arranged everything and spent 2,5 hours together. About an hour after she left, I got a phone call from her assistant and she told me Gwen wanted to speak to me. And so she passed the phone to her and she said “Hey, it’s Gwen, thanks again for everything, I love the products so much. I just wanted you to know that in two days we’re having a friends and family dress rehearsal. It’s pretty much the show that we’re gonna do on the road and it’s in LA and I’d love for you to come and invite as many people as you want” I did plus six, I didn’t want to be too greedy, and I brought some good friends with me and one of my friends worked with this kid who was the biggest fan of Gwen’s so he got invited as well and he was jumping up and down at the concert, singing and it was cool.It was nice to be able to share that with people.

No. 2 and this is the best time ever. I was working at MAC pro store. So Cher walked in. And she was AMAZING-looking. AMAZING outfit. And there was nobody in the store, there was probably only one customer who was dying! So Cher was picking out gifts, she immediately handed over her black Amex card and she said “I don’t want anything free”. And at that time we had a makeup artist named Sutan Amrull, who’s Indonesian..

You mean the makeup artist who worked at America’s Next Top Model?


He’s Indonesian? Wow I didn’t know that.

Yes, he is. So anyway, he did drag and he’s done Cher so she was like “I wanna see pictures because it takes a lot of work to look like me” so he ran and came back with pictures. And it was just the most amazing thing because it’s Cher! She’s a total icon! And so she just came from the airport and she said “Guys, I just recorded this song and hold on, I just gotta get it” so she ran to her car and came back and bring this CD and told us that it was gonna be her new single. It was “Song for the Lonely” and she had us play the song in our CD player and she was like “Blast it! Blast it!” and she was asking us whether we really think it was good. She was so sweet and humble. And a week later, she sent the CD when it was released and signed it to Sutan and one for the store.

This is a question from one of our readers – Vveen – and she wants to know, if you could only pick one, what would you say MAC’s best product is?

Wow. That’s hard. {thinking} I really like Plush Glass. I love Fulfilled, that’s my favorite color. I love it because over time I found that it really helps to keep the lips “inflated”, I think it’s sexy. It also has that tingle which I think is exciting for people {laughs} My runner-up will have to be Blacktrack Fluidline.

Name 3 tools you can not live without.

I have to have #187 brush because it gives me the option to either really buff in strongly or to pull out lightly. It’s no brainer to put on kind of like wispy color or have them really pushed in and polished. I also use it to pick up skincare and then apply foundation with it because it kind of thins out the foundation. It almost makes it into a tinted moisturizer.

I also use the #252 brush. It’s one of those brushes that’s got enough landscape that it will cover an area quickly. It’s also firm, so I can get a really strong payoff quickly because everything is about time. And then to blend out, usually I use #224. I know…boring, right? Anyway, I don’t put any product on it, I just use it to blend. I find it can really soften the colors.

What do you wish women do more with their makeup?

I would love to see women embrace trends while it’s happening. Usually when the trends are out in magazines, it correlates with the products that are coming out, but for some reasons women don’t really grab on to it until a little later and the season’s over. So embrace the seasonal looks and there are only 2 you have to worry about which is Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter. I always say to women, you might not be able to afford the new Marc Jacobs jacket, but you can always buy the lipstick. A lot cheaper.

Do you believe in any rule when it comes to makeup?

My rule is to never say never. Because usually when I say that, it will be on everyone’s lips the next day and I look like an idiot {laughs}

Another question from our reader – estelle05 – she wants to know, with so many makeup trends that img_4145come and go, what do you consider to be “a timeless” makeup?

Hmm. Good, clean skin. If you can achieve it {laughs} and you can, of course, it’s possible. Impeccably-groomed eyebrow. And by groomed, I don’t mean that they have to be filled in, just nicely kept, usually brushed up and maybe a little color. I also love to see mascara. Not so much on the bottom lash, to me it’s all about on the top lashes.  And then you can go with either mouth that makes a statement or a softer one. Choose your poison, I would say.

What’s MAC’s collection that we shoould look forward to – besides Hello Kitty.

I’m in love with this collection called Brunette Blonde Redhead. I love the Mineralize Skinfinish that are in this collection. They’re specifically called Brunette, Blond and Redhead but they can work for any skin tone. They’re like magic to me. I put them on the apple of the cheeks and instant hydra luminous (one of the trends – ed). I know people like Studio Fix here? You can use these over that to get the look of hydra luminous skin without adding anything moist. If you’d like to keep your skin dry or not feel too humid, you can use this product. I’m such of a fan of Mineralize Skinfinish. They’re  so easy to use and they perform well. I like products that are no-brainer. You can’t mess it up.

I also love the new foundation, it’s probably gonna be a while until you can get it though..

man7The Studio Sculpt Foundation?


Talk to me about it anyway..

Sure. It’s amazing. It’s one of the most superior foundations I’ve ever worked with because to me, it has kind of a more waxy finish and it kind of melts into the skin. It really looks like real skin and it settles nicely.  And the cool thing about it is we were doing a workshop where we used this foundation and we applied it in full, medium and light coverage because it can go to full coverage but it can also be applied lightly. All it depends on is the amount. So for full coverage, I did a dime size. For medium coverage, we did a pea size. And for the light one, we took a small amount and we mixed it with Strobe cream. And the result, you couldn’t tell who was full and who was medium and light. Usually with a full coverage foundation, you can really see the products, you might as well use paint roller. But not with this foundation. One of the girls that we put this foundation on, whose skin was really breaking out, she was raving about it. I really really love it.You guys better love it too! We’re gonna have to give you a sample! (yayyyy!)

Thanks so much for your time, John!

My pleasure!

Special thanks to MAC Indonesia

Image from and FD