Sir John is a celebrity makeup artist whose clients include Beyoncé, Serena Williams, and Priyanka Chopra. Most recently, he served as a judge on a TV show called American Beauty Star. Here, he speaks out for the first time about getting dermal fillers. The following story was told to Garrett Munce and has been edited for length and clarity.
When American Beauty Star first came out, I thought, Damn, I look so tired. When you see yourself from the outside, you start to look at yourself objectively. Everyone can understand what that’s like nowadays, because we're all selfie-obsessed. For me, being on TV was like looking in a mirror, and I was very self-conscious about my eyes. I asked my friend, who’s a former beauty director, what I could do. “Do you know of a great eye cream to get rid of this hollowness or puffiness or whatever I have?” I asked her. And she said, “Listen, I don’t know an eye cream, but I know a great dermatologist and her name is Dr. Dendy.”
I met dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD, in New York City and we hit it off immediately. I think it's so important to have a great relationship with your dermatologist, where they understand your needs and your aesthetic. Dr. Dendy is like the Michael Jordan of dermatology. Doing what I do at the level I am, I could go to anyone — but I would only go to her.
First I got micro-needling, which actually gives your skin a bit of trauma so it repairs itself, making it so much more dense and youthful. Then after that, she told me about fillers. There are so many different types of filler and so much has evolved since I first heard of it in the late '90s. I only thought of it to be one thing, which was going to make me look tight and plastic. But nowadays, there are so many conservative ways to use these “helpers,” as I like to call them. Dr. Dendy told me I should try fillers under my eyes; it’s modern maintenance in a sense and not as taboo as we think it is.
There are other cultural barriers to accepting something like filler. People of color have always thought that it is not for us.
I didn’t have any reservations as a man —that's the last thing that crossed my mind. These things have absolutely no gender. I'm a beauty guy and also around really strong women who impact real change all around the world. One thing that I have always learned from women like Beyoncé and Serena is that they never allowed people to put them into a box. I'm not going to let anybody tell me that I can't do something that's going to affect my situation.
However, I was apprehensive because there are other cultural barriers to accepting something like filler. People of colour have always thought that it is not for us, and are very reluctant to accept anything injectable or plastic in their minds. We come from the notion that “Black don't crack.” Mind you, [our skin] sags and we get hyperpigmentation, and we have certain things that happen to our complexion and our skin that doesn't happen to other demographics.
We've grown up with so much toxic masculinity and stereotypes of machismo in the Spanish and Black community, so I'm coming from a place that some might call rebellion or enlightenment — depending on who you ask. But I'm okay in my skin, so it doesn't matter who thinks what, as long as it's working. This is the golden age of inclusivity and diversity, and I'm part of the beauty community that influences how we build on ourselves every single day.
After I got the filler, I walked out of Dr. Dendy’s office feeling like Superman. You couldn't tell me shit that week. Everyone — no matter where you're from, from age eight to 88 —we all have insecurities. We all have something we want adjusted, corrected, or revised. When that happens, it feels good and moves the needle emotionally. It changes our sense of well-being.
I don't run back to Dr. Dendy often. I'm not in a place where I'm filling things to be the ultimate perfectionist — that’s where we cross a line. So many people are getting something like this to make themselves feel better about something emotional. They go to a dermatologist and say “fill me up” when they should be going to a therapist. I was okay with myself emotionally before I did it. This is strictly for allowing yourself to be the best version of yourself, and that's where it should start and stop.
I'm sure in five years, there's going to be something new. It will probably be a laser that you just look into and bing, bing, bing, like the Jetsons, you're done. Who knows? But as of where we are now, I am very much okay with growing older and just going in for an annual checkup. And when someone tells me I look good, I say “Thanks, I’ve had a little love.”
No Filter is a week-long series of frank, honest stories about cosmetic procedures — without judgment, sugar-coating, or stigma.