EJ Johnson Speaks Candidly on Beauty and the Self

The TV host and fashion personality is a fiend for makeup—and Grace Jones.
Reading time 4 minutes

Photography by Aingeru Zorita

When it comes to beauty and makeup, it really just depends on my mood. Especially if it's for an event or if I'm going out on the town, the look has to reflect how I'm feeling, whether it's sexy or beautiful, or whether it's chic and fashion, or whether it's more edgy and cool. I can go mild to wild for both my fashion and my beauty, so I feel like I just channel characters that are different aspects of my personality. Some of them have names.

Most of the time I'll use the makeup and the outfit together, so when I want to do something more sensual, it's lots of reds, like a smokey red, and burgundies. The outfit will usually be [something] red or patent leather—that helps me get in the mood and into that character. It changes the way I hold myself, the way that I speak, and the way that I flirt with men. It's a whole thing, like a different persona almost. It's a lot of fun.

I was recently talking with my friends about how when you're depressed and you don't want to get off the couch, one of the first things I do: I get out of bed, shower, put a little bronzer on, a little concealer, and literally just put on a cute outfit to sit on my couch all day. It doesn't matter. I always want to feel my best or look my best, even if it's just for me, which I think is very important because you should always do it for you and not for somebody else.

I actually have a huge portrait of [Grace Jones] in that fur with that gun in my apartment in L.A., so I see her every day. Definitely, her no-fucks-given attitude is always something that drives my life, but she's also an inspiration and a constant reminder to me that I'm here doing this for me and not for anybody else.

You should be able to create yourself and present yourself in any way that you want or feel comfortable. On some days I'm more masculine—or more butch, as I say—and some days I'm super duper feminine. That could mean adding a wig with my makeup or my outfit. But I think it's such a gift and a blessing that I'm able to do that and transcend the gender norms. It's the most beautiful thing.

When I was younger, boys played with boy stuff and girls played with girl stuff. Boys wore pants and girls wore dresses. One thing that always perplexed me as a child was "Why can't a boy wear a skirt, but girls can wear pants?" It was like, this is this and that is that—and that's it! So as I got older and especially once I moved to New York for college, I saw that a lot of boys didn't give a fuck and would wear purses and skirts and dresses and whatever made them feel comfortable. I thought that was the coolest thing in the world.

That was the first time I started to play with looks and shop in the women's section because that was something I always wanted to do. I would go in the women's section and appreciate the beautiful things that were in there, but then at a certain point I was like "I should just have this because it's bomb and I think it's bomb and it looks bomb on me."

Get your thrills in whenever you can, you know what I'm saying? If that's just running around in your room in some cute dress or some cute something when no one is looking—do that. Create a safe environment for yourself to feel free. But take your time. It's not a rush, everything happens in time. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and everyone should be free to experiment and play in that space as much as they please.

Life is a journey and it's too short. We shouldn't waste any time trying to present as something we're not when there's a lot of things we want to do or want to wear or want to be—so just do it.


As told to Jane Gayduk. 


Makeup: Tatiana Donaldson using MAC Cosmetics
Hair: Carolyn Riley/De Facto
Producer: Spencer Salley
Photography Assistants: Scott Fitzpatrick, Chris White
Stylist Assistants: Mina Erkli, Emily Drake
Location: Dune Studios


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