John Maclean: Subscription is Optional

This is a chronicle of my attempt to solve the mystery of John.

I met John on a cold afternoon at the Bulgari Hotel in Knightsbridge. I believe we were both wearing fur. He said he came there often and briskly escorted me to the bar. We sat on a pair of black chaises, encircled by a rotunda of looming panels of lacquered wood. I have a vague recollection that small lights were set into the ceiling like stars. John was snow white, composed, and above all completely in control. For a domme like me it was a struggle to submit to the irritatingly successful glamour he cast over me, the encounter, and the entire hotel. Listening back to the recording I know I must have been in a focused panic, because piping through the background is a kind of clowny smooth-jazz music I have zero recollection of hearing during our physical encounter. “I feel safe here,” John confided. “I hope you feel safe here too.”

I must admit that when I set out to interview John, I had selfishly hoped to drill into his core. I found that there is no drilling into John. He is a shapeshifter. John was sometimes honest and tender while also remaining behind an impervious forcefield, and I left the encounter feeling like our conversation confounded my notions of him even further. It was as if I had shared a bottle of mineral water with a mischievous wisp of smoke.



JOHN MACLEAN: Nowadays there’s a lack of interest in the depth of a person. I think we’re at the end of depth. I don’t want to just utter things out, I want to say things that I think are useful. So I don’t find a lot of what’s commercial to be of value to humans.

ELSPETH WALKER: That’s what made me so excited about your work in the first place. Often when you habitually watch makeup tutorials on Youtube you expect the very basic: this is how I apply this, this is how I put this shade here, and then I do this. What interested me in your videos was your commentary; the ways that your personality came through while you were presenting what was otherwise a very technical tutorial.

In the day and age that we live in now, the trend is to be different. So amongst this sea of everyone trying to be different, they all become the same. So it’s very difficult to find leverage.

Many of your fans are eager for your origin story. There is a certain aura or mystery surrounding your persona. I don’t want to ask you to lift the veil on that, necessarily, but I do wonder how your origins factor into your story.

I’m still writing the story. I’m alive, I’m living. I’m not yet at the end of my story. I was born and raised in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. I thoroughly enjoyed living there for the beauty. The culture that exists there is very provincial, very small-minded. It isn’t necessarily the environment that a creative individual can thrive in or expand in. It can be quite stifling, especially if you’re on an island. You don’t have any availability to mobilize easily; you have to either transport by ferry or airplane.

From a very young age, I was always in my own sort of mind and world. I feel very much as if I always have been. In the process of growing you lose parts of yourself. Like the trees, they grow about a foot every year. Every year they lose about a hundred leaves. It’s a very ambiguous question, asking about one’s origins. But I very much see myself as Hebridean. I’m not nationalistic in any way, but what I mean by Hebridean is that it’s a Gaelic culture, it’s more Celtic. I miss very much the language— of course everybody speaks English, but there are many who speak Gaelic as well. The Outer Hebrides are northwest of Scotland, so you will see them on the map as either “Western Isles” or “Outer Hebrides.” I prefer “Outer Hebrides,” which is the original ancient term, pre-the forming of England, pre-the forming of Scotland, pre-Catholicism. So it’s an ancient term.

So it’s an extremely old culture.

Yes. I think a lot of what we know in the world is very much a reduction of what actually is. Certainly when it comes to ideas of race, we always flatten terms. When you look at the geographical origins of everybody on a map, there are countless different ethnicities and languages pre-the modern age. Pre-the world we know. So I think that we must always be very open to the idea that there are polar opposites of what we know.

[A waiter arrives with a bottle of sparkling water and pours it into two short glasses.]

They always have very good looking men working here, with a slightly foreign accent. I think it’s to lure people into investing more. It’s a tactic.

I think there is such diversity and complexity in the world we know. It’s unfortunate that the majority of opinion is to reduce people to labels instead of giving full homage to who they are as a being, as a person, as a totality. Growing up I was always fascinated by what I saw in encyclopedias. I would see all these different peoples. Where I came from, there was no alternative people. Everyone’s ethnically Celtic. Everyone’s white. Most people are Christian, Protestant-Christian, and it’s a very small community. So I was always looking on the television, in the encyclopedias and books and I would be fascinated by what was out there in the world, and the variety that we are so privileged to experience as living things.

I think I asked that question because you’re from a place that not many people know about, and which has a certain lore about it as being a place of very ancient history. Also you appear as someone who is ageless—

Ancient. [Laughs]

Yes, and part of this whole spectrum of time in a non-linear way. It adds to your mystique that you’re from this place that is bound up in all of that.

Even English people have never heard of the Outer Hebrides. Even on mainland Scotland, people don’t know what it is and where it is and what the stories are around it. And the interesting thing is that when the Highland clearances happened, a lot of Americans are descendants of people who were sent off of these lands. But a lot of history gets lost. And we look throughout all the world— prior to Christianity being imported into Europe, what were the people like? What was their religion then? What were their ideas? What was their interpretation of reality? And then, of course, unfortunately, Christians took their ideas and spread them around the world. And a lot of people lost their ideas. I’m not criticizing religion at all, but a lot of what was was lost. And that happened everywhere. It happened all over Africa, it happened all over Europe. So I’m curious to know why people were doing the things they were before. And I think one of the greatest tragedies of our age is that we believe we’re advanced. We think our age is advanced. It isn’t. I think certain societies that existed before us were much more advanced.

I’ve always been interested in alternate modes of being. And in seeking out modes that alternate from the dominant one. I think a lot of that has to do with feeling like an outsider. Looking at larger culture and not seeing oneself reflected in it. Not having it ring true for me.

It doesn’t feel natural.

Yeah. So I understand that impulse to seek out alternate ways that the universe could have progressed—

I think that’s one of the fundamentals that should be taught to children by law— that our interpretation of existence is only a temporary one. It isn’t necessarily right. It may seem right and necessary for what we are doing right now, but at another point, it isn’t the norm. I think in a lot of ways we normalize our existence, but our existence could be totally different.

Even though I’m a makeup artist and talk about mascara and all these different things, it is wired into everything. Everything is a result of everything else. Everything that we do has a direct effect on everything. Directly or indirectly. Everything is wired together. That might make me sound like a mad wizard, but…

I’m into that. On that note, why makeup? You’ve said “I’m not interested in reality, I’m interested in magic.” Which I love. I feel that in terms of this magic you’re talking about, makeup throughout history has served as a kind of tool in the service of that. Thinking about the word “glamour,” which used to literally mean a kind of magic spell… I wonder why you came to makeup and what you think its power is.

Makeup is an incredibly powerful tool. In a very reductive sense, you can have a lot of power over others simply by wearing a little bit of mascara. It is essential to be superficial, because human beings are perceptive. Perception is everything. But I don’t think perception is immediately a falsity. It can actually be a true representation of a person. Certainly when I do other people’s makeup I never ever think, “oh, I’m going to do this look on them.” I don’t know how to explain it at all, because it comes from the elsewhere. When I look at a person, it’s almost like something clicks and I see what they are, I see the person, their essence, their energy, and I build upon that and try to actualize what I am seeing of this person. And sometimes my interpretation of a person can sometimes be frightening to another person. They can sometimes not see themselves in that format. But over time, they do.

I have the same views on design and on tables as I do when it comes to makeup. I’m interested in building things. Makeup is just an aspect of what I want to build. It’s an incredible thing. I love the way I’m able to perfect and remove flaws that I wasn’t particularly happy with at that point in my life when I first started to begin to really indulge in makeup. Just by dabbing the brush a tiny little bit in the product and putting that on the skin, how that tiny fraction of product can make such a fundamental difference to how you see the face– I find that fascinating to this day.

Fashion and our clothes and our makeup and how we style ourselves is fundamental to who we are as a race. All throughout history it has been proved time and time again that human beings function better when they are able to express their humanity. When you stifle that, problems happen. If you look at everywhere in the world– it doesn’t matter, nobody is excluded from this– where people are living in cultures where you are repressed from expressing who you are, there is always violence or discrepancy or problems. If you look particularly at the global state of men, where men are socialized to be a certain way, to almost warp themselves to being this idea of what a man should be… You are encouraging someone to base the totality of their being on a concept derived from and built upon this association of what’s between their legs? I don’t believe in that at all. How are we going to extract the finest and mightiest part of a being from encouraging them to be that? That shoe is not applicable to all feet. I just want to live in the kind of world where people are able to express their thoughts and ideas better. The age we live in does not allow that.

How have you experienced that kind of oppression?

I’ve never really struggled to express myself. Of course, people have gotten in my way and tried to prevent me from actualizing myself because it was beyond their capacity to fathom. Some people just have limited capacity, therefore they envy your lack of fear to be more. They envy your strength and they’ll try to shut you down to bring you onto their level. And they can either be aware of it or unaware of it. It’s dangerous either way.

You often talk about “getting on with what [you’re] here to do on this earth.” Can you say more about what you think that is?

To build. Regardless if I’m building a wall, a pyramid, a skyscraper, a mascara, an idea, a song, whatever. I just want to be able to create, and build. And take a hammer and smash it into the armor of reductivism. And leave my chink there. Because no one person can change the world. You must do your bit. You might be the last person to take the final blow against the armor of reductivism. But the point is you must contribute your bit whilst you’re here. Because what else are you here for?

One of your messages of hope and encouragement to people is to not care about how others see you. How not to fall into the trap of culture, and how culture tries to tell you what kind of person you should become. So I’ll ask this– how do you see yourself?

I always aspire to be as aware of myself as I possibly can. And to be aware of all the reasons why I’m doing things or reacting to things. I want to be totally aware because when you refuse to take responsibility for yourself, often you do things that are negative. And negative energy has no capacity to replicate. It can only be fed. Positive energy is light, it reproduces. Negative energy cannot reproduce. It cannot spawn. And it just sucks you in.

It really comes back to the law of attraction. You must become what you desire. And when I say think positively, I don’t mean be all smiles and be all jolly. I mean that to treat yourself well is the first stage of attracting positivity. You must start vigorously loving yourself. And when I say that, I mean self nurture, self care. Take yourself out. Do something nice for you when you’re feeling down. These things are very important. And they’re underestimated.

Do you think you’re a perfectionist?

I aim to create perfection. I’d say I’m a perfectionist, but sometimes you have to negotiate. Which is difficult to do. And I’m incredibly wounded whenever I have to negotiate on perfection. But I want to create perfection. Why wouldn’t you, though!? Why wouldn’t you want something that’s absolutely marvelous and gorgeous, and decadent? If we can do something, let’s do it well. I don’t like half-efforts. Bad efforts. I like things to be prominent and well done and proper. I like things to be good and functional. Because it enhances our existence.

I wonder how this works with what you just said about doing someone else’s makeup. Where there’s a kind of creative freedom, where something is flowing through you, and you’re not second-guessing yourself in any way. The freedom of that is a kind of magic, versus this stringent self-awareness of wanting everything to be refined and perfect. How do you prevent your desire for perfection from holding you back from creative impulse?

They marry neatly together. When I first began my career as a makeup artist I used to think, “goodness, how am I going to get this eyeliner perfect on both eyes? How am I going to do cat eye?” My approach is, slap it on and hope for the best. Because perfection usually comes from a process of mistakes. You learn from failure. Whilst you’re climbing the hill you will be pushed down many a time. But eventually, it’s a process of refinement. The harder you hit the knife, the sharper it becomes. So you have to have an imperfect process to create perfection.

In one of your videos you said you see yourself as an outsider in the makeup community. Do you think there is power in the position of the outsider?

When it comes to being an outsider, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be at all. Or an insider. I’m just not inside. I’m outside. I’ve never wanted to be in a group. I’ve never been welcomed anywhere. Doesn’t matter what genre. What people I’m going to find. I’ve never been welcomed. I think that’s the nature of who I am, not necessarily what I am. It’s my entity, my essence. I think when it comes to my channel and what I’m trying to do and build, I’ve decided instead of being part of anyone else’s club, I’m going to create my own. It’s not necessarily like a club or a group or a membership– it’s like a café. You can come in when you want something, and you can go, it doesn’t matter who you are, you are welcome to trade in this custom. Your time is my time and that’s that.

That’s what I love so much about “Subscription Is Optional.” It’s so refreshing. Giving people that choice lures in a kind of followership that is very committed.

They are some of the most kindest people, and they say some of the most loveliest things, and I’m very grateful to be able to have come to a stage where my work is valued by so many people. There’s still part of me that’s very provincial that is still fascinated by technology. To think that there’s me sitting in my studio, just talking away by myself to a camera, and there are people around the world that see this, that interact with it! It’s like I’m able to talk to everybody that I used to see in the encyclopedia. It’s one of the greatest triumphs of our age, that we’ve been able to make communication a lot easier.

You’ve spoken about the essence of style, and that one’s personal style should seek to refine and enhance characteristics that one already possesses. Can you talk about some useful strategies for identifying these characteristics, and which ones are most in need of refinement? Which might yield the best results?


I think you must look at the structure of who you are. The refining process is individual to a person. I always think neatness and tidiness, first and foremost. Good brows, good skin, make sure everything is spick and span. And then, the process of refinement isn’t actually a stiff one. You can be cheeky or be playful when you’re refining things. Because when you come to a point where you understand what looks good and what doesn’t on you, you then can alter it. I would just say, go for things that you like. In that process and in the pursuit of going for things that you like, you will look awful at points! I mean I’ve looked dreadful at certain points in my own life where you’re just trying out things that you like and it doesn’t work. And you get there eventually.

Never follow the common trend. I mean, there might be things in the common trend that you love. Years ago I used to contour my face to the point of no return! You must give yourself permission to try things, and also grow. Go to high end stores, go to vintage stores, go to trendy stores, try on everything. You might try on a green lipstick and it might work for you. Might not. Green lipstick looks fantastic on everybody depending on the formulation, whether it’s sheer or opaque or what it is. And even if people don’t think it’s right for you! I mean there’s certain things that I just like, that might not necessarily look good on me, but I like it, and i’m going to wear it. Because when a person is confident and feels good, their essence and their energy flows. And that is what is key. So you see sometimes people that might not necessarily be that fantastic looking, they might not necessarily have the most fantastic outfit, none of it might make sense, but they might feel really good in that moment. They might not necessarily fit into this idea of what “refined” is. But they themselves feel fantastic. And their projected energy will reflect that, and others will behave in a certain way on the basis of how their energy is at that point and time.

How do you pull off such adventurous makeup looks while remaining refined and elegant? I feel like it’s very easy for daring looks to come off as campy.

If you’re a camp person regardless, something is going to come off as camp or cliché or almost tacky. Which is also valuable! But that’s not what I am. I’m not a flamboyant or a camp person. When I do looks that are extravagant or whatever, they themselves are a form of abundance, of decadence, of excess. If you have respect for excess, you will articulate it in a way that is tasteful. A lot of people find it difficult to fathom me being not flamboyant or camp. Me doing what I’m doing, this idea of a man who looks very feminine, very female– people always compare me to either Boy George, or Peter Burns, or Marilyn Manson, or David Bowie, or Jeffree Starr, all these other people that are known and recognized for who they are. You have to vigorously stay at who you are until they recognize your style. So I’m not going to be comparing myself to anybody in the near future. I am only interested in doing what I’m doing. It will either be recognized or it won’t. That’s the way it is. When it comes to extravagant looks, I love excess, I love decadence, I love abundance. I just love rich things. Because they’re fabulous!

I think the idea of having respect for excess is so cool.

And balance. The scale of what you do must match up to the excess of what you do. Otherwise one will oversway the other. So if you’re someone who is quite flamboyant or camp I would always say that you should simplify what you’re doing. Because your character is so huge!

My fundamental core message is always the same: do it for you, do it for yourself. Not for anyone else. As long as you don’t hurt anyone in the process or don’t commit malice, always do something that makes you feel better when it comes to makeup or fashion or self-adornment.

Many of us would like to feel and be glamorous, but not all of us have the funds to sustain a continued investment in new, high-end makeup products. Do you have any tips for looking expensive on a budget?

Invest in high end makeup, but do not keep it a continued investment. You do not have to keep buying the latest product. Some of the products that are in my personal makeup bag I’m not even going to tell you how long I’ve had them for. Because I only use what I need. It doesn’t matter what color skin you have, however dark or light, you can actually use one tone to do your contour, to sculpt your eyes, and even line your eyes, and maybe take it through the brows a little bit. The Maybelline Color Tattoos are fantastic, and that’s probably the equivalent of less than $10. I always think a good foundation, whether it’s expensive, cheap or in the middle, something you know works for your skin, something that matches you, something that makes you feel good– that is my recommendation for a skin product.

The problem with brands is that they want to sell to people’s anxiety. As I always say, trends are for the anxious. They always say, “ok, we’re going to sell a brown for your eyes, for your cheeks, for your eyebrows.” Why not just sell one product that does all three? A warm-toned brown in a little palette with a slightly cooler toned brown, make one for every skin tone, call it the “Sculpt and Brow Palette.” I shouldn’t be saying this, I’m giving away a great idea! But that’s the way I work, though. I always keep a warm toned brown powder and a cool toned brown. You can get them from Inglot in almost any shade you want for less than £5 each. I always think, go for something that is good, that will last and has multi-purposes. When it comes to makeup you can really refine the amount you need. You can cherry pick what you want. This question has definitely inspired me to create a film on how to use budget makeup

One of the best highlighters I have found, I don’t think it’s available outside of the United Kingdom, is called MUA. They sell this fantastic highlighter, and it’s only like £3, and it’s amazing because the actual formulation– when you look at high grade formulations, they’re usually really fine and powdery and soft. But this one is fatty. When you put it on the skin it doesn’t look grainy, it’s almost too fat to look grainy. So you get all these beautiful tones, they do it in pink and purple and green, and it’s only £3! It’s fantastic, I love it.

My father is a cosmetic chemist, actually, and he formulates body products. Not so much makeup, but skincare and shower products, et cetera.

And what is his stance on the matter of cost and value?

Well, he thinks that as far as skincare is concerned, it’s very much like you say, that products are marketed towards people’s anxieties. He always says that anything that you put on your face that’s topical is not going to actually alter the content of your skin. It might make it look better or feel softer when you use the product, but it won’t change the internal composition. So he’s of the opinion that simple, straightforward ingredients are best.

I think you have to attack skin from the inside as well. Also, the few rules I always define: protection, nourishment, and hygiene.

That’s exactly what he says. Use an SPF,

Clean it,

And drink a lot of water.

I just like wearing fat creams. I’ve been alive so long I need to wear oily, emollient creams that you just slap on, and then that’s it. Because my skin is quite dry. I also eat very fantastically. I like to eat a balanced diet. I think it’s about what’s in the food nowadays, it’s all modified. Inorganic. It’s all, “sell sell sell,” versus, “eat. Are you ok?”

[Laughs] “Are you ok” is not a question we are asked very often.

The world we live in is very scary at the moment. I believe it will change. But a lot of the things that are, are not correct. Like the food. If I were to ever lead a world government, three things that I would ban from ever being commercialized are healthcare, education, food, and defense. These are the things that should never be seen as a commercial. Never, never. They are a vital, not an industry. And unfortunately, each and every single one of them is an industry as we currently are speaking. We’ll get there eventually, humans. Or we’ll die out.

I often wonder about that, if we’ll get that far. Even in terms of how nightmarish things are now, I still think the universe is trending towards a more compassionate mode of operating. I just don’t know if we’ll get there before, you know, the apocalypse happens.

I think it will come eventually. I think something truly awful might have to happen for it to do so. And I think it will come in many hundred years. Things happen quite slowly. In the grand scheme of things, we’re actually quite a fast race. We will expire eventually quite fast. I think that in the next several thousand years we will have evolved to a different point, and we might leave this earth.

In terms of talking about age and time… you’ve said you were born 24,000 years ago.

Well, actually my 24,000th birthday is coming up next year.

Oh, happy birthday in advance.

Yes, so I’m actually 23,999. I’ve lived a long time.

What are your thoughts about dying and or living forever?

Human beings, by nature, have a fear of death, and the fear of death runs throughout everything in our world. The religions that we have perpetuate– but also solve– the fear of death. It breaks my heart when you see an old person who you can imagine hasn’t seen or spoken to anyone in a month, they’ll be on their way to the shop with their little trolley, and they’ll be on their own and decrepit… I can guarantee their mind is as rich as a gold mine. They will have so much rich experience, but they’re discarded because anything that is associated with death is discarded.

It’s inevitable that we will die in the fullness of time. You can either stand up and run, or you can sit there and cry. Death will come for you either way, but you might as well run in the meantime. I think we’re given time and we must use it wisely. I don’t fear death. But I am grateful to be a sentient being and to have experienced this rich realm and existence. When we die, we simply rejoin with where we came from. We live in nature, we rejoin with nature and we go back to it. Our flesh eventually parts; we fall to the ground. The ground takes care of us and puts us back into the system. We are a result of the system that we eventually go back to.

I want to discuss your perception with our cultural obsession with companionship–

It’s related to the fear of death.

–this idea, which controls a lot of culture, that you must find a partner in order to have a fulfilling life. I understand that you disagree with this point of view.


It’s certainly on the subject of finding different modes of being. How do you view aloneness, and what kind of value might love have for you?

When it comes to another partner, fear is often a reason that motivates people to either get married or be in a relationship. Because they need somebody else. And sometimes we will not necessarily know how to nurture ourselves back from a wound. We might not necessarily have the nurturing characteristics or people in our life to put us back to where we should be. So, sometimes a partner is an attachment rather than a love. It’s also economic in many cases, where people will use another person.

With relationships, if they work for you, go for it. I salute you there. But me, personally, I’ve never had a relationship. And also the nature of who I am, I think I frighten a lot of people. I’m aware that I’m not normal. Of the norm.

And you’re also uncompromising.


Which I think frightens people.

Exactly. And I don’t get attached. I mean, I have been in love, I have been attached to other people. It’s gone terribly wrong. I’ve been left heartsick many a time.

That’s kind of life.

Exactly. It comes eventually. And also, when you are a man that is either gender-ambiguous or feminine… I am not masculine. I’m in between. Almost like male and female. So you end up with a pond of people. A lot of men who are attracted to you are ashamed of their attraction to you. And ultimately, if somebody is ashamed of their attraction to you, it’s because they find you shameful. And I am not getting involved in that at all.

I’m not interested in relationships or anything. I don’t talk about this often, I certainly don’t talk about it publicly, but I live a very disciplined lifestyle. I don’t involve myself in any romantic or sexual categories as a human being. I always say I’m more conservative than most nuns. A lot of these things are actually to protect me.

I was going to say.

People can come into your world and, especially if they themselves aren’t comfortable being attracted to you, they can do things where their fear gets in the way. We must be very very careful when it comes to who we allow into our inner core. Because they can go mad.

I was really struck by this kind of heartbreaking thing you said in one of your Q&A videos, this idea that “people often love us because of what they want from us, or what we represent to them.” Which is not real love. I think it goes hand in hand with what you’re saying about this certain type of men.

These people are afraid. And afraid of themselves more than anybody.

Right. Afraid of their own desire also.

And that’s in everybody, regardless of who. That’s the majority. So you just have to be careful. You’re going to get hurt either way. At some point. So you have to be prepared for these things. But I think when it comes to aloneness, it’s my natural state. I’ve felt the need to be social and have friends, but I’ve never felt a need for a relationship. I don’t really understand what it’s all about. And like you said, I am totally uncompromising. I would be a terrible diplomat. I don’t negotiate.

Most people would say that relationships are about compromise. I personally don’t agree with that. Certainly being alone can be a way of protecting yourself. But I also think that love can make you a better version of yourself. And I think that’s something that is worth the pain and scariness. But there is one in a million people who are mature and aware enough to engage in that kind of relationship with another person. You’re right to protect yourself from other people who are not ready for that.

A lot of people fool themselves so well, they fool us.

That’s so sad.

In the event of avoiding dealing with themselves or avoiding introspection as to why they are needing you at that point, they will use you, in an emotional capacity, to soothe their own needs. I don’t think that one person can provide you with absolutely everything. I think one of the most dangerous things are relationships where you romanticize the person. That’s what I always have loved about friendship. With family, it’s always messy and there’s blood involved. With a romantic relationship there’s lust, there’s jealousy, there’s envy, there’s desire. But with friendship, it’s a choice. It’s a mutual understanding and commitment. There are boundaries, there is respect, and if those boundaries are crossed you work it out or you negotiate.

I do not desire anything right now, but I think if I were to be open to the prospect, and somebody were to come along, I would like somebody who was kind. And not scared of me. People are always scared of me. Because on one hand I’m very soft, and I think soft visually looking, I look soft. But the other part of me is uncompromising and very hard and abrasive. And cutting. So I think most people find me quite scary.

I understand that the hashtag #MacleanForTV is catching on. What would be your dream TV deal?

I am just trying to bring attraction to something that is already in motion. I work with one of the greatest producers in the world. She is my dear friend and someone I work with. She is Funmi Iyanda. She’s marvelous. I will have to send you everything to do with her work. Even for the most intelligent minds, it will hit you like a spade. We’re working on a lot of things in the near future that I think you will like. I’m not able to speak about it, until… it’s ready.

So we’ll keep and eye out for that.

John Maclean will be coming to a glossy screen near you at some point in the future.

That’s what I like to hear.

I want to become like a virus. I want to branch into everywhere.

I’ve always felt it so limiting to just focus on one area of life. I certainly have struggled with the expectations of others that I should do that, and it’s never worked for me.

Absolutely not. It is people that lack that say “you must only do one thing,” or “you must only be good at this,” or “you must contain yourself to one thing.” Absolutely not. Do what you’re good at. And if you’re good at more than one thing, do that! I do makeup, but I will also go and cut the wood and hammer the wood together.

The world we live in tells people like me that they are not valuable and that they can’t aspire. I will prove that this is not the case! There’s always this perception of me that I’m rebelling or that I’m breaking the rules. I have no interest in rebelling, I just do not consider this authority to be valid. I will replace the authority.

Elspeth K. Walker in conversation with John Maclean

illustrations by George Liu