New RVAFW beauty director aims to uplift local beauticians, promote diversity of beauty

Hair and makeup artist Brittany Johnson does a model’s makeup at RVA Fashion Week’s Ignite event at Immortal Beloved Salon on Sept. 12. Photo courtesy of Michael Hostetler Photography

Jiana Smith, Staff Writer

Richmond-based hair and makeup artist Brittany Johnson said she never planned to work in the beauty industry. Despite enjoying beauty since youth, Johnson always considered beauty to be a hobby, not something she wanted to do as a career.  

After feeling limited in her self-expression by her previous field of social work, Johnson said she was encouraged to get her cosmetology license by family and friends.

“I got to a point in life where I was like, ‘Okay, maybe I will take you guys up on that idea,’ and I did,” Johnson said. “It has been working in my favor ever since I made that final decision.”  

Today, over five years into her career as a professional hair and makeup artist, Johnson is the new beauty director for RVA Fashion Week.

RVAFW announced Johnson as the fashion show’s first beauty director on social media channels on Oct. 21.

Johnson said she was honored to have her leadership potential recognized when being chosen as beauty director. 

“I’m still at a loss for words a little bit,” Johnson said. “It’s a grand opportunity for someone to recognize your potential and that you’re able to lead in that capacity.”

Johnson’s responsibilities as beauty director include building relationships with local makeup artists, salons and hair stylists who help create fashion week looks, according to RVAFW Executive Director Jimmy Budd.

Johnson first worked as a volunteer for RVAFW in 2015, an opportunity which she heard about through word-of-mouth from other volunteers. She also served as a behind-the-scenes photographer in 2019. 

After connecting with Budd and discussing her views on beauty, Johnson took on the role of RVAFW beauty coordinator for fall 2020. As beauty coordinator, Johnson reached out to local hair and makeup artists and organized beauty volunteers.

“[The roles] run a little bit together, but now it brings forth a higher position for me to do more and cultivate that part of fashion week a little bit more,” Johnson said.

Johnson said one of her goals as beauty director is to highlight different aspects of beauty, including natural features, in an era of negative social media and beauty trends.

“I think a lot of times, we get caught up in social media,” Johnson said. “We lack the opportunity to have realistic conversations about what beauty is and how to obtain it.”

Specifically, Johnson said she wants to make sure that everyone has the opportunity and resources to feel comfortable with their appearance. 

“The industry is always growing, so there’s always new products, new tools, new techniques,” Johnson said. “It’s about keeping everyone up to date with the new trends, but also giving people the opportunity to feel beautiful, to look beautiful every day.”

Budd stated Johnson was appointed to the beauty director position because of her professionalism, leadership and organizational skills.

“These past two seasons in 2021 have been so organized and streamlined with the teams she put together in the back of house,” Budd stated via email. “I cannot wait to see what she has in store for us in future seasons!”

Model and RVAFW spokesperson Brickell French co-hosted the Ignite workshop with Johnson on Sept. 12, which was meant to serve as an introduction to RVAFW for new models, hair stylists and makeup artists.

“She handles everyone respectfully and makes sure that everyone is contributing, and if they’re not on the level they need to be, then she offers them more opportunities to practice,” French said. “It’s just a real genuine care, to make sure that everybody has a seat or space to really get recognized.”

Johnson has traveled to New York and Miami for various fashion events, such as New York Fashion Week and Miami Swim Week. 

Outside of fashion week, Johnson also does bridal and editorial makeup with her company, BJohn Beauty LLC. Johnson’s work has been featured in magazines, including Richmond Bride Magazine and New York City-based Promo Magazine. 

Johnson said working in different countries and cities has helped her improve her hair and makeup skills, and expand her view of beauty.

Johnson said she is excited to see where the role as beauty director takes her career.

“People are going to see more of who BJohn is and what she has to offer, and the transparency of what beauty looks like,” Johnson said. “I’m excited about that new journey of taking a step forward from behind the stage and coming to center stage.”

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