Your NPR news source
Mayor Brandon Johnson, standing in profile, has powder applied by a makeup artist as both stand in profile.

A makeup artist works on Mayor Brandon Johnson last year. Johnson has spent more than $30,000 on personal grooming through his campaign fund over the past year, records show.


In one year, Brandon Johnson's campaign has spent $30K on hair, makeup

Johnson is “mayor 24-7,” a spokesman says. “Appearances matter.” Most of his spending went to a South Side makeup artist, and a West Side barbershop was paid $4,000.

Mayor Brandon Johnson’s latest campaign finance report lists a $4,000 payment from his political fund to a Palatine beauty salon, a March 27 expenditure that it shows was for “event expenses.”

Hearing that came as a surprise to Anthony Jones, who owns Anthony Jones Salon in the northwest suburb. He says he never got that money, nor has he ever done any work for Johnson or his campaign.

“I’d love an extra $4,000, but we never got any money from them,” Jones say. “Nobody from the campaign has ever been in my salon.”

When asked, Johnson campaign adviser Bill Neidhardt said the report was a mistake.

“The vendor that does our expenditure reports, we gave them the name of the business” for the disclosure filing made to the Illinois State Board of Elections, “and they wrote down the wrong one,” he said.

The report should have shown the money was spent with AJ Styles Barber & Beauty Salon, 6624 W. North Ave., according to Neidhardt, who says the mayor’s campaign filing “will be amended” to say so.

“Anyone who knows Brandon Johnson won’t be surprised he goes to a barber shop on the West Side, right outside Austin,” he said.

But some might be surprised at how much the mayor spends on personal grooming, for which he pays with money contributed by political supporters to his Friends of Brandon Johnson campaign fund: more than $30,000 in the past year, according to elections board records.

Exterior shot of Anthony Jones Salon at a brick strip mall building in Palatine, Illinois.

The Palatine salon where Mayor Brandon Johnson’s campaign says it erroneously reported spending $4,000 this year.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

Exterior shot AJ Styles Barber & Beauty Salon, located in a brick strip mall building, as seen from the parking lot.

The West Side barber shop and salon where Mayor Brandon Johnson’s campaign says it spent $4,000.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

Nearly all the money went to makeup artist and self-described “skincare enthusiast” Denise Milloy’s Makeup Majic, which is based in a home on the South Side. More than 30 payments were reported going to her in 2023 and 2024, records show.

The payments prior to Johnson’s 2023 election listed various descriptions including:

  • “Candidate makeup for TV.”
  • “Candidate makeup for debate.”
  • “Candidate makeup.”
  • “Makeup retainer.”

After Johnson took office last year, the payments to Makeup Majic have been explained only as “event expenses.”

Milloy says she’s “not at liberty” to talk about the work or the money from Johnson’s campaign.

Johnson won’t comment.

Previously, a campaign spokesman for the mayor said Johnson was proud that many of his campaign contributions had come from “working-class people” individually and through labor unions, which had given heavily to his election efforts.

Asked about Johnson’s spending — including a makeup artist being paid a retainer, which hair and makeup sessions were for which events, and whether any of the payments were for anyone other than the mayor — Neidhardt said in a written statement: “The mayor does not spend taxpayer dollars in preparation for the many public appearances and events he attends every day.

“Instead, he is using his own campaign funds to pay Black- and women-owned businesses a fair wage in compensation for their work in preparing the mayor and individuals associated with the campaign for public appearances, events, media segments and other availabilities.

“Hair and makeup services are commonplace among high-ranking public officials.”

These were among payments from Mayor Brandon Johnson's campaign to a South Side makeup artist this year, according to reports it filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

These were among payments from Mayor Brandon Johnson’s campaign to a South Side makeup artist this year, according to reports it filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Illinois State Board of Elections

But Johnson appears to have spent more on hair and makeup than some other elected officials, according to campaign filings, though politicians sometimes don’t make clear in their required reports on fundraising and spending just what the money was for.

Johnson’s predecessor Lori Lightfoot paid an Evanston business about $2,000 total for “event-makeup services” listed under four expenditures last year in her campaign filings.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle paid $217 to a South Side woman in 2019 for makeup, she reported.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s campaign fund, which he largely underwrites through his own personal fortune, has made 11 payments totaling $6,000 to a South Side beauty salon between 2018 and 2022 for “hair and makeup” for “events like TV shoots,” according to records and interviews.

Paul Vallas, who lost to Johnson in last year’s mayoral election, didn’t provide any details for hundreds of campaign expenditures beyond saying they were for “services.” But Vallas says he doesn’t think he spent anything on hair or makeup through his campaign, noting that he’s bald: “I’d like to take credit for being frugal, but nature took care of that.”

Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas wear suits and stand side by side at clear podiums in front of a light blue backdrop during a 2023 mayoral campaign debate.

Mayoral candidates Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas at a 2023 campaign debate.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere / Sun-Times

Neidhardt says the $4,000 that Johnson’s campaign paid AJ Styles in Galewood covered “hair and makeup” and involved “multiple events.”

“He’s mayor 24-7,” Neidhardt says. “Appearances matter.”

The Latest
A greater share of Chicago area Republicans cast their ballots by mail in March compared to the 2022 primary, but they were still vastly outpaced by Democrats in using a voting system that has become increasingly popular.
As the 2024 presidential election approaches, officials, advocates and experts have expressed concern over misinformation and disinformation about candidates and elections in Chicago, Cook County and Illinois.
In interviews with WBEZ, several decried the length of sentence the 80-year-old could face, while a handful of others said he deserves significant time in prison.

From 1968 to today, volunteers in Chicago aim to connect visitors to their city, and to see some of the convention action themselves
Chicago’s longest-serving alderman Ed Burke will face up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced later this month. WBEZ’s Mariah Woelfel shares what prosecutors and Burke’s defense team are requesting from the judge overseeing the case.