Tour de Force: Pat Mcgrath, a truly self-made makeup billionaire

CREDIT: Getty Images

She commands 2 million Instagram followers. She has been a go-to make-up artist to rich and famous for over a decade now. Super model legend Naomi Campbell is a famous muse, and so is Oprah Winfrey. And this week it has been revealed that British-born Pat McGrath, who is of Jamaican descent, has become the first self-made black woman in recent times, to hit the $1billion mark for her Pat McGrath Lab makeup business.
Although Mcgrath has been a renown makeup artist for years – be it working with celebrities, on major advertising campaigns, or creating stunning runway and fashion editorial looks – it was only in 2015 that she set up the Pat McGrath Lab, following the phenomenal success of her Gold 001 make up range.

Lineisy Montero in Pat McGrath’s popular Gold 001 makeup for Prada Spring / Summer 2016 Milan’s Fashion WeekAFP images

The news of how her nascent brand has soared to the billion dollar pinnacle, in such a short time, received unprecedented social media jubilation, with many of her fans calling for publications such as Forbes and Vogue to acknowledge this incredible feat by featuring the 48-year-old black star on their covers.

Just a week earlier, Forbes had revealed a Cover featuring TV reality family member, and lip kit mogul Kylie Jenner, declaring that she is only $100 million away to becoming a the first 20-year-old “self-made” makeup billionaire. A claim that received mixed reactions, including those who doubted Jenner’s “self-made” roots.

But the same can’t be said of Mcgrath. Last year, McGrath was awarded with the Founder’s Award by the Council Of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) – this award is mainly given to style or design pioneers. Past awardees include Donna Karan and Oscar de la Renta. The accolade was therefore a huge stamp of approval for the self-made, self-trained makeup genius, whom even the revered fashion editor of Vogue Anna Wintour once proclaimed: “the most influential makeup artist in the world.”

Perhaps one of Mcgrath’s most iconic works is the makeup looks she created for the 2008 Vogue Italia Black issue – which for the first time in history featured mainly black models – including Naomi Campbell and Ethiopia’s Liya Kebede.

The roll call of famous designers that Mcgrath has worked with would be too long to list, but include iconic names such as Prada, Miu Miu, Dolce & Gabbana, Givenchy, Gucci, Lanvin, Louis Vuitton, Versace, , Valentino, Balenciaga, Nina Ricci, Calvin Klein, Loewe, and Alexander McQueen.

In 1999, she was even hired by Giorgio Armani to develop and launch a line of cosmetics for his famous brand and he said then of Mcgrath:“ was struck by the way she interpreted colour and by her ideas about beauty and femininity.”

On her website, Mcgrath says of her brand: “This is the golden age of makeup. Pat McGrath Lab is my Golden Revolution. The entire planet is just as cosmetics obsessed as I’ve always been. Makeup is a movement. Makeup is mesmerizing. Makeup is major…three words have repeated over and over in my mind ever since I was young. Obsession. Inspiration. Addiction. Those words became my guiding principles, my manifesto as I brought this brand to life.”





reGina Jane

reGina Jane Jere is a Zambian-born London-based journalist and founding Editor of the New African Woman magazine the sister-publication of the New African magazine of which she was the Deputy Editor for over a decade. The mother of two juggles a wide-range of editorial and managerial duties, but she has particular passion on women’s health, education, rights and empowerment. She is also a former Zambian correspondent for Agence France Presse, and a former Africa Researcher at Index on Censorship. She writes extensively on a wide range of issues, from politics to women’s rights, media and free speech to beauty and fashion

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