Afrobella of the Week – Pat McGrath, Bella Behind the Beauties

You hear so often about the lack of diversity in fashion -how models of color are continually exoticized and fetishized, and there’s the cliched statement that magazine editors still seem to adhere to, that magazines with black models on the cover don’t sell as well. (That theory is eloquently disproven by Constance C.R White in this interview with Index Magazine). But if you’re just a spectator on the surface, you might not realize how many of the fashion industry’s biggest movers and shakers behind the scenes are black. And I’m not talking about Andre Leon Talley (although at 6 feet 7 inches tall, he’s literally the biggest mover and shaker I can think of. I dream of meeting this man someday, seriously. I love me some Andre). I’m talking about Pat McGrath, the genius make up artist with a British and Jamaican heritage.

Born in Northampton, England, McGrath grew up with an eye for beauty and a real passion for fashion. When she was little, her mother took her along when she went shopping for makeup. From this 2003 Time Magazine feature, Fast Forward: The Shape of Things to Come, she reveals that her mother “was always mixing up colors because there wasn’t anything out there for black skin.” McGrath honed her makeup blending skills at art school, and then be working for fashion spreads in i-D and Italian Vogue. According to this awesome interview, her first real gig was on tour with Karen Wheeler from Soul II Soul. (Ooooh, there’s an old school jam I haven’t heard in a minute! Back to Life is one of my forgotten favorites).

Pat McGrath is heralded as an artist, a genius, a creative muse. She has worked extensively with Steven Meisel, and is ranked among the makeup artists whose careers he has helped to shape through a series of iconic Vogue magazine covers, alongside Laura Mercier, François Nars, and the late, great Kevyn Aucoin. Her eye for color and skill at blending made her a natural for behind-the-scenes cosmetics creation. She helped to create Giorgio Armani’s cosmetic line. Now she’s the Global Color Cosmetics Creative Design Director for Procter & Gamble, and the genius behind the new-and-improved Max Factor.

Pat McGrath has conceptualized makeup for every renowned fashion house in the world, and she’s created outstanding looks for some of the world’s most iconic figures. Oprah wept happy tears after seeing the amazing work Pat did for her American Vogue cover.

She’s known for “creating natural, polished looks” — so sayeth this how-to-use-blush article from the Telegraph, but McGrath has also come up with some of the most innovative makeup looks ever seen. Scroll halfway down this page to see some of her most out-there creations, the exaggerated Joan Crawford brows she created for Galliano and rubber eye makeup she used for Dior in 2003. Pat McGrath culls her inspiration from a wide range of sources, from African tribal tradition to Japanese kabuki makeup to impressionistic art.

Despite her obvious love of vibrant color, Pat McGrath always presents herself as a very basic canvas. She’s typically photographed wearing all-black, and her demeanor is friendly, no-nonsense professional through and through. She reveals a crisp wit in this New York Magazine q & a (I’d vote for Oprah too, Pat)!

Watching the master at work, creating glamorous looks for the likes of Oscar de la Renta, makes me want the entire Max Factor collection. My inner product junkie ached at the sight of those incredible eye shadows. Max Factor has some super hot summer shadows. Serengeti and Rainforest and African Violet are bright and fierce and would look great on bellas with beautiful, deep brown skin tones.

One of the coolest features on the Max Factor website is the Pat’s Looks section, where she reveals step-by-step makeup tips. My personal favorite is the smoky blue and green eye in the Diane Von Furstenberg look. Mouse over each cosmetic and Pat’s detailed instructions pop up, giving a free learning resource for the makeup challenged. That’s all you need to do it yourself, right there. Pat herself admits, a lack of professional training actually worked in her favor. “I broke every rule because I didn’t know what the rules were. And that’s how you learn and come up with new things. Even today, I’m still learning.” She inspires this late-blooming, makeup loving afrobella.

Peep the following Mod TV video montage of her doing the Anna Sui, Gucci, Stella McCartney, John Galliano, and Dolce and Gabbana Paris runway shows. Here, you’ll find more makeup inspiration than I could possibly provide.

I LOVE that Gucci eye, the elongated line looks amazing on Liya Kebede. And the out-there looks she created for John Galliano are to die for. Oh, she’s amazing. As a beauty-obsessed bella, the fact that a woman who looks like me is working behind the scenes to not only create the looks we see on the runway and in magazines, but is actively involved in creating the actual makeup sold in stores, feels reassuring. It gives me bright hope for the future of fashion and the beauty industry. Hats off to Pat McGrath, Afrobella of the Week!

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Comments

  1. thanks for doing this piece of pat mcgrath! i love her and always read her magazine q&a feature. :-)

  2. TheBeautifulOne says:

    Great feature!!!!!
    Thank you for putting the spotlight on a true artist!
    I met Ms. McGrath while also working backstage at a Versace show in Paris and witnessed her artistry, her respect for her craft and her professionalism. She inspired me then as well as now. The woman understands makeup like no other. She is someone who loves to enhance great skin with makeup, not hide it. Going from everyday makeup to fantasy is no easy task. En plus, she is all about her business which makes me admire her more.

  3. Bella!

    I haven’t even read the post yet but I am so glad Ms. McGrath is the Bella of the Week. She is soooo fab!

  4. Well done Afrobella. Pat McGrath never gets the recognition she deserves. Good choice, good post!

  5. YAY! I love Pat McGrath.

  6. Ms Stella says:

    I never heard of her before so I am happy you made her Afrobella of the week. Based on what I saw, Pat McGrath is a true artist! I’d like to spend 1 day just following her around watching her work her magic.

  7. Fashioneensta says:

    Thank you soooo much for naming Pat McGrath your Afrobella of the Week. For years I’ve wanted to sit by her feet during a Fashion Week show. Now others can come to know the make-up artist extraordinaire who I admire so much!

  8. This was a really great post bella!!…This woman is phenomenal!!! I am not very good at applying certain types of makeup and I am afraid to try new things..such as new colors of a certain type of makeup and diff. types of makeup period. But looking at this has inspired me to try new things and to not be afraid….but ya know im not gonna be leavin my house looking like Krusty the Clown :)

  9. designdiva says:

    I have never heard of Pat McGrath. Thanks for the post bella. She seems like she’s really cool, and watching the video inspires me to keep pushing for my own dreams. Thanks!

  10. I love her. I think she is awesome. I am impressed and she is Jamaican (descent) YAY!!!

  11. jerseybred says:

    Great choice, Pat McGrath is artistry at its finest!

  12. whooo! thanks for this post afrobella! i lurve pat McGrath’s work, i watch her all the time on fashion tv, she even made me wanna do make up (but i think i’ll stick to fashion design lol). what makes me like her even more is that she black and british! like you said there are plenty of black people behind the scenes in the fashion industry-especially when it comes to hair and make up.

  13. Prada3721 says:

    I just found out about her — well other than from you Bella. . .But SHe was featured on a Style Network special “Hottest Makeup Looks from the Fall Fashion Shows”.

    She was at every show and talking authoritatively and showing the looks that she created most of which were AMAZING and totally wearable (one of the trends) — but I kept thinking who is this lady??? She is an inspiration!

  14. Foxxiebrowne says:

    I totally agree that she is awesome. I sometimes feel like a total beauty geek for knowing her and her work but she truly is an artist.

    i’ve just come across this site btw and LOVING IT.

  15. Ive had the pleasure of working with Ms Pat. Shes as sweet & warm as the pictures above shows. Im a black nail tech that work backstage at fashionweek. Im honored to work with her at Calvin Klein. Shes the QUEEN!!

    Lulu
    CND Education Ambassador

  16. I am training to be a make-up artist myself, and i have to say i dont know how she can be so amazing at what she does with no make-up qualifications- she is an inspiration to me. truly amazing.

  17. I have just seen this!! Does Pat McGrath have her own website?? I’ve been googling for hours but can;’t seem to find anything!! Quite a few websites do have some amazing photos of her work but only small articles!!

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  19. YAY! I remember this post! Glad it’s back in our minds & Twitter timelines!

    Thank you!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Afrobella of the Week – Pat McGrath, Bella Behind the Beauties – afrobella “if you’re just a spectator on the surface, you might not realize how many of the fashion industry’s biggest movers and shakers behind the scenes are black… I’m talking about Pat McGrath, the genius make up artist with a British and Jamaican herit (tags: black fashion) [...]

  2. [...] I am thrilled to note, however, that their “ask an expert” makeup section features Brit beauty maven Pat McGrath, a runway makeup artist and consultant to the stars who just so happens to be of Jamaican heritage. To have Ms. McGrath telling their readers how to make themselves more beautiful is a good sign that they value the opinions and expertise of a woman of color, but I still wondered why so few of us graced the pages showing off the aftermath of all that beauty-geared hard work. [...]

  3. [...] it. Every single person who has ever been involved in the fashion and beauty industry – from the top makeup artists to the lowliest of beauty bloggers in the periphery – all of them owe their love of beauty to the [...]

  4. [...] essentials for bellas on a budget. Now any bella who has been reading this site for a while knows how I feel about Pat McGrath – she’s amazing. Ever since she got involved with the Max Factor brand, I’ve been [...]

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