There’s nothing wrong with putting Kylie Jenner — or any reality TV star guaranteed to generate buzz — on the cover of a magazine. But when the publication is Forbes and the photo caption refers to Jenner as on track to becoming “the youngest-ever self-made billionaire,” you better believe the Internet is going to have something to say about it. Especially when less than one week after the Forbes cover was released, WWD reported that Eurazeo Brands, a New York City-based investment company, had taken a $60 million minority stake in Pat McGrath Labs, the eponymous line by makeup artist Pat McGrath. The influx of cash brought the company’s estimated valuation to over $1 billion. By comparison, Jenner’s brand, Kylie Cosmetics, is valued at $800 million, according to Forbes.
The news about Pat McGrath Labs came well after the Forbes cover was a done deal, but the announcement hit just in time to stoke the controversy that was already brewing. It’s true that 20-year-old Jenner is very young and extremely wealthy, however, the “self-made” part of the story is debatable. Even Dictionary.com weighed in by tweeting: “Self-made means having succeeded in life unaided.”
Self-made means having succeeded in life unaided.
— Dictionary.com (@Dictionarycom) July 11, 2018
By that definition, nobody is truly self-made, but the word does conjure up images of someone who boot-strapped their way to the top (McGrath) as opposed to a person who achieved success with the help of family money and worldwide fame (Jenner).
The point of building a massive social media platform is to capitalize on it, so it’s a no-brainer that Jenner would savvily parlay her popularity into a highly profitable business, that like McGrath’s, has blown up in less than three years. However, you can’t blame us for wanting to give 53-year-old McGrath, a black woman who now sits atop an industry that has excluded black women for decades, all the props she deserves.
When I was a child the world of makeup was so
different. My earliest memories of makeup are rooted in
McGrath was born in Northampton, England to a Jamaican single mother named Jean, who adored makeup and instilled a love of cosmetics into her daughter. “She always put on a full face of makeup then got in the bath to get that dewy finish. It was next level, but this is where I got my makeup tips from — at seven years old,” McGrath told The Guardian. Neither her mother nor McGrath realized at the time that her childhood obsession would turn into her life’s work. Since her career took off in the 1990s, McGrath has worked with top models like Naomi Campbell and Gigi Hadid and photographers like Steven Meisel, on countless photo shoots. She’s also made a name for herself as an iconic backstage pro at Fashion Week, having led 60+ shows each season, since long before I was a newbie beauty editor covering backstage trends in the mid-aughts. I remember playing it cool on the outside, but fangirling on the inside every time I got to interview — and even just watch — the legendary McGrath backstage. I was one of the few black beauty editors working in publishing at that time and I loved being in the presence of a black woman who had become such a powerhouse in the industry.
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While I was backstage taking notes, McGrath was busy putting the “art” in “makeup artist.” She has created museum-worthy beauty looks that incorporate imaginative uses of color and texture. Just give the woman a bottle of glue plus some sequins, rhinestones, and feathers and there’s no stopping her. McGrath’s ground-breaking work for the runway has earned her prestigious awards from the Council of Fashion Designers of America and the Fashion Awards.
She always put on a full face of makeup then got in the bath to get
that dewy finish. This is where I got my makeup tips from — at seven
Also on her mile-long resume: a line of cosmetics she developed for Giorgio Armani and a stint as global beauty creative design director for Procter & Gamble, where she created collections for CoverGirl and Max Factor.
In 2015, McGrath went into business for herself. She launched a limited-edition pigment, Gold 001, the first item under the Pat McGrath Labs label. The metallic dust sold out in six minutes. After teasing beauty junkies into a frenzy with a few more product drops (including sought-after eye kits and lip kits) McGrath launched a full-blown, permanent collection in October 2017 and the internet promptly responded with a collective “yaaaaas!”
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Part of the success of McGrath’s venture has to do with her reputation as one of the most influential makeup artists on the planet, but another major reason the line is so appealing is the passion and integrity that she pours into her products. McGrath has been painting faces for two decades and seemingly loves her job more than ever (scroll through her enthusiastic Instagram posts for proof). Plus, she grew up in an era when it was difficult to find makeup shades that worked for her brown complexion, which drives her to work hard to ensure that her line is inclusive. As she told Time: “When I was a child the world of makeup was so different. There wasn’t the wide range of shades available for darker skin tones like there is now. So my earliest memories of makeup are rooted in experimentation — concocting new formulations, playing with different pigments to mix and match and blend and create something that matched my personal skin tone. I really think that it’s great to see that it’s getting better, but I myself know that I can go even further and I’m really excited about that.” So if “Mother,” as she’s affectionately called by her inner circle, deems a product worthy of stamping her name on it, there’s no doubt that it’s high-quality and that the pigments are popping — on all skin tones.
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As a veteran beauty visionary, McGrath’s name has been on industry insiders’ lips for a long time, and now with her white-hot range of cosmetics, the masses are in on the conversation, too. Last week, she unexpectedly got pulled into a discussion about what it means to be self-made, but the truth is that McGrath doesn’t need validation from a magazine — what she’s accomplished and contributed to the beauty world speaks for itself. Besides, with the amount of work she has under her belt and the level of talent she possesses, McGrath is not only self-made, the woman has got it made.
Just how major McGrath is:
- 24 Times Pat McGrath Proved That She Is the World’s Most Influential Makeup Artist
- Pat McGrath Launches Limited-Edition Makeup Collection Inspired by the Met Gala 2018
- Pat McGrath Set to Receive Isabella Blow Award for Creativity at the Fashion Awards
That highlight tho: