Pat McGrath: The Makeup Maven Who Helped Transformed the Beauty Industry

Pat McGrath is more than just a name in the world of beauty; she is a trailblazing businesswoman who has redefined the beauty industry. As the founder of Pat McGrath Labs, she has carved a niche for herself in a market dominated by established brands.

Pat McGrath (Photo via Facebook, @PatMcGrath)

A Passion Ignited by Family

McGrath’s fascination with cosmetics began at an early age. Growing up in Northampton, England, under the influence of her mother, Jean, a Jehovah’s Witness of Jamaican descent, McGrath developed an extraordinary love for all things fashion and beauty. Jean’s obsession with makeup and her knack for experimenting with different looks left a lasting impression on young McGrath.

“My mother was obsessed with makeup,” McGrath recalls. “She would stand in front of the TV, and we’d have to guess what she’d done differently with her eyes. I’d think: ‘Get out of the way!’ But she wouldn’t move until I’d told her.”

Together, mother and daughter would analyze the makeup looks of Old Hollywood film stars and connect them with fashion trends. Jean encouraged McGrath to be creative with makeup, mixing pigments from scratch to achieve the perfect colors and textures. She taught McGrath the art of applying makeup to enhance natural beauty.

Among her many jobs before venturing on her own, in 2004 McGrath was employed by Procter & Gamble, as Global Cosmetics Creative Design Director for several years, with a salary rumored to be over $1 million.

Birth of Pat McGrath Labs

In 2015, Pat McGrath shook up the beauty industry when she released her first product, Gold 001, a $25 pressed gold pigment that could be used on eyes or lips, packaged in a bag of gold sequins. The product sold out in minutes and crashed her website. This moment marked the birth of Pat McGrath Labs, her eponymous beauty brand.

In 2018, less than three years after its inception, the brand raised $60 million from Eurazeo Brands, a division of Eurazeo, a publicly traded Paris-based private equity firm, in a deal that valued the company at $1 billion. This move turned Pat McGrath Labs into a unicorn, one of the most coveted statuses in the business world.

By June 2021, the private equity firm quietly sold its stake. By this time, Pat McGrath Labs has secured a place in the beauty space. One of the reasons is the woman herself. Before venturing into entrepreneurship, McGrath was already one of the world’s most powerful makeup artists. She crafted fashion week beauty looks for brands from Prada to Versace, often developing commercial iterations to sell under her brand. Her glitter lips from a Versace couture show became “Lust004,” a lip kit that was a bestseller.

Makeup For All

Inclusivity has been a driving force behind McGrath’s career and her brand. She has made it her mission to provide makeup products that cater to all skin tones and types. Her commitment to diversity and representation has set a new standard in the beauty industry, challenging traditional beauty norms and pushing boundaries.

“There was no makeup for women of color,” she told The Guardian about the state of the beauty industry in the 1980s. “NOTHING. That’s what my mother’s search was all about. When we were out shopping we were always looking for a product that, probably by accident rather than design, worked for us. Where there was no ashiness, no ‘white cast’ [an effect commonly caused by talc in caucasian-skewed makeup], probably from some makeup line that had either discontinued it or gone bust.”

She added that her goal was to make her cosmetics line inclusive. “I was working all the time with pigments to make sure they work on all skin tones, particularly to make sure dark skin doesn’t become ashy, pigments that are so rich they work on everybody,” McGrath explained to The Guardian. “Because a lot of the time when you buy a normal shadow, it doesn’t always work on every skin tone – it’s chalky or too light – so that’s my main aim, to bring makeup for all skin tones to the fore.”

Since its launch, Pat McGrath Labs has also embarked on groundbreaking international collaborations with fashion houses like Prada, Valentino, Versace, Comme des Garçons, and others, introducing innovative products that redefine the beauty landscape.

Pat McGrath Labs has 155 employees and peak revenue was $7.5 million in 2022, according to Zippia.

Call Pat ‘Dame’

In 2021, McGrath was bestowed with a DBE, which stands for Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, as part of Queen Elizabeth II’s annual New Year Honors List. This prestigious honor recognizes her outstanding contributions to the fashion and beauty industry as well as her efforts in promoting diversity. She is the first makeup artist to receive this distinguished recognition. Prior to this, in 2013 she received an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for her exceptional services to the fashion and beauty sectors, Women’s Wear Daily reported.

“I am beyond humbled that I have been awarded a Damehood in the Queen’s New Year 2021 Honors List as a DBE – Dame of the British Empire for services to the fashion and beauty industry and diversity,” McGrath said in a statement.

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