How Brilliant Makeup Artist Pat McGrath Invents Her Otherworldly Looks

How Brilliant Makeup Artist Pat McGrath Invents Her Otherworldly Looks
Photo:Theo Wargo (Getty Images)

For the cover of its February issue, Allure scored a rare interview with the brilliant makeup artist Pat McGrath. Known simply as “Mother” to her friends and countless fans, McGrath is a prolific makeup artist whose imaginative work has been pushing the boundaries of beauty for decades. Even if you’re not tapped into the fashion world, it’s almost certain that you’ve seen a makeup trend popularized by McGrath: there’s no way that the currently popular Euphoria-style makeup would exist without her influence, and over the years she’s had a hand in trends ranging from colored mascara to ombre lipstick.

She launched her own makeup brand Pat McGrath Studios in 2015, and within three years it was valued at $1 billion. (I’m partial to her lip glosses.)

When the interviewer asked McGrath if she was ever worried that she would run out of ideas, she paused before responding with a simple “no.” “There was a time, years ago, I would be afraid that… Was I going to do something as beautiful as I’d done before?” she explained. “The couture shows were in February and I would start feeling butterflies in my stomach in November.” But of course, there was no need to worry.

McGrath notoriously doesn’t have much interest in interviews, so what really stands out are the comments about her from colleagues, friends, and coworkers. These are a few of the best quotes celebrating Pat McGrath’s creative genius.

From Robin Givhan, senior critic-at-large at The Washington Post:

“Pat’s idea of beauty was incredibly adventurous and, I know this sounds weird… it wasn’t really rooted in nature. It wasn’t this idea of heightening what was naturally there. It was about creating something wholly out of her imagination.
I always got the impression that she wasn’t aiming for quote-unquote ‘beautiful,’” says Givhan. “She was often aiming for, maybe it was otherworldly, or maybe it was jarring, or maybe it was almost distressing. I felt like she was aiming to elicit a fuller, richer range of emotions than what had been the norm with beauty.”
“So often when women or people from marginalized groups achieve a level of fame or expertise in their chosen profession, they’re the Black Martin Scorsese, or they’re the female [Christian] Dior,” says Givhan. “There’s always this tendency to use the white, straight male as the standard against which everything else is measured. To [Pat’s] credit, she is the standard.”

From hairstylist Guido Palau:

“Even on the last job we did, she was not satisfied until, until… I don’t know if she’s ever satisfied,” says Guido. “She always feels it could be more, better, different. Her tenacity for work is immense and she’s her own worst critic. She’s super-creative, but she doesn’t sit back and just go, ‘Well, I’m Pat McGrath.’ She questions herself.”

From designer Marc Jacobs:

“She is such an active force in every component of what she’s selling,” says Jacobs. “There are people who have a name on a cosmetic line who probably have never experienced the formulas. They’ve never sat down and made a red bluer or more yellow, and hey, more power to them. But Pat is a makeup artist and this is her collection and her heart and soul is in every aspect of it.”

Read the full cover story here.

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