Be right back, going to scour the Pat McGrath Labs site for announcements of a skincare line, because there’s no way newly minted Dame “Mother” McGrath isn’t dropping one. At 51, the undisputed “master of makeup” looks as fresh and flawless as any of the countless faces she’s blessed with her artistry on the February cover of Allure. (A feat no doubt helped along by the phenomenal lighting, her Jamaican genes, and makeup artist Adam Wolfgang, one of McGraths’ many protégés and a fave of fellow age defier Naomi Campbell’s.)
Those who faithfully follow McGrath know that while her products and artistic influence reign supreme across fashion and the red carpet, the sight of the visionary atop a magazine is a rarity, if not a first. “I’m just a behind-the-scenes person,” she tells Executive Beauty Director Jenny Bailly for Allure’s cover story, which chronicles the self-taught maestro’s ascension from a British Jamaican girl learning at the well-heeled feet of her fashion-obsessed mother into a creative living legend and billion-dollar brand.
Previously, the almost always-clad-in-black McGrath was best immortalized by one iconic black-and-white headshot taken well over a decade ago—which happens to have a place of honor in The Glow Up’s Beauty Closet (soon to be joined by this gorgeous update). As the first makeup artist to cover the almost 30-year-old Allure McGrath has barely changed in the interceding years, including her ubiquitous headbands.
“I am OVERJOYED to appear on the cover of #AllureMagazine,” she wrote on Instagram. “I have been a MAJOR fan since its first issue in March 1991. THANK YOU to [Editor-in-Chief Michelle Lee] for inviting me to be the first Makeup Artist ever to grace your iconic cover...j’adore!”
J’adore, indeed—especially that skin. As noted in Allure’s article, though the artist herself doesn’t hesitate to apply feathers, latex, lace, glitter, sequins and even snakeskin to a model’s face, she’s rarely made up herself. As Bailly notes while interviewing the icon:
I have never seen Pat McGrath with discernible makeup on her own face, so I had to ask for a breakdown of the look she was wearing that day. She went right into backstage-speak: “I used my lipstick as my blusher and my eye shadow, a three-in-one. It was a really beautiful magenta-purple — amazing, flawless, glowing. Very easy, very today.”
The look may have been low-maintenance, multitasking and “today,” but McGrath has always been well ahead of her time—in fact, she launched her own always skin tone-inclusive line two years before the Fenty Effect caused a (long-overdue) 40-shade ripple effect throughout the beauty industry. Having previously designed and relaunched the lines of Giorgio Armani, Gucci, CoverGirl and Max Factor, McGrath revealed her ridiculously successful brand was the result of public demand.
“Everybody was on my case about it for a thousand years,” she tells Allure. “’Where’s your brand? Where’s your brand?’ Then [with Instagram], I couldn’t avoid them. It was constant torment. Every morning I’d wake up and it was... ‘Where’s your brand, Mother?’”
So, we’re not entirely out of line in publicly declaring we’d love to see McGrath make a move into skincare—we might just get our wish. (In the meantime, we highly recommend our editor-in-chief’s five-minute glow-up regimen—her skin is incredible.) Besides, the generosity and graciousness of the “mother of makeup” are as legendary as her skill, making McGrath a standout in an industry known as anything but.
“I am an entrepreneur, but I am a Black woman first and that undoubtedly influences everything I create. I know what it is not to see yourself represented and not to have a seat at the table,” she says, also the incredible cohesion of the Black creative community in the wake of last year’s rallies for social justice.
“It’s amazing to see all the support that we’ve given to one another,” she continues. “I’ve been introduced to so many more amazing Black beauty brands in these last few months. This has been an incredible time.”
Perhaps it’s easy to appreciate the efforts of others in the industry when you’re at the helm of a billion-dollar beauty brand, but Mother’s warmth comes with a dose of well-earned wisdom.
“I think in my career I have chosen to embrace freedom over fear,” she says. “I have felt free to make the creative decisions I wanted to make, to take risks.”
“I feel blessed, and I find that inspiring,” she adds. “How lucky I am, that my work is something that I’m obsessed with. And that I love.”