Beauty

“Never give up on your dreams”: Makeup artist Pat McGrath shares inspiring life advice after becoming a Dame

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Anna Brech
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Dame Pat McGrath has shared an uplifting message of solidarity and hope after becoming the first makeup artist to be awarded the title Dame of the British Empire this week.

Pat McGrath has become the first makeup artist in history to be awarded a damehood from the Queen in the 2021 New Year’s Honours List. 

The pioneering creative and founder of Pat McGrath Labs was recognised for her services to fashion, beauty and diversity, making her a Dame of the British Empire.  

The title, which dates back to medieval times, recognises exceptional achievement and is bestowed by the touch of a sword by the Queen.

Responding to news of the honour, McGrath said she was “beyond humbled”. The stylist took to Instagram to share a powerful message with the makeup community; as well as all those who are motivated to follow their dreams. 

“Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that one day Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II would recognize me to be amongst the incredible recipients of this honour both past and present,” she wrote.

“When I first launched my brand, PAT McGRATH LABS, it was designed to inspire self-expression and individuality,” she went on. “I dedicate this honour in tribute to Makeup Artists everywhere, I adore each and every one of you. Never give up on your dreams – with hard work, creativity and perseverance anything is possible.”

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Described by Anna Wintour as “the most influential makeup artist in the world,” Dame Pat McGrath is one the beauty industry’s most iconic and celebrated figures.

Having spent the past two decades crafting standout runway looks in Milan, Paris, London and New York, she is the go-to artist for many of the world’s most prestigious fashion houses, including Prada, Gucci, Versace and Alexander McQueen.  

“Her makeup is not just nice makeup—her bold, beautiful colors make a statement,” wrote supermodel Beverly Johnson, as McGrath was named one of Time magazine’s most influential entrepreneurs in 2019. “You usually don’t get that with world-renowned makeup artists. People are afraid of stepping outside the box.”

McGrath has attained cult status in beauty circles: known affectionately as “Mother”, her self-named makeup collection became Selfridges’ best-selling beauty launch of all time in 2019, with one product sold every 40 seconds.

She’s since unveiled an epic Star Wars collection, with palettes inspired by characters, costumes and landscapes from the legendary film franchise. 

Recently valued at $1billion, the artist’s business, Pat McGrath Labs, harnesses her huge creative vision, along with a trendsetting eye that has transformed the beauty world (leading to major trends such 1990s dewy skin and no-retouching-necessary foundation).

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The entrepreneur’s groundbreaking approach to colour, femininity and fashion began early on, as she recalled during a profile on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs.

McGrath would visit make-up stores with her “beauty obsessed” mother – but it wasn’t always easy finding products. “Back then there wasn’t colours that were right for dark skin,” she said. But her mother told her, “if you can’t find it, if you can’t buy it; make it”. 

“She came in from the kitchen with cocoa powder all over her face and was like ‘this is the right tone of powder,’” McGrath said. “She had dusted it all on her face and she looked amazing. So that’s what I ended up doing as well – making products that I needed backstage. That stems from my mother.”

Fellow celebrities were quick to congratulate McGrath on Instagram as news of her damehood spread this week. “DAME MOTHER,” wrote Game of Thrones star Gwendoline Christie, as Reese Witherspoon commented “amazing”, and David Beckham added: “So proud of you and so happy for you.”

Images: Getty

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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for stylist.co.uk. Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.