What I've learnt from Pat McGrath
Pat McGrath Labs’ education and artistry manager Adeola Gboyega tells Pat McGrath's story, from unknown MUA to damehood.
“Ten years ago, I wasn’t aware of many black makeup artists working in the industry. In fact, come to think of it, I had never personally met a professional black make-up artist. All I knew was that I had a dream and was heavily inspired by Pat McGrath. If you’re not familiar with her career, let me give you an overview. Born in Northampton in 1970, McGrath moved to London as a teenager where she met many of the people who would become lifelong collaborators, including Naomi Campbell. Fast forward to a few decades later and Vogue named her as the most influential make-up artist in the world. In 2015, she launched her cosmetics company, Pat McGrath Labs, which catapulted her to self-made billionaire status. With so many career milestones, what stands out most to me is that McGrath is a black woman who has single-handedly dominated the beauty and fashion industry for over 25 years. And that’s no mean feat. Being the UK education and artistry manager for Pat McGrath Labs is a role I’m incredibly proud of. Throughout my career, it’s always been important to me to work for brands that I could identify with and that represented me. I remember the shame I’d feel in my first make-up counter job when a customer asked me what foundation I was wearing. Because I wasn’t able to recommend one I was selling, I never felt like I was truly representing the brand or that the brand identified with me. From then on I swore to myself that I’d never put myself in that position again. But sadly it was indicative of the times - there was a lack of diversity and big make-up companies were failing to cater for those with darker skin.
“Even with brands like Bobbi Brown and MAC Cosmetics making a concerted effort, choice was still very limited. Today, indie beauty brands founded by women of colour have been a saving a grace while heavy hitters like Fenty Beauty, Huda Beauty and Uoma Beauty have disrupted the market and succeeded where many others have failed. Decades have passed where people of colour have had to deal with limited shade choice, especially when it came to foundation. This is why representation shouldn’t be a flash in the pan. Quite simply, it should be interwoven into a brand’s ethos.
“I’ve been very fortunate to carve out a successful career because I was able to see what the likes of McGrath achieved before me. Lack of representation has been a stigma in society, but with initiatives like Pull Up for Change founded by Uoma Beauty CEO Sharon Chuter, companies have been called out and directly challenged about the lack of opportunities for black employees in leadership roles. I can truly say I feel a real change in the beauty industry and the sign of great things to come.
“For anyone wanting to get into beauty, my advice is to never stop learning. If there’s an individual or brand you admire, make a beeline to work within that company. Observe and soak up all the information you can. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice or seek mentorship. Ultimately, it’s your passion that will keep you going despite any hurdles you may face. And on that note, all I can say is thank you Dame McGrath.”