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Move over, Kylie: Pat McGrath is the real self-made beauty mogul


by Erin Lindsay
24th Jul 2018
Move over, Kylie: Pat McGrath is the real self-made beauty mogul

While Kylie Jenner controversially graced the cover of Forbes magazine, for being on track to becoming the youngest ‘self-made’ billionaire, there was another major shift happening in the business of beauty world. A major stake in Pat McGrath Labs, the cosmetic line created by legendary makeup artist to the runway Pat McGrath, was bought by Eurazeo Brands at a value of $60 million. This major investment pushed Pat McGrath Labs’ net worth to over $1 billion. While Jenner got the Forbes cover.

This is not to discount the undoubtedly hard work that has gone into Kylie Cosmetics – Jenner deserves praise for her business acumen and the massive success of her cosmetics line, especially at such a young age. But while Jenner is undoubtedly successful, it doesn’t change the fact that her given title of ‘self-made’ is a little jarring. This is the same woman who comes from a family with a combined personal net worth of around $378 million. The youngest of the Kardashian/ Jenner sisters, Kylie was born into one of the most successful and business-savvy families in the world – the term ‘momager’ was coined for her mother, she has had a starring role in reality TV shows for most of her life, and has worked on lucrative brand endorsement deals since her teenage years, undoubtedly gained because of her and her family’s fame.

Let’s contrast this with Pat McGrath’s background. McGrath was born and raised by her Jamaican immigrant mother in Northhampton, in a single-parent household with her older sister. While crediting her mother for her love of makeup, McGrath has never received any formal training in the field, only completing an art foundation course at a local college. Her career was kickstarted by working with the prolific magazine i-D, where her makeup looks helped launch the magazine to international acclaim. Edward Enninful, now the editor-in-chief of British Vogue, was the fashion editor of i-D at the time. McGrath went on to have her works featured in Harper’s Bazaar, British, American and French Vogue and on the runway at Prada, Miu Miu, Dolce and Gabbana, among others, becoming one of, if not the most prolific makeup artist in the world. In 2013, McGrath was named an MBE and in 2015, launched Pat McGrath Labs, which she self-funded for a year before including outside investment.

Now, which would you call self-made?

This is not to try and pit two women against each other – there are plenty of people out there doing that already. Kylie Jenner deserves to be applauded for her success  – the point is that not all success is created equal. The question of privilege is one that, as soon as it’s raised, provokes a hostile and defensive reaction. But privilege is no more evident than when it comes to finances.

If someone is born and raised in a very wealthy and successful family, it is just a fact that it is going to be easier for them to become wealthy and successful in their own right. They will know the right people, they’ll get the right information and most importantly, they’ll have the right money. People born into less wealthy backgrounds do not have access to these advantages and so have to work twice as much to make it half as far. On top of socio-economic circumstances, add to the mix that McGrath is a black woman in her 50’s, and the lack of recognition from high-brow publications such as Forbes stings that little bit more.

One would hope that Forbes’ end goal here is aspiration; they want their readers to look at their cover stars and think “I want that level of success and I’m now going to work harder to get it”. But the thing is, looking at someone like Jenner, you don’t get that feeling.

It is hard to feel inspired by Kylie Jenner, knowing that few human beings on earth will have the same opportunities she was gifted. Instead, look to someone like McGrath, a true grassroots success story. Someone who gained legend status completely on the back of her own hard work. Now that might spark inspiration in the minds of readers.

It’s time to stop pandering to what’s popular in the eyes of Instagram and focus on where the true achievements lie; in small houses in Northhampton, where girls are teaching themselves to be the next Pat McGrath.

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