Desert Island Discs: Pat McGrath on diversity in beauty industry

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McGrath has worked on fashion runways as well as for editorial shoots, and now has her own product range

Multi-millionaire make-up artist Pat McGrath says she used to use cocoa powder on her face because of the lack of beauty products for black skin.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, the self-taught beauty expert said she learnt from her mother that if “you can’t buy it, make it”.

McGrath has worked with fashion designers including Alexander McQueen and Givenchy.

She added it was “fantastic” to see the fashion industry becoming more diverse.

McGrath, from Northampton, told presenter Lauren Laverne that growing up she used to borrow her mother’s skincare products and lipsticks – which she used to experiment with.

“She even used cocoa powder, she came in from the kitchen with cocoa powder all over her face, and she was like, ‘This is the right tone of powder.’

“And she had dusted it on her face and she looked amazing.

“So that’s what I ended up doing as well, was making products that I needed backstage.

“That stems from my mother, if you can’t find it, you can’t buy it, make it.”

She recalled making her own moisturiser for her dolls and herself, adding: “I mixed oil and water together, whipped it and put it in the fridge and it looked like a cream… I was shining like a Belisha beacon for months.”

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McGrath working at a Christian Dior show at Paris Fashion Week in 2008

McGrath – who worked as a runway make-up artist as well as for magazine shoots and covers – said she was “so happy” to see the changes in the fashion industry.

“We have models from all different social backgrounds, different weight, body types, different religious backgrounds, shows that are over 50% women of colour and it just wasn’t there for such a long time. And now, it’s just so fantastic to see. Beautiful.”

She was also asked about whether she experienced much racism growing up in the 1970s, but said she had a “solid base” around her, adding: “I was very lucky, having the mother I had, who was like, ‘Oh look at that person, they’re racist, poor things, let’s go shopping.'”

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