January 18, 2021

50signs

The Fashion Spirit

As Pat McGrath is made a dame, these are the black women shaking up the beauty industry

3 min read

Dubbed the “the most influential make-up artist in the world” by Vogue, Pat McGrath has been named in the New Year Honours list.

The 50-year-old Northampton native has been made a dame for services to the fashion and beauty industry and diversity. She’s a familiar face in the world of high fashion, creating magical beauty looks for brands like Valentino, Dior and Prada. In 2017 she launched her own make-up line, Pat McGrath Labs, which was valued at $1 billion (£770 million) by 2018.

McGrath’s style is all about colour and bold experimentation. She prioritises inclusivity and her products cater for a wide range of skin tones – perhaps born out of experience, as McGrath often speaks in interviews about struggling to find make-up to match her skin in the 1970s and 1980s.

She told the PA news agency: “I am truly delighted and humbled to be given this wonderful honour. My mother’s obsession with beauty and fashion ignited my passion for this amazing industry and I feel blessed to have the privilege of working with some of the most extraordinary people throughout my career.

“Colour across the spectrum is my life’s work and inspiration and I celebrate individuality particularly with my brand Pat McGrath Labs, so I am especially honoured that this award is also for diversity.”

McGrath isn’t the only black woman shaking up the beauty industry…

Rihanna

No conversation about beauty would be complete without mentioning Rihanna. In 2017 the Bajan popstar launched Fenty Beauty disrupting the industry with the broad range of foundation shades on offer.

The brand’s influence has since been dubbed the ‘Fenty effect’, making it the new normal for make-up brands to have an inclusive and diverse product range, leaving no one behind.

Back in 2017, Rihanna told The Times: “There’s a void for women with all types of extreme complexions. The middle ground is covered really, really well, but if you’re too pale or too dark, there’s not a lot of options.”

Sharon Chuter

Former beauty exec Sharon Chuter is the brains behind make-up brand Uoma Beauty, and like Rihanna she champions diversity in everything she does.

Chuter is keen to bring about real change in the industry, and earlier this year established the #PullUpForChange campaign. After brands joined Blackout Tuesday and posted a black square on their Instagram pages in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests, Chuter asked them to publish the number of black people they employed, particularly in leadership roles. Big companies got involved, including Shiseido, Revlon, Estee Lauder and Kylie Cosmetics.

Chuter wrote on Instagram: “Show us you really mean it and you are ready to stop being a part of the system of oppression and marginalisation.”

She tells Fashionista: “People always make this inclusivity thing look like it’s a big deal. But at the end of the day, your business has to be reflective of the world that you live in. If you want to serve a global customer, the world is diverse — of course it makes sense to have a diverse team.”

Charlotte Mensah

Charlotte Mensah is a legend in haircare: she’s been awarded British Afro Hairdresser of the Year three times, and is the first black woman to be inducted into the British Hairdressing Hall of Fame.

Her clients include authors Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Zadie Smith, and actress Michaela Coel, and she’s bringing Afro hair to the forefront. Mensah released her first book Good Hair: The Essential Guide To Afro, Textured And Curly Hair this year, and continues to work on her charity LOVE (Ladies of Visionary Empowerment), which helps provide educational opportunities for women in Africa.

She tells the Guardian: “For so long, there were all these European standards and stereotypical images of what black hair looked like and what it meant. But for me, all hair is good hair, whether it is coily, straight, 10in or down to your waist.”

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