Makeup Artist Pat McGrath Talks Beauty Icons And Her Highlighter Kit

And sequins

With big name clients like Kim Kardashian, Cara Delevingne, and the Hadid sisters, it is no surprise that Pat McGrath is one of the most sought after makeup artists in the world. After two decades of doing makeup for runway shows, working on editorial campaigns, and making celebs look fabulous on the red carpet, McGrath launched a beauty line (that includes the highly covetable Skin Fetish 003 kits) that is as desireable as McGrath herself. We caught up with the artist to talk about beauty icons and her highlighter kit.

The following feature appears in the August 2016 issue of NYLON.

What inspired you to create the Skin Fetish 003 kits?

Flawless, luminous skin has always been a constant in my work. For years I’ve been using a custom mix of products to achieve different levels of luminosity from fresh baby skin to a supercharged power-glow. The highlighter, balm, and pigment products in the kit are a secret combination that I’ve used for years backstage and for editorials. I’m so excited to finally share them with the world!

How would you describe the two shades, Nude and Gold?

The Fine Gold 003 pigment is more of a warmer, golden shade, as opposed to the Iridescent Pink 003 pigment, which results in a cooler, opalescent finish, but the formulation is the same. The pigments are a gel hybrid formula and contain a brilliant shimmer, resulting in a divine finish.

What are some of your biggest tricks for using the products in unconventional ways?

The magic of Skin Fetish 003 is that it’s so simple and easy to use; there are so many different ways to use the products individually or by layering them, for varying effects. The highlighter can be used alone to add creamy reflective metallic light to lift and add dimension to the bone structure. The balm can be used to add a transparent mirror shine and gloss to any part of the skin, such as the eyelids and cheekbones. The pigment is a multidimensional powder that when used alone or in combination with the other products creates a blast of iridescent shimmer.

I love the packaging. What inspired you to have all of your products come in sequin-filled bags?

I am beyond obsessed with sequins and they have been a recurring element in so many of my looks, from the face masks at Givenchy to the lips and eyes at Dior. For me, they trigger a magpie effect and represent a must-have. They’re such a crucial part of the story.

You have so many muses, from drag queens (Violet Chachki, Miss Fame) to up-and-coming models (Mallory Merk, Rhi Blossom), to celebrities (Kim Kardashian, Bella Hadid)—what exactly makes a Pat McGrath muse?

One of the common threads that runs through these individuals is that despite their obvious beauty, there is a special strength that I admire. I feel that beauty is deeply subjective, and there is something exquisite within the mix of eccentricity and beauty. It’s about more than just a pretty face—it’s the person I see, the character, and the story. 

How do you cast and source your muses? Instagram? Through friends?

In addition to the Pat McGrath Muses (Carlotta Kohl, Paloma Elsesser, Kate Bowman, and Sahara Lin), I’ve also chosen a mix of models, men and women. I essentially wanted to maintain the spirit of diversity, modernity, and eccentricity by representing the future of beauty as it relates to the influence of social media. I feel this diversity in casting largely speaks to shifts within the fashion industry and represents what is happening on the runways, in editorials, and also within forward-thinking media outlets. Representing the future of how beauty is perceived through the lens of both fashion and social media defines the direction of both consumer trends and beauty standards.

What is your definition of beauty?

For me, the idea of beauty and what is considered beautiful isn’t so easily defined. I believe that real and true beauty comes from within. It’s like an energy, because the task of bringing out beauty—and at times creating it—really is like a puzzle. Often in my work, the approach to beauty is to seek perfection, yet sometimes beauty is imperfect or quite raw.

Who are some of your ultimate beauty icons?

I have too many to name! In addition to the McGrath Muses, Karen Elson, Amber Valletta, Naomi Campbell, Gisele Bündchen, Jamie Bochert, and Guinevere Van Seenus are a few that come to mind. I’ve been so lucky to transform these women, time and time again. And I’ve always drawn creative inspiration from the divine Blitz Kid era, vintage Hollywood cinematic beauties, and David Bowie.

You’re an inspiration to so many. What advice do you have for aspiring makeup artists trying to break out in the business?

Practice makes perfect! Practice on anyone you can, as it will help to build your confidence and skill level. Also, assisting a good, working makeup artist is invaluable for gaining industry experience and an understanding of the business of the beauty world, which will help to prepare you for your own future jobs.

Pat McGrath Labs, $72 each, available at Sephora