Look Like a Resident of Gag City With This New Pat McGrath Product Launch

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“Nicki and I have known each other for years. When I heard she was looking for me for her latest project, I was thrilled—I love her and her music,” Pat McGrath exclusively tells ELLE.com. The two reconnected, which was the catalyst behind their collaboration for Pink Friday 2. “Working with Nicki on such an iconic album has been an absolute dream come true,” says McGrath. The two collaborated over Zoom multiple times as Minaj was in Los Angeles and McGrath in New York.

It’s been 13 years since Nicki Minaj’s debut album, Pink Friday, graced our ears and set a new bar for the rap game. Her colloquialisms, multiple personas, and bold glam have created a superior distinction from others in the industry. Months before releasing the long-awaited Pink Friday 2, Minaj took to Instagram to show Barbz the album visuals. Her makeup was a Barbie dream land with a soft pink glam, highlighting Minaj’s natural beauty and providing inspiration for both date night and girl’s night out.

McGrath carefully constructed these looks, with Minaj’s team providing “detailed creative briefs,” allowing McGrath to dive right into designing various beauty visuals. She drew inspiration from her “extensive archives in runway, red carpet, and editorial.” She revealed that they were brought to life by Ronald Watkins, who McGrath describes as “a fantastic makeup artist on Nicki’s team.” In step with both Minaj and McGrath’s personalities and creative output, one could imagine the process was just as grand as the final result.

Within her post, Minaj shouted out Pat McGrath for the makeup direction, stating, “Queen Pat, thank you for being a part of this. Omg. 👑” However, McGrath did more than serve makeup direction; she also put a glam Easter egg in the visuals, using an unreleased product that—surprise!—you can now shop just in time for the holidays. We spoke with McGrath, who gave us exclusive details on her vision behind the glam, her new product, and more. “It was such a whirlwind,” shares McGrath, adding, “I actually sent someone from my New York office with two massive suitcases filled with makeup, couture crystals, vinyl eye wings, feathers, and pigments. It was crucial for Nicki to have Mother’s personal, full runway kit at her disposal, ensuring she could unleash her inner supermodel for this extraordinary project.”

Within these massive suitcases, McGrath also sent unreleased ChromaLuxe Artistry Pigments for Watkins to use and test on Minaj. The original ChromaLuxe colors were limited edition and part of McGrath’s Star Wars collection—which quickly sold out. What better time to bring them back and launch than via Minaj? There are now six new shades for ChromaLuxe lovers to shop. “The multi-use formula, which features a luxuriously creamy texture and brilliant foiled metallic finish, was so popular when we initially launched it with the Star Wars Collection that I couldn’t help but bring it back—especially at the height of the festive season when everyone loves to indulge in a little sparkle,” says McGrath.

ChromaLuxe Artistry Pigment in Lilac Liaison

ChromaLuxe Artistry Pigment in Lilac Liaison

ChromaLuxe Artistry Pigment in Lilac Liaison

If you look closely at the Pink Friday 2 visuals, you’ll spot Midnight Temptress, a deep violet metallic with gold pearls, and Lilac Liason, a soft lilac purple with silver shimmer (and a favorite in the ELLE office, as you can see by our TikTok, here). McGrath explains that you can “easily apply the pigment-rich formula with your finger or a brush—wherever your makeup fantasies take you!” These shades accentuated Minaj’s dynamic looks and added a lustrous dimension to each style.

Keep reading to learn more about McGrath’s behind-the-scenes process for Pink Friday 2 glam, application tips to get the Gag City look, and more.

What inspired the Pink Friday 2 visuals and how did you translate that into the glam?

PAT McGRATH LABS PAT McGRATH LABS Divine Blush: Legendary Glow Colour Balm Forbidden Fleur 0.24 oz / 7 g

PAT McGRATH LABS Divine Blush: Legendary Glow Colour Balm Forbidden Fleur 0.24 oz / 7 g

PAT McGRATH LABS PAT McGRATH LABS Divine Blush: Legendary Glow Colour Balm Forbidden Fleur 0.24 oz / 7 g

While I can’t divulge all our secrets, what I can say is that Nicki’s team provided a MAJOR mood board filled with stunning references, clothing, wigs, and set designs. The creative process was like diving into a dream world of visuals, and it was a so much fun using my Pat McGrath Labs creations to bring these incredible inspirations to life. We really embraced Nicki and my love for pink, with products like Divine Blush: Legendary Glow Colour Balm, Divine Skin: Rose 001 The Essence, and so much more.

You’re not new to working with artists—I know you worked with Taylor Swift for her “Bejeweled” music video (and even made a cameo, Queen!). What was it like partnering with Nicki to work on the visuals for the album? How does the process differ from working on a music video? And how does working with musicians differ from (or how is it similar to) working on runways during fashion week?

Collaborating with such iconic Sagittarians as Taylor and Nicki brings a unique blend of creativity and vision to the table. In creating visuals for an album, much like in music videos, the process revolves around deeply understanding and interpreting the artist’s vision. It’s very similar to preparing for a fashion runway or editorial shoot, where you meet with the designer, delve into the narrative behind each look, and then meticulously work on designing and executing that vision. My approach is the same for every collaboration I do, whether with a musician, celebrity, or couturier: absorb the brief and execute excellence. With Nicki’s vivid persona and distinct style, translating her ideas into makeup artistry was an incredibly thrilling and fulfilling process. Her dynamic characters and personas add an extra layer of excitement and challenge, pushing creative boundaries and allowing for a rich tapestry of visual storytelling through makeup.

Nicki is known for her alter egos—Roman, Martha, Red Ruby, the Harajuku Barbie, Tyra, Rosa…there’s more, but I won’t continue. Who were you creating visuals or doing makeup for? Onika? Nicki Minaj? I’d love to know how her alter egos played into the creative makeup process since they are such a big part of who she is as an artist.

Nicki’s rich array of alter egos adds a fascinating layer to our creative process. Although I can’t reveal specific details yet, I can assure the Barbs that they will witness a spectacular display of Nicki’s multifaceted personality in this project. Each look was crafted to reflect the many facets of her artistic expression.

I see her longtime hairstylist, Arrogant Tae, was responsible for the hair. How did you two work together to make hair and makeup play off each other versus overpowering the looks? What’s the key to that balance?

Working with Arrogant Tae’s brilliant hairstyling was a seamless process. Although our collaboration was primarily through the brief, the coordination was so well managed by Nicki’s team that we could effortlessly align the makeup looks with the hair, creating a harmonious visual symphony.

Any application tips on how you used any of the specific products below on Nicki’s skin?

PAT McGRATH LABS PAT McGRATH LABS Sublime Perfection Foundation Deep 36 1.18 oz/ 35 ml

PAT McGRATH LABS Sublime Perfection Foundation Deep 36 1.18 oz/ 35 ml

PAT McGRATH LABS PAT McGRATH LABS Sublime Perfection Foundation Deep 36 1.18 oz/ 35 ml

For Nicki’s skin, Ronald and I focused on creating a flawless base with a gorgeous, luminous finish. Products like Divine Skin: Rose 001 The Essence and the Skin Fetish: Sublime Perfection Foundation and Setting Powder provided the perfect canvas—the same combination that I use for all of the runway and editorial looks I create. Highlighters and blushes from the Divine Glow and Divine Blush ranges then added that signature McGrath glow, enhancing Nicki’s natural radiance.

Anything else you want to share?

To all the Barbz and beauty lovers, immerse yourselves in the majorness of Pink Friday 2. Nicki has poured her heart and soul into this project, and I hope it inspires you as much as it has inspired me. Enjoy the beauty and the beats!

Shop the Glam from Nicki Minaj’s <i>Pink Friday 2</i>

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Headshot of Danielle James

Danielle James is the Digital Beauty Director of ELLE.com. Previously, she was the Fashion and Beauty Director of HelloBeautiful.com and MadameNoire.com. She’s written for The Cut, InStyle, Allure, The Business of Fashion, Nylon, Essence, Good Housekeeping, and more. She enjoys sailing, thrifting, Japanese whiskey, Naomi Campbell’s runway walk, and Rihanna in the comment section.

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