You can’t talk about the impact women have in the beauty industry without discussing the renowned work of those who have paved the way for future innovators. Specifically, women of color have made their mark in the beauty industry — whether it is in hair, makeup or nails — over the past couple of decades. Their big dreams led them to take the creative risks necessary to become innovators of their time and an inspiration to women everywhere.

Pat McGrath, Jin Soon Choi, and the Branch sisters not only pioneer trends, but they’ve earned their titles as trailblazers. The irony? Many beauty aficionados don’t even know who these incredible women are.

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Pat McGrath

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photo: Courtesy of COVERGIRL

Pat McGrath cites her mother and the New Romanticism movement of the 80s in London as her inspiration. Today, the half-Jamaican Brit — deemed the “most influential makeup artist in the world”  by Vogue — creates the trends and inspiration for makeup lovers everywhere, whether they know it or not. The maquillage master works feverishly behind the scenes at fashion week to bring to life each season’s hottest looks and serves as the global creative design director at Proctor & Gamble Beauty, the folks behind Covergirl, Max Factor and Dolce & Gabbana Makeup. No biggie, right?

Early in her career, McGrath took matters into her own hands, literally (she is known to rarely use brushes) and taught herself the tricks of the trade. Her hard work paid off. The budding artist eventually became the beauty director at i-D after working with longtime friend Edward Enninful. In the 90s when she was introduced to famed photographer, Stephen Meisel, by supermodel Amber Valletta, no less. Since then, their relationship — Meisel rarely ever works without Pat— and her career took off at lightning speed.


McGrath was John Galliano’s go-to artist during his tenure at Christian Dior, and on the runway, she’s created countless influential makeup looks for the likes of Prada, Miu Miu, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. She popularized the minimal dewy makeup of the late 90s and has made quite the statement for designer Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy with the avant-garde bejeweled face masks seen over the last few seasons. She’s also worked with almost every model in the world to create iconic magazine covers and editorial photo shoots. In 2004, McGrath took her chances with the masses, and joined Proctor & Gamble Beauty to oversee some of the biggest brands in the world.

Today the legendary artist continues to create trends on and off the runways. During New York Fashion Week this fall, McGrath single-handedly launched the blue makeup trend of spring 2016, conceptualizing the aqua blue makeup at Diane von Furstenberg and the vivid azure eyeliner the models at Boss sported. Most recently, McGrath unveiled the latest Covergirl Star Wars collection by designing six out-of-this-world makeup looks inspired by the upcoming film, using the limited edition line up of cosmetics. Not bad for a self-taught Northampton gal.

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Jin Soon Choi

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photo: Go Yoon Ji

Jin Soon Choi is the most sought-after nail pro on the beauty scene these days after almost 30 years in the business. Choi put in her time to become the go-to nail artist for celebrities, fashion designers, and nail art enthusiasts everywhere and has more than earned her cred.

It all started out as a means to make ends meet when she moved to New York City. The South Korean immigrant began her career as an ordinary manicurist at a salon. Soon, she started offering at-home services to her growing clientele until she opened up the first Jin Soon Natural Hand and Foot Spa in the East Village. Today, she has three locations and JINsoon Nail Lacquer, her eponymous line that launched in 2012.

Like McGrath, Choi worked closely with Steven Meisel and she credits him for his influence, telling Shen Beauty, “He is extremely imaginative, fresh and talented and this helped inspire me to create a high fashion nail lacquer line.” The renowned nail guru counts Anne Hathaway and Taylor Swift as clients, has done campaigns for Marc Jacobs, Jimmy Choo, and Prada, in addition to providing the beautiful manis seen at fashion week for almost every American designer, including the minimalistic approach she whipped up at Vera Wang, Coach, and Derek Lam for their spring 2016 shows.

Miko and Titi Branch

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photo: Courtesy of Miss Jessie's

Miss Jessie was the grandmother of Miko and Titi Branch, who are the sisters behind Miss Jessie’s hair care products and pioneers of the natural hair movement of the aughts.  Embracing hair’s natural texture was popular in the 60s and 70s, but these girls from Queens, New York with African-American and Japanese roots made it cool and sexy again.

After graduating with a degree in Fashion Design, Miko realized that hair was her real passion. It was the 90s, and she began working away as a freelance stylist doing photoshoots and ad campaigns until she and Titi opened the doors to their first Brooklyn salon in 1997. At the time, Titi was running her own public relations firm and quickly left her day time gig to dive head first into the beauty business. While Miko did the hair styling, Titi did everything else in between from payroll to greeting customers and booking appointments. When Miko gave birth in 2000, she found it nearly impossible to keep her hair straight so she began to go au natural. Clients took notice and followed her lead, rocking natural curls, afros, and waves. The duo then created the “Silkener,” a treatment done in the salon that fights frizz and turns kinks into curls for a more manageable mane.

After introducing Miss Jessie’s Curly Pudding, the brand skyrocketed and demand was at an all-time high. The sisters started out by distributing products to local NYC salons and select Ricky’s locations, but today you can shop for the cult-favorite in national retail chains like Target and CVS. Sadly, on December 4, 2014, Titi Branch ended her own life after years of success with the brand. In April 2015, their book, Miss Jessie's: Creating a Successful Business from Scratch – Naturally, was released, which chronicles their trailblazing ways in the natural hair movement and commercial success.