LIFE

Pat McGrath on Creating Rihanna’s Regal Beauty for W’s September Cover

The legendary makeup artist explained it was all about “taking beauty to extreme places for the last woman on earth.”


When your cover model is Rihanna and she’s adorned in zillions of dollars worth of Cartier jewels, how can the makeup possibly reach an equally apocalyptic level? You call in the team at Pat McGrath Labs 004, that’s how. Though McGrath wasn’t on set for the shoot itself, she acted as overseer for her army of artists who brought Rihanna’s look to life.

The Covers

[Rihanna on W’s September Cover](http://www.wmagazine.com/gallery/rihanna-w-magazine-september-2016-cover/all), photographed by Steven Klein, styled by Edward Enninful.

Photographs by Steven Klein, styled by Edward Enninful; W Magazine September 2016.

“Three-dimensional pieces were pieced together to make the eye mask,” explained McGrath, who oversaw the creation of these looks in her labs. “Three sets of hands were required and it took at least a week.” Mind you, this wasn’t one elaborate piece that was transported from the lab to the studio and placed over Rihanna’s eye. “It was put together from scratch, but then it had to be disassembled,” McGrath continued. “They brought all of the elements of it to the set, then each was placed on her, piece by piece. It was like an elaborate puzzle.”

[Rihanna on W’s September Cover](http://www.wmagazine.com/gallery/rihanna-w-magazine-september-2016-cover/all), photographed by Steven Klein, styled by Edward Enninful.

Photographs by Steven Klein, Styled by Edward Enninful

“It was also about the nudity of the face,” said McGrath. “Simple shaping to the face, before all of these extreme pieces go on.” Rihanna’s supernatural glow comes courtesy of a liberal application of McGrath Labs Skin Fetish 003.

The Gold Sun Crown

[Rihanna on W’s September Cover](http://www.wmagazine.com/gallery/rihanna-w-magazine-september-2016-cover/all), photographed by Steven Klein, styled by Edward Enninful.

Photographs by Steven Klein, styled by Edward Enninful; W Magazine September 2016.

“Lip color, glitter, jewels.” That was the layering process that McGrath’s team laid down on RiRi’s pout here. And those gold teardrops? “Pigments with 3-dimensional materials and metal eyeliner,” McGrath confirmed. But look closely: “There are actually metal pieces on top of the eye, as well as underneath it.” Gawd, it must have felt extremely uncomfortable!? ”You saw the video! I saw the video! She was walking around! She looked completely comfortable.”

Pailette Red Lip

[Rihanna on W’s September Cover](http://www.wmagazine.com/gallery/rihanna-w-magazine-september-2016-cover/all), photographed by Steven Klein, styled by Edward Enninful.

Photographs by Steven Klein, Styled by Edward Enninful

This confetti-esque 3D lip was made from paillettes that were placed over red lipstick. “Makeup is her shield,” McGrath said of Rihanna’s character here. “But it is also her crown, her scepter.”

[Rihanna on W’s September Cover](http://www.wmagazine.com/gallery/rihanna-w-magazine-september-2016-cover/all), photographed by Steven Klein, styled by Edward Enninful.

Photographs by Steven Klein, Styled by Edward Enninful

“The makeup is almost like war paint,” says McGrath. “But it’s done in the most modern way. She’s a survivor.”

The Masks

[Rihanna on W’s September Cover](http://www.wmagazine.com/gallery/rihanna-w-magazine-september-2016-cover/all), photographed by Steven Klein, styled by Edward Enninful.

Photographs by Steven Klein, Styled by Edward Enninful

“I’ve been doing masks and 3D makeup for 20 years,” McGrath said. “My team created these masks inspired by all the shows and all of my history. They made so many for this; I can’t even remember the number.”

[Rihanna on W’s September Cover](http://www.wmagazine.com/gallery/rihanna-w-magazine-september-2016-cover/all), photographed by Steven Klein, styled by Edward Enninful.

Photographs by Steven Klein, Styled by Edward Enninful

“Everyone said, ‘Do anything you want. Your wildest dreams.’ My team loved that,” McGrath said.

[Rihanna on W’s September Cover](http://www.wmagazine.com/gallery/rihanna-w-magazine-september-2016-cover/all), photographed by Steven Klein, styled by Edward Enninful.

Photographs by Steven Klein, Styled by Edward Enninful

“This one was mostly made of jeweled pieces glued on,” McGrath explained. “The team added tattoos to her face as well as body casts. Plus, jewelry and Rihanna’s own tattoos.”

[Rihanna on W’s September Cover](http://www.wmagazine.com/gallery/rihanna-w-magazine-september-2016-cover/all), photographed by Steven Klein, styled by Edward Enninful.

Photographs by Steven Klein, Styled by Edward Enninful

McGrath’s team took the best fabric from wardrobe, which they then shaped and placed under her eyes. “All of these looks were about texture taken to the extreme,” said McGrath. “Taking beauty to extreme places for the last woman on earth.”

See Rihanna’s best hair and makeup looks here:

Rihanna’s Most Daring Hairstyles of All Time, From an Angular Bob to Long Blue Waves

September 2006: Shortly after the pop star first burst onto the scene at 17 years old with her ‘Pon De Replay’ album, her natural brown fringe, lilac eye makeup and glowing fresh face gives her the sweet “girl next door” look.

Getty Images/WireImage for Tommy Hilfiger

November 2006: Rihanna decided to glam up her look at bit while attending the 2006 MTV Europe Music Awards with voluminous wavy curls paired with flirty eyelash extensions and a natural nude gloss lip.

Getty Images

June 2007: The singer ditched her hair extensions for an edgier shorter look. Her razor-sharp bangs and cropped bob hairstyle were attributed not to just her change in fashion sense, but also in musical direction as her hit album “Good Girl Gone Bad” had recently been released.

Getty Images/WireImage

October 2007: Rihanna switched up her style again with this jet black side-swept fringe and bob hairstyle. Her bold smoky eye, rosy cheeks and natural lip were the perfect touches to her simple slip dress look while attending the 2007 Cipriani Wall Street Concert Series in New York.

Getty Images/WireImage

November 2008: Rocking a curly pompadour, soft brown smoky eye makeup and spiky lashes for definition, Rihanna looked like a glammed-up rocker babe for the 2008 American Music Awards at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.

Getty Images/FilmMagic

January 2010: The singer embodied full-on ice princess at the NRJ Music Awards at the Palais des Festivals, wearing a newly-blonde curly pompadour with shaved sides completed with frosty white eye makeup, spiked eyelashes for definition and a pink pouty lip.

Getty Images/WireImage

November 2010: Rihanna debuted new cherry-red curly hair at the 2010 American Music Awards. Her natural makeup pared with a rosy cheek put all of the focus on her new bold hairstyle.

Getty Images/WireImage

May 2011: Keeping with her scarlet color, Rihanna pulled off this mermaid-esque wavy hairstyle for the ‘Nivea And Rihanna Celebrating 100 Years of Skincare’ event at the Grand Hotel Intercontinental in Paris.

Getty Images

February 2012: At the 54th Annual Grammy Awards, the singer looked stunning with dark roots and blonde beach waves. She had a natural glow as she kept her makeup rather simple with bronze eyelids and a pink matte lip.

Getty Images/FilmMagic

September 2012:__ Rihanna looked cute and sassy with her her new super-short pixie cut, long lashes and bold red lip at the MTV Video Movie Awards.

Getty Images/WireImage

March 2013: At her Rihanna for River Island collection launch in London, Rihanna showed off ombre side-swept curls and a shaved undercut. Balancing out her new edgy hairstyle, she went for a natural makeup look by pairing copper eye lids with a moody maroon lip.

Getty Images

May 2014: 1. Rihanna pushed the envelope yet again by wearing bantu knots (commonly used as an overnight routine to preserve lasting and defined curls) in public, combined with bold eyeliner and a vampy green metallic lip to the 2014 iHeartRadio music awards.

NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

August 2015: This honey-blonde curly ponytail gave Rihanna a glam yet sweet factor at her RiRi by Rihanna fragrance unveiling at Macy’s in Downtown Brooklyn.

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The gorgeous superstar looked sleek and chic at the 2nd Annual Diamond Ball in December 2015. Her slicked back hairstyle accentuated her enviable bone structure while her orange/gold eye shadow made her green eyes pop.

Getty Images

Rihanna wore a sleek center-part chin length bob to the 2016 BRIT Awards at the O2 Area in London in February 2016. With lilac eyelids, cat-eye liner and soft pick lips, she looked the fairytale part.

Getty Images/WireImage

Rihanna attended Black Girls Rock! 2016 at New Jersey Performing Arts Center on April 1, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey with a bold cat eye and embellished hair accessories.

Getty Images/Gary Gershoff

Rihanna debuted a short, curly bob and bangs at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Getty Images/Axelle/Bauer-Griffin

Rihanna wore dreadlocks to walk around Soho on October 6, 2016 in New York City.

Getty Images/Raymond Hall

Rihanna was positively glowing at the 59th GRAMMY Awards on February 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, California, with her long hair in red waves.

Getty Images/Steve Granitz

Stunning at the 2017 Costume Institute Gala, Rihanna wore her hair in a sleek top knot with bangs and an exaggerated frosted magenta smokey eye.

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Wearing an elegant up do with a twist, Rihanna paired chic white sunglasses with minimalist makeup and slicked back hair at the Cannes Film Festival.

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Sporting her newest do at the Crop Over Festival in Barbados, Rihanna rocked turquoise blue beachy mermaid waves with matching nails.

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