Make-up maestro Trish McEvoy: I wasn't a pretty girl, but I built a global beauty brand
Make-up maestro Trish McEvoy has blazed a trail since starting her business in the Seventies. She tells Anne McElvoy about working with clients like Ivanka Trump and Angelina Jolie
When the global glossy posse feels the pressure of staying stylish under the glare of the world's media, they turn to make-up mogul Trish McEvoy. She's been in the business "since I was three", she deadpans, and has built up a powerful roster of clients stretching from the White House to Hollywood.
I find the Upper East Side queen enthroned in a private shopping suite at Harvey Nichols. Trim in a black skater dress, she's petite with sleek dark hair and brown eyes deftly framed with her trademark dotted liner. "You know, I was never the prettiest girl in the class," she tells me. "I was smart but not pretty and I taught myself to be prettier."
She started her eponymous company in 1975 and, unusually for the beauty industry, remains at the helm. "Oh, everyone has tried to buy my brand," she says. "I like control of everything I do." She is a top seller in some 300 stores worldwide, with sales driven by an army of fans who are drawn to her unique brand of American sleekness combined with practicality of design and include Brigitte Macron, Ivanka Trump and Angelina Jolie.
"I knew Angelina when she used to carry her boyfriend's blood in some thing around her neck. She has always loved drama in her look - she still does. But her whole style is more serious now - she has a family and causes, and her look has changed to reflect more seriousness."
McEvoy met Ivanka when she lived in the same apartment block as the Trump clan at 800 Fifth Avenue, New York. I venture that Ivanka confuses people, being so clearly allied to her father's political career as a White House adviser, while trying to promote women's rights in the workplace. "Beautiful is beautiful," raps Trish.
She did Ivanka's make-up when the daughter of the then property marketer was establishing herself in the Big Apple. "We lived in the same building so it was very casual - she could just drop in and we'd try things, but she always had a controlled sense of how she wanted to look. If you have that, you're not swayed all the time by some trend that might not work for you. She has almost perfect features, which helps."
We turn to glossy posse hair, which is "very, very important". It must look tended, to balance the soigné make-up, "but not stiff; we are not in the Mad Men era".
Locks are almost always long - flowing tresses until mid-30s, shoulder-length thereafter, not the crops or bobs of us frazzled mortals.
How would she define the difference between a well turned-out denizen of Islington and the New York elite? "New Yorkers have perfected a look that is casual but pulled together. It's 'I want to look like I don't care, but I care a lot!'"
What do we Londoners get wrong? "Too much pink blusher," she sighs. "English ladies have a lot of pink in the complexion anyway. Use more BB creams to even it out. Redness will come through and get a natural glow and not so much, you know, that shepherdess look."
McEvoy's favourite European of the moment is Brigitte Macron. "I absolutely love her look and the confidence she is giving to women. She's the modern version of Brigitte Bardot. It's pretty cool. She breaks the rules with her clothes and her strong eye make-up and I like that."
The feminist argument looms over clever women who have made a fortune from pots and paint. McEvoy's slogan is beauty as "confidence". But isn't it a bit limiting in these days of full-blooded equality, to sell confidence in a tube?
"I've never seen more diversity in beauty than now in four decades in the business," she replies. "You can be full-bodied, or have a big behind. When I started, God forbid you were a little plump. No one cares a hoot now."
She has been the bestseller in Harvey Nichols for two decades - and has only just been edged off that pedestal by Fenty, the brand launched by Rihanna, which she finds hilarious. Doesn't she mind, just a bit? "Not at all. We were kicked in the ass by Rihanna! It's so funny. You need more challenge in a business. Am I right?"
Anne McElvoy is Senior Editor at The Economist