Shot nine times, but Jemma McGrath beats adversity to win special Prince’s Trust award

Jemma McGrath at her office in the Innovation Factory in west Belfast
Jemma McGrath at her office in the Innovation Factory in west Belfast

A successful businesswoman who transformed her life after being shot nine times in Northern Ireland has won a special charity award for enterprise.

Jemma McGrath, 29, from east Belfast, struggled with drink and drugs and her low point came when she was seriously injured by masked gunmen in 2013.

She began doing online make-up tutorials with one arm while recovering in a wheelchair. That blossomed into running a firm selling false eyelashes online, with a new office and plans to start supplying her products in shops.

She said: “I know how much I have put into this, it has literally been blood and sweat and tears.

“Make-up in a way saved my bacon.”

She added: “I grew up on the peace line where you were taught to hate people because of religion, race or beliefs.

“As a teenager I was very angry at life, at the world.

“Coming from a broken home and having responsibility of looking out for my wee brothers just gave me a burden and made me spitting fire and angry at everybody in life.”

Alcohol and substances helped her cope.

“The drink and drugs got me into trouble in the end and I ended up getting shot nine times.”

Some organised crime groupings in Northern Ireland carry out assaults and shootings to exert influence over communities for self-serving reasons, police have said.

Ms McGrath was in hospital for a month and a wheelchair for three, recovering from a broken arm and leg, with bullet wounds to both legs.

One round remains lodged in her stomach.

“I have got plates and pins and screws and every other piece of metal that you can think about holding my body together, but I also have determination to overcome it.

“The determination was what kept me going, it was the inner thing to prove people wrong, that I can do this and I am not going to let it beat me.”

Ms McGrath said the Prince’s Trust accolade – the Northern Ireland, Ulster Bank Enterprise Award – had given her renewed self-confidence.

“It is not just a wee business idea no more, this is grown up and it is really good and I have come from being that person, down in the dumps, to up and coming, a successful businesswoman.”

Her firm, #makeupurlife, started out on Facebook as a way of coping and the name always had more than one meaning.

“I was in a wheelchair, I could only move one arm and I was sitting doing YouTube tutorials with one hand and practising on one of my nieces.

“That was how I got my mind focused on something else.”

She is a now a fully qualified make-up artist and eyebrow stylist and has designed her own eyelashes line, while working on self-development with young women from across Northern Ireland.

She added: “I know exactly what it is like to have nothing and be at rock-bottom.

“When you have been there you just have this thing inside you that makes you want to make sure that no one else is there.”