MUD Talks: Denika Bedrossian

MUD Talks Denika BedrossianDenika-Bedrossian-01

Photo by Deverill Weeks

Last fall, we were lucky enough to have the very talented and incredibly gracious, Denika Bedrossian come to our LA campus in Burbank. She spoke with us about her career so far, from the ups and downs, to working with Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, Kelly Osbourne, and many more.

MUD: How did you get into makeup?

I used to paint when I was a kid. It just kind of felt natural, with brushes, paint, colors, blending and stuff. When I was old enough to do my own make-up, I started playing around a lot. I used to watch my mom doing her own make-up, so it kind of made me a little more inspired to not do it on paper anymore. So, I started doing it (make-up) on my friend’s hair for dances at school and all that. Then, when I turned 16, I started working for Aveda, doing make-up demos for them at a salon near my house. When I turned 18, I went straight to MAC.


Make-up on Kelly Osbourne

MUD: Talk about your career and some of the highlights?

So, I had some amazing years at MAC. They were the greatest, and the best education I could have asked for. From there, I made a lot of great contacts and a lot of great friends. It kind of led me to understand which realm of make up I wanted to go into, because there are so many different departments for it. I ended up transferring to the MAC Pro store on Robertson, which, at the time was the big flagship store. I ended up meeting a lot of industry people there and kind of just got my name out. After 8 great years, I left, got an agent and started working in the freelance world and I’ve been doing it ever since.

MUD: What is your favorite project you ever worked on and why?

I have had a lot of amazing projects. I’m really proud of a lot of things I’ve done. I did one really great one, when I worked at MAC there was an event called Chinese Dress, where they brought different fabrics that were made in all different parts of Asia, and we duplicated on skin. They closed down Robertson Blvd, and put all these great models against these real painted backdrops of art. They just kind of blended in, and one of my girls that I got to work on was covered in lily pads and frogs. It was 16 hours we worked on her, and it was the most gratifying thing to see at the end. Later on in my career, I was working with Miley Cyrus where we got to do some amazing body art. I covered her in 12 different kinds of glitters with different sizes and colors from head to toe. It was probably the most ethereal thing I’ve ever photographed or seen with my own work. So it was really beautiful and dreamy.And then recently I worked with Lady Gaga so that was a great moment. I feel like every day a new project is great memory so I kind of just wait and see what comes next.


 Above mentioned glitter make-up on Miley Cyrus

MUD: What does an agent do for a makeup artist?

An agent is not only your support team and your number one fan. They book your work, they do all your deal memos, and they pitch you.  They introduce you and your work to different publicists, and artists.  They kind of run your life for you, keep it organized and make sure you get paid. So it’s a nice way to have someone take care of all the stuff you don’t have the time to deal with and get the work you might not be able to get on your own.

MUD: What qualities do you feel are important to have as a make-up artist?

I think that it’s really important that you hold your own, have your own style and our own ethics. For me personally, I was brought up with very strong morals and I don’t like to veer away from them. So I keep jobs very professional but fun and exciting. I always know where to draw the line plus I always bring (to my clients) something that makes them feel good whether it’s a story, a product or it’s just my smile.  I always find a way to be consistent with that and I think that’s what makes people want to see you again. It’s important to have your own thing going on so that people miss it and want it.


Make-up on Lydia Hearst for Mint magazine

MUD: What kind of things do you think a make-up artist needs to do to stay relevant in todays market?

Well nowadays social media is the number one thing. I know when I was growing up and getting in the business, social media wasn’t even a thought.   We had big leather books we had to mail out to people to get jobs. I think today it’s about incorporating your personal life into your work life and showing a side of you (but not too much of you) in posting your work as well as tagging companies consistently. This includes maintaining relationships with different people and reaching out to photographers. Using the social media platform to get your own work is so important. That’s how work is booked these days.

MUD: What is the best advice you could give to brand new makeup artist?

To always learn, learn, learn and never be done learning.  Stay on top of your knowledge, not only in make-up and beauty, but in fashion, music and film because everything ties together. You never know where a job’s going to bring you, so it’s important that you kind of stay on top of every department there is in this business. Stay true to you and always, always, always be all over everything you see.


Make-up on Ivy Levan

MUD: Are there any last thoughts that you’d like to leave us with?

I would say being a make up artist is one of the greatest gifts in the world. I wouldn’t change it for anything ever. I am truly blessed to have this job and met every person I’ve worked with. Never give up, because you might have those days where you feel like it’s not going anywhere or maybe didn’t make the right choice for your future, but at the end of the day, if it’s what you love, its going to happen and it’s going to get better.

Photo Credit : Denika Bedrossian’s Agency Portfolio



MUD Talks: Alex Noble


Alex Noble 2

We recently had the opportunity to speak with Alex Noble! He swung by our LA campus in Burbank to tell students about his career thus far. From “Desperate Housewives” to “Fear the Walking Dead,” Alex certainly had a lot of wisdom to share!

MUD: What was your first big break?
Alex: My first big break was coming out to Los Angeles. Because that was a hurdle that I had worked hard to overcome. I was in Cincinnati, Ohio at the time. Getting into the Union was also a really a big break for me.  Movie-wise though? That’s a tough one. There was a movie I worked on that has a $1.3 million budget. I got in on a recommendation from a friend of mine already working on it. They took a chance on me. I was co-department heading with another artist. It was called Forbidden Warrior. Yeah you’ll never see it.

MUD: What’s the best way for somebody to ask if they can assist you?
Alex: Erin Krueger Mekash had a fantastic one. Don’t ask if you can clean my brushes. If you want to assist me, I want to know how good of a make-up artist you are and not how good of a brush cleaner you are.

MUD: Talk about your work on “Desperate Housewives.”
Alex: I did a movie many years ago called “Without Men.” It starred Eva Longoria among others. I was department head so I did Eva’s make up. She looks at me one day and she says “Have you ever thought about coming on Desperate Housewives?” I said, “I’d love to, but I don’t think they would touch me.” She’s like “Why not?”  I replied, “Because no one knows I do beauty make-up.”  Keep in mind, at this time I was doing “Terminator” make-up.  I was doing a lot of effects-based make-up for independent movies like “I Am Number Four.” She looks at me and says, “Well you’ve been doing my make up for about 18 days and I think I’m a pretty good reference.” I loved her for that. I told her “I appreciate the opportunity, but I don’t want to replace anybody or make any ripples in the water at all. If you’re willing to do this then I want an opportunity to prove myself.” She said “Done!” Four months later, I was on the show and I didn’t replace anyone or ripple any waters. I became their regular addition for the next two seasons and I didn’t do a touch of effects make-up.

I can tell you right off the bat it scared the hell out of me. Here I am, new kid on the block and I’m working on the glamour show of the decade. I’m confident in my beauty make-up, but my confidence means nothing if the people that hired me aren’t confident.  So that was the big concern. I like to do natural look. I don’t like to do glamour or high fashion. It really pushed me personally and professionally to go outside my comfort zone and boundaries. While I never had to do high fashion make-up, I did have to do high-end make-ups.

MUD: How much pressure was there on “Desperate Housewives” to make sure everyone looked amazing?
Alex: There wasn’t that much pressure because all of the pressure on the make-up was being directed to the five girls. As long as they were flawless, everyone else was okay. (Not that I could slack off!) Yes, I was there for two seasons, but at no point in time did I ever think I was safe. Because of that, I continued to be on top of my game. I’d always think, “Okay this will keep me on the show or I’ll get fired.”  That was every day.

I never thought I would be on that show. It was the kindness of Eva and my abilities as a make-up artist that allowed that to happen. Every aspect of the show was magical.

MUD: Talk about working on “Fear the Walking Dead.”
Alex: Again, it’s magical to be a part of the Walking Dead family. It can be difficult, but it’s like I asked my dad, “Was it hard to get that good?” He said, “It took work, but it was it hard? No, because I love it.” Is it tedious? Yes!  You can be in the trailer for five hours doing make-ups with nothing but airbrush or prosthetics and airbrush.

MUD: Do you prefer to work in TV or film?
Alex: I prefer working on either film or television. I like film because you are able to establish a family, a bond and it’s almost like summer camp. Whereas TV, you still have families and bonds but it’s more like a school year. I’ve never department headed a TV show so I don’t know what that’s like. I know plenty that have and they enjoy it. It’s a steady paycheck and they love what they do.

MUD: What is your favorite make-up you’ve ever done?
Alex: There’s three favorite make-ups. What I’m working on now, which is “Fear the Walking Dead” because that’s a dream come true for me. My favorite project was “Desperate Housewives” because that’s an amazing experience with amazing people. It was an incredibly well-oiled machine. And lastly, “Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles” because that fulfilled a bucket list in the sense that I always wanted to work on a Terminator Series.

MUD: What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Alex: My uncle had the best advice. “Don’t ever consider a long term relationship with someone you wouldn’t consider being a business partner with. If you trust them with your business, you can trust them with your heart.” If I can’t trust someone personally, then I can’t trust someone professionally. If I can’t trust them professionally, I sure don’t trust them personally. Nobody can accuse me of being a liar, cheater or thief. Honesty is so important to me because I want people to be honest with me. If I do something wrong, tell me. But if you don’t tell me, I don’t know how it’s gone wrong.

I do believe that you get what you deserve. Every decision you’ve ever made in your entire life has led you to be where you are right now. It’s decision making. That’s one of the truths that people don’t really like to hear especially when they fall on hard times. Look, I‘ve been on hard times, guess what? I caused it! Every decision I made.

There’s no point in looking back and saying “What if?” What you do now from this moment forward will affect the rest of your life. Every decision you make now affects every other decision. So make the right decision.

MUD: Where would you want the career to go next?
Alex: Oh god, to walk on stage at the Kodak Theater.  I would like to do a war epic. I’d like to something like “Saving Private Ryan” or the Iraq war. I like doing dirt and blood and bringing light to situations if it helps the troops. I may not support why we’re doing what we’re doing, but I sure support the people doing it.

MUD Talks: Ray Shaffer


Ray Shaffer 1

When you ask anyone about Ray Shaffer, industry professional or student alike, they will tell you that he is the kindest, most genuine, and hard-working man they know. He is the gentleman of this profession. His road to make-up wasn’t a direct course, but that’s what has made him an excellent artist and a phenomenal teacher.

MUD: What was growing up like? And what led you to make-up?
Ray: I was born at the Submarine Base in Groton, CT. My Dad was in the Navy at the time and worked on nuclear submarines. Part of my childhood was very residential, and part of it was moving around a lot because I was part of a navy and a coast guard family.

I first got interested in make-up when I was very, very young. My mom was and still is a nurse. She’s been a trauma nurse for about 54 years, and she’s finally going to retire this spring. She used to work the 3-11pm shift at St. Vincent’s Hospital. She would get off work around midnight or so, and come home to get me out of bed to watch Mission Impossible reruns together. There were lots of disguises in the show and my head just smoked at the idea that people could be different people. My dad wasn’t into monster movies, but when I was 5 or 6 he would stay up with me to watch the Creature Feature at night. That was really cool because he’s a very down to earth guy and monsters really weren’t his thing.

MUD: What was your first introduction to make-up?
Ray: I remember when I was 12 or so, Dick Smith had a Monster Make-up Kit that you could buy at toy stores. I was saving up from my paper route to buy it, and I would go into KB Toy Store and look at it longingly. My birthday is in October and I was hoping to have it in time for Halloween, but I knew I was going to be a few bucks short. Well, on my birthday, my grandparents came over. My Grandpa drove a big green Chrysler and I was feeling bummed when he called me over to it. He pulled out a box and he had bought me the Dick Smith Make-up Kit!

Basically, the kit was vacuform molds and you made your own appliances out of gelatin (Dick called it flesh flags). He was looking for something easy to use and relatively non-toxic, which it was. The whole heating it up thing was a little weird. You probably couldn’t get away with that now. But the first make-ups or appliances I did were out of the Dick Smith Kit. Later on, I found “Stage Make-up” by Richard Corson in the library and that put me up on a different level.

I remember the first appliance make-up I ever tried to do on my own was a Rocky Balboa make-up. I was 14 or 15 trying to recreate the boxer damage makeup. I remember being very happy with it at the time. I lost the pictures, but I’m very glad because it was probably awful. It was a lot of fun. Later, I remember what a thrill it was to meet Mike Westmore when he came out to MUD to talk. He had been the make-up artist on the first few Rocky movies, and on First Blood and Raging Bull, and all these cool films, plus Star Trek. It was really cool!

MUD: How did you turn your interest in make-up into a career?
Ray: I started out wanting to act. I’d always loved make-up, but being from the east coast, I may as well have being talking about being a rocket scientist or being a ping pong player in China. I didn’t understand enough about the field to figure out how to make that happen. Because I wanted to act, I used make-up to augment my range as an actor. I’m a pretty unique looking guy, so unless I just wanted to wave a steak knife, or be the guy yelling, “die, grandma die!”, I needed a little help to make me believable as other characters.

In the course of working in theater in college, I was working on a type of play called a reconstruction. It’s where you take a classic text and rearrange it. It’s usually experimental theater. My college did Hamlet, and my roommate was playing Hamlet’s Father. Our director had the idea to make him a Viking Chieftain. And what do they do when a they die? They’re put in a funeral pyre. So we needed to have this crispy critter corpse kind of guy. A role like that is an awful lot for a 20 year old actor to wrap his head around. He tried different things, but wasn’t happy with what he was doing. So I built the mask for him.

I remember him putting it on and staring in the mirror and being very, very quiet about it. When you see your face burnt down to the skull, the whole idea of how much you’ve been violated hits you. That night at rehearsal, he was a whole different cat! I remember him walking off the stage and hugging me. I was so emotionally overwhelmed by that — it was probably at the point I jumped ship. I felt I was doing better work influencing other performers than I was enjoying acting myself.

MUD: How was your career starting to take shape at that point?
Ray: I sort of divide my career into East Coast and West Coast. My first prosthetic makeup job ever was in a theater in Massachusetts. I remember they thought I could age a whole cast for $50. And I did it! I ended up having to augment it with cotton and latex.

My first job on the west coast was for Rob Burman. It’s funny because it just got released! Andrew Getty, who was the grandson of John Paul Getty, was a sort of auteur. He wanted to be a film director. He had some very nightmarish visions and he tried to write a narrative around it. Basically, he picked away at this film for a long time. He would shoot it a little bit, then he would get upset and stop, then he’d start again with a different crew…and so on and so forth. He passed about 2 years ago or so and his estate had the work completed since he was in post-production, and just released it on DVD and Video on Demand. It’s called “The Evil Within.” There was some creepy stuff in there. There was a spider that was stitched together from human body parts. Lots of practical gags and lots of in-camera tricks, things with perspective. I’m not sure if there was any CG at all. But that was my first film. That was also my first job for Rob Burman.

MUD: When did the transition to teaching begin?
Ray: I came out to the west coast in the summer of 2000 and I worked intermittently then continually was a make-up artist, but primarily as a lab technician. That means I made molds, I did hair work, I did castings, sometimes when the sun shone in the right direction, I even sculpted. I did that for 10 years. In the late 2000s, a lot of things really depressed the film industry. SAG went on strike, and then the WGA went on strike. And then the banks crashed, and I navigated that as best I could but nobody was working.

I had to look for another opportunity. Also around this time my mother started getting sick. Mom is a tank so I knew if something was wrong with mom, then I wanted to be there. So I went back to the east coast to try to be of use to my family. In the course of wanting to stay busy, I was going through Craigslist, and there was an ad that the MUD NY was looking for instructors. At the time I didn’t even know MUD had a campus in NY! So I contacted them.

I know that I’m a patient guy, and I hoped that I’d be descent at teaching. I was surprised by how much I loved it! There was an adjustment. It’s challenging to take 20 people who are all at different motivation levels, ability levels and artistic levels and to guide them as a unit through things they sometimes don’t believe they can do. So there is a learning curve. What started out as something I wanted to try, turned out to be something I love very, very much. I think of friends back home who are knocking rust off of boats and making t-shirts and working in fast food stores, and I’ve got the best job on planet earth.

MUD: With having a career sculpting, molding, applying, and painting, what part of the process is your favorite?
Ray: What do I love doing? I love sculpture and molding. What is it that I love about make-up? I just love the whole idea that we can make things that never existed before, that you can sit down with a motivated actor, and a little artistic vision and hard work, and combine it with a bag of cement and a block of wax clay and turn it into people, and species, and creatures that the world has never seen before. It’s so creative and only limited by your skill set and your imagination. And there’s not a lot of that left in the world anymore. Everything is prepackaged. For us to be able to make something that is so unique and individual in this world is something else.

MUD: What has changed about the industry from your perspective?
Ray: I think computers have become a bigger part of it, but even that is cyclic. Now, there’s a big push back. I think make-up and computers are both awesome tools, provided they are used appropriately for their strengths. If I use a hammer to hammer a nail, it’s a wonderful tool. If I use a hammer to saw a table in half, it’s sort of a mess.

When all of the changes started happening was when Avatar came out. That scared the begezus out of all of us. There had been fun CG characters for some time, but Avatar was the first instance where a director could look through the viewfinder on the camera and in front of him were people in motion capture suits. In real time, he was seeing blue kitty people in the jungle. Basically when everyone saw that it was a huge hit, it freaked everyone in the industry out. Everyone making films at the time stopped and went into turn around mode. They wanted to evaluate this new option, and there was only one studio in the world that was doing work that good, WETA. Other studios caught up, but it took a while and in the meantime, nobody was working.

There was a time when every action or adventure film you saw was just filled with lots of cartoons. Then, there was almost a backlash against it. People were tired of watching confused looking actors standing around monsters that clearly aren’t there. The Star Wars prequels are a great example. People standing around in a green room looking confused. I think people missed what make-up brought to performances, like the physical space that they fill on screen. There’s a real tangible quality to them. If you look at the cast of Phantom Menace, they are clearly great actors but you look at how they struggled in that movie. Then you look at a movie like Alien, you have Sigourney Weaver in a real space with a guy in costume in a smoky alley with drool dribbling on her — that affects your performance.

Great make-ups in your presence effect your performance. All of a sudden, you feel like you’re in the presence of an alien, or a senator from another planet. That effects actors in a way that someone standing and talking to a mark on the wall does not. They’re effective in a way that CG often is not. It’s nice to see it come back. I think everything runs in cycles. In some ways, opportunities have declined, and in other ways they have not. There are far more people making movies these days — whether it’s a YouTube movie, Netflix, a feature, or a low-budget thing. In some ways, there seems to be more work!

MUD: What does the future hold?
Ray: I would be happy teaching as long as MUD is happy having me. I would be happy sculpting and creating make-ups. I’m getting better and look forward to continue to get better all the time. There are things I think are good or bad, but there’s always improvement that can be made.

MUD: What advice for make-up artists do you want to share?
Ray: Work hard and don’t quit. I know that sounds like such a stereotype. A lot of these pieces of advice you hear so often tend to lose their meaning, but I’ve seen wonderfully talented people not succeed when they only need to try a little built harder and not quit. A lot of time common sense and a work ethic are super powers. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it.

If I have no other gift, I hope as teacher, I have a gift to help someone who’s straight out of high school, or wherever they are in life, believe that they can get through a sculpture. And then they can get through fiberglass. And if you keep on trying, doors will open. All luck is your preparation meeting the right opportunity. So, don’t quit, and believe you can do it. The whole idea of being able to make something from nothing is very empowering. Rob Burman used to say, “once you learn you can make stuff, you’re never the same again.”

Graduate Spotlight: Nicole Faulkner


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“Be positive, be grateful, make art, and be nice to each other!”
Nicole Faulkner 

MUD: Tell us a little bit about your background. Where are you from? What did you want to be when you grew up? What led you to MUD? 
Nicole: I’m a Cali girl! I grew up in Corona, CA — about an hour and a half south of Los Angeles, actually. I always loved art growing up. I toyed with the idea of fashion school, tattoo artistry, architecture…but I never really considered make-up artistry a real career until probably my junior year. I had to do a project for my Career Choices class on a topic that interested me and that’s when I really dove into the world of make-up, learning about all the different career options and understanding what being a freelance artist meant. I started doing research on schools and fell in love with MUD! Everyone said it was the best so I thought to myself, “this is it, I HAVE to go here!

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 11.00.53 AMPentatonix at the 2017 Grammys by Nicole Faulkner

MUD: What are you doing now? 
Nicole: I graduated from MUD in early 2010, and since then I’ve been a freelance working artist here in LA! I live in the valley, near Sherman Oaks. I have a 2 bedroom so I could turn one room into a little studio for myself! I now work with some of the biggest directors, musicians, social media superstars, celebrities, actors, and make-up brands! I’ve worked with Def Leppard, T.I., 5 Seconds of Summer, French Montana, and toured the world all last year with 3 time Grammy award winners, Pentatonix. I work with TV stars like Leah Remini, Raven Simone, Eddie Griffin, Michelle Visage on Ru Paul’s Drag Race, VMAs, CMAs, Grammy’s…etc. I’ve done make-up on internet superstars like Tyler Oakley, Jeffree Star, Todrick Hall, Joey Graceffa, MannyMUA, Jaclyn Hill, Nicole Guerrero, TheGabbyShow, etc. I work with award winning director, Hannah Lux Davis who is so incredibly in demand — I’m lucky to be her go to girl for every music video she does! I also work closely with different makeup brands like Morphe Brushes, MAC cosmetics, Benefit Cosmetics, and Jeffree Star cosmetics for collaborative video content or campaign ads for new collections! 

4bee7a_26717dbd05d74cce9bc2284d953f918fJeffree Star by Nicole Faulkner

MUD: What did you do right after you left MUD?
Nicole: Right after I left MUD, I immediately started freelancing. I was actually freelancing while I was still in school at MUD! I started working with students from LA Film School and just networking a lot, taking every job I could even if there was little to no pay. I was also test shooting with different photographers, just trying to get my name out there and build a reputation and I knew that would take years so I wanted to start ASAP! But when I did graduate, I started booking more stuff — music videos with new upcoming artists, short films, and small feature films. I also got a job part-time at MAC Cosmetics.

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 11.09.03 AMTodrick Hall by Nicole Faulkner

MUD: What do you remember most vividly about your time at MUD?
Nicole: I remember how clean everything was, the white walls, white countertops, fresh scent. Everything felt clean and new every day, like each day was a fresh slate. I liked that a lot. 

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 11.13.52 AMBy Nicole Faulkner

MUD: Do you/will you stay in touch with the friends you made at MUD? Why do you think that is important in your line of work? 
Nicole: My whole class was really cool — we would all hang out after school and on weekends but after that, we all kind of lost touch. Some people moved back to their hometowns or went on to hair school, etc. I did make one life long friend Barbra. She lives in Utah but we talk often and I go visit her about twice a year and that’s cool to have MUD as our memory of where we met and reminisce on that experience with her!

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 11.15.58 AMBy Nicole Faulkner

MUD: Tell me about your best day at MUD!

Nicole: My best day at MUD was my last day at MUD because I remember reflecting on everything I just learned and that whole experience and just being so proud of myself and feeling READY for whatever, I have always been super ambitious and my MUD experience gave me that extra juice I needed to get out there and hustle.

Screen-Shot-2016-04-08-at-6.06.42-PMRuPaul’s Drag Race judges, Michelle Visage and Todrick Hall. 
Make-up by Nicole Faulkner

MUD: What are some lessons you learned at MUD that you think will be most beneficial in the “real world?” 
Nicole: Sanitation! Number one most important thing you can ever learn in this industry! But also that hands-on experience working on all of my classmates — some with perfect skin and some with not-so-perfect skin. There’s so much variety and each face is different. Everyone’s eye shape, skin texture and skin tone are so different, so it was nice to sort of face everything you’re afraid of in class so when your out there working, you never feel insecure or scared of not being able to manipulate your product to work for a particular client. 

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 11.23.08 AMJoseph Gordon Levitt with Nicole Faulkner on the set of “Hit Record.”

MUD: Would you have done anything differently? 
Nicole: I specialize in avant garde make-ups and “heavy glam” type of looks and in school I would always try and do too much! In beauty class for example, I wanted to bust out all my tricks and crazy colors and big lashes. I thought basic HD beauty make-ups were boring, but when you really get out there, A LOT of jobs require just simple clean beauty make-ups and I didn’t really understand that. Being 18, I just thought “Oh, glitter, cut crease, huge winged liner on everyone!” I would have really taken that section more seriously because I ended up having to really train myself in the art of holding back and just executing clean, camera-ready looks. Just because you can do stuff doesn’t mean you have to do them all the time! There’s plenty of time to do all that fun, wild stuff with crazy colors and flex all of your creative muscles, but it’s also important to really understand and perfect the basics too!

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 11.30.21 AM Nicki Minaj at the VMAs. Backup dancer make-up by Nicole Faulkner.

MUD: Do you have any words of encouragement for those considering applying to MUD?
Nicole: You get what you put into the experience. If you come, really come. Like, be there mentally, physically, emotionally, all of it! Soak up all the knowledge you can and then get ready to work your butt off!

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 11.32.52 AMNicole Faulkner and Frankie Grande

MUD: Lastly, what advice to you have for today’s MUD students? 
Nicole: Just enjoy the experience! Always come to school with a good attitude, never bring personal life problems or stresses into the classroom — treat it like you’re on a make-up job. Clients look to us for constant good energy, good vibes, and positive words of encouragement and it’s so important that you project that. At the end of the day, it’s make-up. MAKE-UP! How fun is that? I feel lucky and blessed to have been so successful in a career I love so much and I’m so passionate about! Be positive, be grateful, make art, and be nice to each other! 

MUD Talks: Kato DeStefan

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We recently sat down to talk to make-up artist, Robert Kato DeStefan.
Below, you’ll find out about his work on Guardians of the Galaxy, NCIS, Teen Wolf and more!

MUD: Where were you born?
Kato: Rockville Center, New York.

MUD: What was it like for you growing up?
Kato: Fun! Also I was a shy kid, so it was kind of lonely but at the same time, I grew up in an Italian American family. Even though I was an only child, I had a lot of cousins around so there was always somebody to mess with.

MUD: Where do you get inspiration?
Kato: It’s totally from my friends. I’m very fortunate that my friends are really some of the most talented make up artists out there constantly pushing the bar setting it higher and higher. I really need to look no further than them. Whether it be Margaret Prentice, Eryn Kruegar Mekash or Richard Redlefsen here in Burbank they are all such brilliant artists. Surround yourself with good people and it makes you want to be better.

MUD: What drew you to make-up as a career?
Kato: Growing up watching Star Trek and Planet of the Apes kind of set things in motion. I also watched a lot with the Universal horror films and Hammer horror films. Not being a sports related kid, I would sit inside all weekend and watch all those movies on TV. Then once the movie The Thing came out, that was the absolute final nail in the coffin where I said “I have to do this for a living!”

MUD: What was your first big break?
Kato: That would be getting a job at SFX working with Steve Johnson. Prior to that, I had done while still in make up school, I did a job with the director of the school. It was a little short film for Saturday Night Live called Sleep Tight where you had a sandman character. One of my classmates was Louie Zakarian who runs SNL right now. Louie was still working on his project when mine was done so he took me on set and I got to work on that for a couple of days.

MUD: Who are your heroes and mentors?
Kato: I would have to say Rick Baker because he really set everything in motion for all of us. Dick Smith on a personal level as a teacher and a friend. Steve Johnson as a boss and friend. Michael Westmore really was tremendous, because I was a huge fan of his work prior to meeting him. He taught me how to be production friendly and how to be good on set with etiquette by watching how he treats people. He is an incredibly kind human being and is very generous not only with his knowledge but with his time.

MUD:  Tell me about working on Suburban Commando and Batman Returns.
Kato: Oh God, yeah. That was the early days I was at SFX. Suburban Commando I was pouring dental acrylic into molds so you can get those little spines that came off the little suit or alien. I’d also be taking all the disinfectant and cleaning out the suit when it came back from set. Batman Returns was originally only going to be Bill Corso doing it. He was working on the burned corpse of Christopher Walken at the end of the movie that gets exposed. Steve had sent me since I was the runner down to Warner Brothers to pick up the sketch that looked like Jack Skeleington only with hair from Tim Burton. Bill was going to work on it and he realized it was more than work than he expected. So he was like “What are you doing this weekend? Do you want to help me?” So Bill was really the artist, I was just an extra pair of hands.

MUD: Tell me about your work on Con Man and The Guild.
Kato: It was great. It’s just like working on any other kind of set. Your still with professionals, it’s just the budgets are different. On The Guild, Felicia Day is an amazing producer and she did a great job writing on everything. She always knocks it out of the park. It was almost all straight make up with a little bit of character to it because of the steampunk characters for the season they did the convention. I wound up being in one of their convention shots actually.  They were like “Okay you guys can sit there but just don’t look at the camera.” So we tucked our set bags on the other side of the chair so the frame had just me sitting there texting on my phone in the background.

Con Man was great and some of the same people there had worked on The Guild.   I only did the one alien that we shot for two days on that show but I got to see Nathan Fillion again. I got to do his convention scene on the Guild. My friend Debbie Zoller is and was Nathan’s personal. I called Debbie and she told me how his make up is normally done. She even set it up so I went over to her house and picked up his bag so I had all the right stuff with me.

MUD: Tell me your work on Horrible Bosses 2.
Kato: That was actually something that was a break. I didn’t expect to work on it as much as I did. I started out as a day checker doing tattoos on Jamie Foxx’s stunt double who worked a lot more than Jamie Foxx did because it’s a lot of driving scenes. I think Jamie himself only filmed for a couple of days but his stunt double was used more. I believe it was Greg Nelson who started with Jonathan Banks’ character and they eventually gave me Jonathan to do. The Department Head, Debby La Mia Denaver, and I got along really well and she knew I needed days. So she brought me in whenever she could even if it was an eight and skate down in Irvine.  Because of that I got to work on the poster shoot. There were two artists who did Jamie’s tattoos and one was off on another project. Since I did the double, I was familiar with the tattoos and I would help Kantaro Yanno with Jamie for the poster. That established me with Kanaterro working together and he gives me work all the time now.  So that was really a very important film for me.

MUD: Tell me about your work on The Goldbergs and NCIS.
Kato: On the Goldbergs, I just get brought in to do background. Occasionally Bonni Flowers who’s Department Head will have me keep an eye on a principal actor on set. It’s standard day checking stuff. Kim Greene brought me in on the first season. Once Kim left and Bonni took over, she continued to bring me in when I was available. I’m very thankful for that because it was a special show having seen Sean Gianbrone, the little kid, grow up and watching the other characters grow into their parts has been a lot fun. Everyone on it is so nice. All the actors, all the crew really are family. I’m not as close there as I am with the Teen Wolf crew but close.

On NCIS, is a show where its “ok who’s the dead person of the week?”  You go in early in the morning, you kill somebody, film it, go back, you clean ‘em up and you’re gone. So it’s a quick in and out. Tina Hoffman who’s one of the keys on the show, is the one who’s been bringing me back and she got her start under Michael Westmore. So we’ve got a great connection there.

MUD: Tell me about your work on Guardians of the Galaxy
Kato: Guardians involved just four days of pick up shots being done over at Disney. I was going in and painting box circles around people’s eyes and doing a little bit construction worker make up on the miners with the yellow dust on them. Just day checking and doing background make up for people who will be composited into shots. It was a great experience to be on it, because the sets and everything were fantastic.

MUD: When you work only a few days on larger high profile projects do you find those bigger credits help you get better work?
Kato: I never know. There’s the part of me that says it looks great on my resume but does it look great to me or to other people?  For me, it’s great experience to be part of such a huge film. It makes me feel good. I also did Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. I got to do an eight and skate on that. I got to make up some of Gary Oldman’s people, which were about 15 background players on that. I jumped at the chance! I was working doing all night on Teen Wolf. I got out at 5:30AM, and I had to be at Fox at 9:00AM.  I barely had time to stop home, shower, grab my kit and head down to the lot. I did it because it was Apes that was such a huge part of my life growing up. My mom took me to see the original five movies back to back that played all night at a drive in theater. I didn’t sleep! I was awake all the way through sitting in the back of our hatchback just glued. So the tiny bit I was attached to that film was fantastic for me.

MUD: Tell me about your work on Teen Wolf.
Kato: It’s a big part of my life for three seasons and a couple of episodes. It’s how I’ve paid my rent, how I’ve got my health insurance and how I’ve made some of the best friends I’ll ever make in this Industry. The show has a phenomenal group of actors and we actually do hang outside of work. It’s the only experience I’ve had quite like it.

I’m friends with Chris Gallaher who’s Department Head. He was in need of someone to come in and day check. I ran into him at Monsterpalooza and said to him “Hey if you’re filming I’m available” and he was like “Oh okay” so he brought me in for a few weeks to test me out. Gradually he kept bringing me back. I try to get along with everyone and I just wound up being a good fit.

MUD: What is your favorite make-up? Or If your house was on fire and you could only save one scene from all your movies what would it be?
Kato: By myself, my favorite is probably a Charlie Sheen look-a-like make up for the film that got me in the Union called Not Another Celebrity Movie. I got to work with the actor David Burliegh a good portion of the time and it was only a three week shoot. It’s a favorite because it was doing someone who’s a contemporary figure.

My second favorite was the Abigail Folger make up on Aquairus. It was a challenge because that was the first time I had to do a make up based on an autopsy report.

MUD: Do you feel there’s any difference working on TV vs Film?
Kato: I don’t think it’s any different. Time is maybe more of a factor but you still need same quality on the level of finishing a piece because most of TV is HD now. The only thing is you’ll do more scenes in one day on TV than you will in film. Film is about trying as many angles as you can. TV is more about how many scenes can you get done in a day.

Is there a paycheck difference on TV versus film? Depends on what level you’re working at. Department Heads will likely make more, probably a lot more, on film. For us day-to-day grunts, just going in on a contract rate it’s the same either way.  I made my best paycheck on a TV job actually. However, that’s because that FX shop I was with had negotiated a higher rate, and higher kit fee. On my own, I’m not really able to negotiate that rate. This is what rental is, our rate is and that’s it. As a Department Head you can get that higher pay but that’s dependent on experience and awards.

MUD: What has been challenging about make-up?
Kato: Having to match anything that Kenny Myers has worked on. Because we work next to each other on Teen Wolf and sometimes he’ll be doing the make up and I’ll be doing the stunt double. Kenny is a meticulous artist so it’s tricky for me to try and match anything that he’s doing. I can usually get the right side fine. Looking across at Kenny, I can see right side fine. It’s when I have to work on the left side it gets harder because it’s not the side I was constantly looking at. So it’ll be a lot of me stepping and running around to the other side looking at Kenny’s and then running back to duplicate it. This is especially if it’s the first day the make up is established.

MUD: What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Kato: Strangely it’s don’t be a d**k. Just try to get along. Don’t think you’re the best because strangely enough those who are don’t think they’re the best. Check your ego at the door. It’s a matter of attitude. Don’t have one.

MUD: What Advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Kato: There’s a quote from Todd Macintosh, which is “Know your craft.” Learn as much as you can constantly. The Industry is always growing and it’s better you stay on top of everything that’s currently happening but don’t totally dismiss the stuff that’s come before.

Graduate Spotlight: Claire Doyle



“Never stop researching and never stop networking.”
– Claire Doyle

MUD: Where were you born?
Claire: I was born in Los Angeles, California.

MUD: What was it like growing up for you?
Claire: I’m the youngest of three. My parents are immigrants from South Africa. My father is a physician and plastic surgeon. My mother is an artist.  I kind of felt make up was a funny combination of both of their careers together: reconstructing faces and dabbling with art.

MUD: What was your first experience with make-up in your life?
Claire: Probably when I was a teenager. In my grade school through teenage years, I was a ballerina and I was involved in theater.  I used to always do make-up for our shows and I remember people saying, “Oh I like how you did yours, can you do mine, too?”  So I carried that Caboodle around with all my make-up supplies and we did each other’s make-up.

 MUD: How did you choose MUD as a make up school?
Claire: I was in my 2nd year of college at Emmerson College in Boston. I took a make-up class for fun and really enjoyed it so during my summer break, I wanted to use the time to pursue the make-up education further.  I researched schools at the time and there were only three then: Joe Blasco, Make Up Designory and Westmore Academy.  Maurice Stein, the owner of Cinema Secrets, was a patient of my father’s and he said to him, “Oh my daughter’s interested in make-up, which school do you recommend?” So Maurice was the one who actually suggested looking into MUD. I was just drawn to the curriculum and I think it was also about how the schedule worked out during my summer vacation! So all the cards were in the right place and that’s why I ended up choosing MUD.

MUD: What was your first big break?
Claire: I don’t know because it feels like it keeps happening! I was just so excited to get my first job out of MUD and it was with another make-up artist. It was a three picture deal. She did the first picture and then she jumped ship to go do something else. I was left hanging with 2 low budget movies back-to-back and I just thought, “Wow what a great start!” I want to say my first big break in my make-up career was not actually doing make-up. It was being the production assistant on the first 3 Pirates of the Caribbean movies but that was about a year and half already into my career! Even more recently, I went to the Super Bowl and I did the first live commercial ever for the Super Bowl! Like I said, I feel like these keep happening.

MUD: What was the biggest challenge working on the live Super Bowl commercial?
Claire: I feel like I had the most challenging element because we were filming live and I couldn’t go in for touch ups! Of course, it was a very emotional commercial and the talent was bawling non-stop. One woman was crying for twenty minutes straight and I had no monitor to look at what they filming.  So that was a challenge of placing trust to ride it out for what it was. Afterwards, I got to run and give tissues when they called cut.

MUD: What has been the secret to having such a strong career?
Claire: I think it’s never giving up. There was a quote I was going to share with the students that I read recently in a book that has more to do with general business but it applies: “You aren’t finished when you are defeated. You are finished when you decide to quit.”  I was adaptable with the industry. I’m going into my 17th year of my career now. And if you think about it, when I started there was no Facebook, no Myspace, and no Instagram. I worked through 2 strikes — we had an actor’s strike and a writer’s strike, and I’m still doing what I’m doing. You know, with every challenge that comes with our industry, it really comes back to you. Just don’t give up. If it’s something you know you’re supposed to do and you love it, you’ll find a way to do it.

MUD: What is your advice for people starting out?
Claire: Get organized. Stay motivated any which way you can whether that’s being around good people or reading books. Also just enjoy your own life and avoid getting work burnout. This is supposed to just be a part of your life, not entirely who you are.

Any final thoughts?
Claire: Never stop researching and never stop networking.


Interview by Bob Mitsch

Dylan Smith Visit



MUD graduate, Dylan Smith (Multimedia 2016) came to speak with the MUD students yesterday.  Mr. Smith’s professionalism, charisma, and talent have made him a great addition to the makeup world.  He was able to share his experiences networking, building his own business, and working in a billion dollar industry. 

It was such a pleasure having Mr. Smith as a graduate guest speaker.  All of the students and I gained a wealth of knowledge in branding and business etiquette.  We would love to have him back again in the next month or so when more students will be available to hear him speak.

Not only did he share some great tips and inspiring words of advice, but he also offered interested students an opportunity to be considered to work with him on an upcoming wedding!” 

— Sheriece Isaac, Career Services @ MUD LA

MUD Talks: Fred C. Blau


We recently had the honor of having Fred C. Blau speak to our students at our LA campus in Burbank. Fred has worked on such legendary films as Apocalypse Now, Planet of the Apes, Charlie’s Angels, Armageddon and Con Air. During his career, Fred was even challenged with the task of creating realistic looking artificial blood which led to his company, Reel Creations.

Battle of the Brushes Competitors

Battle of the Brushes Header

BOTB_collage.jpgBattle of the Brushes brings makeup artists together who share the same passion. What inspires me the most about past competitions is the amount of talent that participants display as well as the amazing judges participating in the event.”
— MUD graduate, Jerry Noriega

Battle of the Brushes is upon us once again! In a few short days, MUD graduates from Los Angeles and New York will be heading to IMATS New York to compete in this exciting event! Students who have graduated within a year of the competition date are encourage to apply. The competition is broken down into two categories — one portion is character/prosthetics and the other is beauty/fantasy. A different theme is selected for both categories each year. 2017’s themes will be Guardians of the Galaxy for character/prosthetics and International Beauty for beauty/fantasy.

We’re so proud of our MUD grads who will be competing! A total of eight MUD grads will be competing this year and we wanted to see what was on their minds as they prepare for battle…of the brushes.

What made you decide to enter Battle of the Brushes?

Korbyn Rachel: I decided to enter Battle of the Brushes because I thought to myself, “what do I have to lose?” I entered the competition with the mindset of “everything happens for a reason,” so whether I got in or not, I would be proud of myself for entering.

Jerry Noriega: The one thing that made me decide to enter Battle of the Brushes was the love I have for this industry and for what I create, along with the support of my friends, family and mentors throughout my career. I think the challenge and having this new experience out of my comfort zone drove me to enter in this competition.

Lacey Buccina:  I entered Battle of the Brushes mainly for the experience. My Beauty 101 teacher, Lisa Leveridge, always pushed for us to compete. I applied for the first time to the NY location and got in and I am so honored!

Crystal Gomez:  I wanted to enter Battle of the Brushes to push myself into creating and designing more make-ups on my own. I also saw it as a way to have my makeup viewed by amazing artists and the people I’ve looked up to for years!

Shideh Kafei: Battle of the Brushes has always been a dream of mine. I attended MUD where my amazing professors encouraged students to enter. My mind was set when Michael Key came in to speak to the us. Now, not only am I super pumped about attending IMATS for the first time, but also to say that I will compete for the Battle of the Brushes!

Chelsea Nowak: I was entering my last leg at MUD, focused on graduating with some awesome final projects and an invaluable wealth of knowledge, when some former students started coming into MUD to practice for Battle of the Brushes LA. They were producing some pretty cool work and I didn’t really consider that I could be ready to do the same thing in just a couple short months. Once the buzz started around MUD about the NY competition, I couldn’t come up with a good reason not to apply. I realized that if I didn’t dive in right then, I would never get the same opportunity again, and I knew I needed to put myself to the test.

BrittanyRose LaFemina: I knew that I was going to apply for Battle of the Brushes the second I learned about it and IMATS. I found out about it when Michael Key came to MUD to talk to us about IMATS and the industry; I was immediately inspired. I had multiple friends that had been in BOTB (and won!) and I had helped them through their preparations, so when it came time for me to apply, they were super supportive and helpful. They still inspire me while I prepare for my own makeup; I always go back to their make-ups for inspiration because if they can do it, I know that I can do it, too.

What was the process of entering like?

Rachel: The actual process of entering was super simple and easy. The prep to enter though, was stressful (yet exciting and fun, of course), but totally worth it. I stayed after class many times during the week to plan out and apply make-ups, and went to the Saturday photoshoots as well.

Buccina: You have to submit 8-10 photos of what you think is your best work. This doesn’t need to be anything like what you will be executing for the competition. I submitted mainly beauty pictures from by Beauty 301 class and one avant garde photo.

Gomez:  It started with me making the initial decision of entering then, brainstorming ideas for make-ups that would showcase my makeup the best. I’m on a very tight budget so I knew it meant that my make-up should stand out and I had to keep wardrobe simple.

Kafei: When thinking about submitting for the Battle of the Brushes, I knew I had it in me, but that I wouldn’t make it with the portfolio I currently had. So when I graduated MUD in November, I put myself to work. I tested with as many photographers as I could, but knew I needed to do projects on my own where I could have creative freedom. I put together shoots with various models, stylists, and an incredible photographer. I did looks that I thought would stand out. I printed out more than I need to submit and only sent in my favorites. And then the hardest part…the waiting game until I found out I had made it!

Nowak: Another competitor and I actually spent a few busy weeks in January working through the entry process together, which definitely made for an exciting start to this journey. We put in some late nights brainstorming, sculpting, pre-painting, and applying make-ups in order to produce creatures and characters we were proud to submit. MUD has been very supportive of us both from the beginning, providing us with the means and guidance to do so to the best of our abilities. For me, it was a gratifying achievement simply to meet the challenge of applying, and being invited to compete was one of the proudest moments of my life.

What is your strategy going into the competition?

Rachel: While preparing for the competition, I will be studying the background of Guardians of the Galaxy. I really want to understand the environment the characters live in, and why they are the way they are. Practice makes perfect, so I plan on practicing many many times up until the competition to get everything in line — so I am mentally and physically prepared.

Noriega: My strategy going into the competition is to micromanage every step, and prepare ahead of time with exactly what I need to complete my character, paying attention to all of the categories that are going to be judged. Practicing a full run of my character and finishing in the amount of time given in the competition would be the best strategy.

Buccina: I have been speaking a lot with the LA IMATS winner, Kyrsta Morehouse. She gave me a lot of pointers on what I should do while I’m there. My strategy will be practicing as often as possible and just trying to keep calm. I am truly just honored to even be one of the 8 selected for the beauty/fantasy portion of this competition and I cannot wait for the experience.

Gomez: My strategy going in is to go to IMATS Battle of the Brushes, not with the idea that I MUST win, but to think of what an amazing opportunity it is to meet people I admire and to show them what I can do in the time allowed. I don’t want my time in NY to be clouded by anxiety and too much stress. I’m preparing myself as much as I can now with practice and design plans and hopefully everything will go well!

Kafei: My main strategy is to have a plan and be prepared. This competition has been on my mind since I submitted in January and even before that. I have made mood boards, have had mock trials, and have changed my mind on the look many times. I want the final look to be something I am totally confident in and passionate about. I think you need to be 100% into something for you to do the best at it. I also want to stay away for doing things that have been done in the past or that is expected from the winner. I want it to be different and unique.

LaFemina: As I prepare for BOTB, I have been doing a ton of research on my subject as well as styles of make-up from all over the world. I began with a fun/stressful trip to The Met to decide what part of the world I would be concentrating on for my makeup. There were so many wonderful pieces that I was flooded with amazing ideas. I was a little torn at first as to what part of the world I would be concentrating on, until I saw something in a store window that I took as a sign. It was perfect! Like a sign from the Universe that this was what I am meant to do.

How do you think winning Battle of the Brushes helps make-up artists in the long run?

Rachel: Battle of the Brushes is a great way for new artists to get out there. The competition helps in the long run by opening up opportunities for the artists that otherwise would take years to build up to.

Noriega: Winning in Battle of the Brushes helps in the long run and not just because you are exposing your work in the industry to makeup artists who can get in connect you to bigger job opportunities, but it challenges you to push yourself , grow and be better at what you do, and inspires people. When I watched past competitions, I see people who are just like me.

Buccina: I think winning Battle of the Brushes would help me to work better under pressure, with time management skills, concept development and hopefully it will gain me recognition from potential employers as well as role models.

Kafei: I would be so honored to win! It would be something I will remember forever and a great stepping stone for me. I will hopefully make a few connections that will open doors to bigger and better things in the future.

Nowak: Winning Battle of the Brushes is such an incredible prospect because of the experience and exposure it entails above all else. Competing alone is an opportunity to break out the big guns and show professionals, amateurs, and ourselves who we are as artists and what we can accomplish under pressure. Winning is essentially an endorsement from the people we admire, a stamp of affirmation that we know what we’re doing and we do it well. Success in this industry is all about networking, and earning first place in Battle of the Brushes is a great way to make valuable connections that will inform the trajectory of the future.

LaFemina: I’m so excited for IMATS knowing that it will be great exposure for my work. People in the industry that I might never have had the chance to meet otherwise, are going to be seeing my work which is the most exciting part about competing. It’s going to be a great experience.

Everyone at MUD wishes all of our grads the best of luck in the competition.

Battle of the Brushes_good luck

May the best brush win!


Below is a full list of competitors, their campus, their category and their Instagram: 

Brittany Rose LaFemina, MUD Studio NY, Beauty/Fantasy

Shideh Kafei, MUD Studio NY, Beauty/Fantasy

Lacey Buccina, MUD Studio LA, Beauty/Fantasy

Kunduz Duishenbaeua, MUD Studio NY, Character/Prosthetic

Korbyn Rachel, MUD Studio NY, Character/Prosthetic

Chelsea Nowak, MUD Studio NY, Character/Prosthetic

Crystal Gomez, MUD Studio LA, Character/Prosthetic

Jerry Noriega, MUD Studio LA, Character/Prosthetic