John Bailey hasn’t had the most typical make-up career. Starting in a college theater department, Bailey first picked up a make-up brush to do his own character make-ups for his college roles. However, his talent for make-up did not go unnoticed, leading to Bailey becoming the go-to make-up artist in the department and teaching his own class as an undergraduate.
Evolving from student to teacher, Bailey’s passion for education grew, as he became frustrated with the teaching techniques of so many industry-leading schools. Preferring a more easily digestible, detail-oriented approach, Bailey found full-make-up classes to be both rushed and unnecessarily overwhelming. Incorporating the company and co-writing MUD’s Beauty Make-Up Textbook, John Bailey is to thank for MUD’s step-by-step lesson plan.
Q: Going back to 1997 when MUD started, what was your role?
A: We came from a place where we were teaching make-up. But, people would teach a class in make-up in this rushed way, where you would watch a demonstration of a make-up, and then you just do it. That’s why, when we started, I wanted to break everything down into small, learnable bites. So instead of just doing a make-up, the first thing you would do is learn a little bit about the eyebrows when you walk in the door. The next day we would start learning how to base match. Then we teach them how to work with eyeliner: how to hold a brush, how to put the eyeliner on the brush, and we would dampen the brush and let them practice, so that they get used to the tactical aspects of it before they had to actually put on any make-up at all. We also developed the progressive eyeliner, where we would do a straight liner then turn it into a glamour liner, then turn it into a fashion liner, then close the inside corner. I’d teach them how to hold a brush instead of them just taking the brush and putting it on the eyes, because there’s certain ways that you hold a brush that make everything much easier. I always wanted to be taught how I learn best, and I think that most people taking make-up classes learn the way that I learn. We’re visually oriented, or tactile learners. A lot of people have problems with focusing, and I think the way we teach make-up gets rid of that because we’re doing short, specifically directed techniques.
Q: Did you start with the curriculum then?
A: The curriculum came first. Before MUD, I taught at a school with a two week beauty class. I thought that two weeks for a beauty class was just ridiculously short–I would have liked to make it six months long! So we put together a four-week class, where the first two weeks are basic skills, and the second two weeks are using those skills to create certain make-ups.
Q: Was beauty your specialty?
A: For me, beauty was the soul of it. There’s so many little things that you can do in beauty, and so many skills you develop that carry over into everything else. Beauty is much more interesting than people realize. You’ve probably noticed that when you’re younger you don’t understand the subtlety of things as much as you do when you get older. You don’t see the small things that make something work, but instead see the big picture.
Q: I heard when MUD started you would do these fourteen-hour days, doing the night classes and the day classes, right?
A: The day class would start at 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning and we’d finish at 5:00 in the afternoon. It was an eight-hour day, and then the next class started at 6:00. For about a year or so, I was teaching both. After that, because we were growing fast, I was mainly training teachers. I’d be in a classroom teaching a class and training teachers at the same time. And we got good at training teachers! They would be learning the short little skills and they’d follow me around and they’d watch how I’d teach things and the comments I’d make. Then, they’d just fall right in.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your background, before MUD?
A: I was in college theater. While I was there, I would get cast in character roles, and I started learning to do character make-ups. I’d take a class in the make-up there, work on it, read books, practice, and study. All of a sudden people were asking me to do the make-up for their show, and then some students wanted me to teach them a class. People would come by wanting people who could do some make-up to look like George Washington, or something like that. I got sidetracked a little bit after that time, buying some property and doing some real estate stuff.
Then I moved to California. They had a very good make-up class that Bill Smith was teaching out here. So I went to learn from him and decided I was going to get a degree, but he passed away just after I got there. Then someone recommended I go to school in LA, and they said they would give me credit for taking the classes there. Soon enough I started teaching, and then I left in ’97. Of course I didn’t expect to get into the school business so quick, but all of a sudden Tate had an idea and I had an opportunity. We went out on September 15th, and I incorporated. We started working on the lesson plans, and Tate started working on getting his business, and we found a little place in Toluca Lake, upstairs over a Mediterranean restaurant. Our first class was about five people and then it was eight people and then ten, and we had to get another room for another classroom, then we had to get another room for another classroom, and soon enough we had several offices up and down the street in Toluca Lake. When Tate found a deal for a place we could actually buy, we ended up with the Burbank school we’re in now.
Q: Were there any people who encouraged you to keep growing when you started MUD?
A: It comes to the point of who motivates the motivator, right? At that point the last thing other people want to see is you become successful. But we have a lot of teachers that have been around since the very beginning. Mary Anne, and Yvonne–Yvonne and I worked on the beauty book. Writing the book gave us the opportunity to put down some of the techniques on paper. The book was written as we were teaching the classes, so it starts off with the eyeliner and all that. But everything we do comes right back down to small, manageable bites–putting you into a situation to do this work.
Q: Did you ever think MUD was going to be this big?
A: Well, I always dreamed it would! Whether I really believed my dreams were true or not I don’t know, but I kept believing it. Would you believe it?
Q: I wouldn’t imagine it!
A: It’s like anything–it’s small little steps. The hardest thing in the world is to get everybody on the same track, teaching the same thing. For me, being able to teach the teachers, and then those teachers teaching, was much better because they would be doing the same thing. Make-up artists assume that everything they say should be known but it’s not! When you tell a person to pick up the brush–what does that mean? When people had difficulties, I actually taped the brush to their fingers so they could learn to use the brush just like an extension of your hand. It’s a movement, a flow. The only problem with getting bigger is it takes you further and further away from the things you wanted to do when you first started. But there’s no way to get around that when you run a large company, is there?
Q: Where do you see MUD in the next 20 years?
A: I’m just hoping that it keeps growing, because once you stand still you’re either growing or declining. We have the two major schools, and then we have the studio schools. The idea was to have hubs and all the studio schools from around plug into the hub. It would help maintain everything if we had not only Los Angeles and New York, but also Atlanta and Miami, for example. That being said, I think we’ve done more for cosmetic education than anybody else. In fact, I’m sure we have.