Starting his make-up career in 1987, Paul Thompson is MUD’s Director of Education and organizational leader behind the MUD Schools. Unlike our students, Thompson didn’t go to a traditional make-up school, instead he taught himself and took scattered classes under the guidance of an instructor at his community college. In the beginning he took jobs as a makeup assistant, learning from his experiences. As his career progressed he primarily worked in television and commercials, and ultimately opened his own FX shop. While working as a makeup artist, Thompson was also teaching extension courses at UCLA and doing master classes for multiple other cosmetic brands. Having fallen in love with the learning process itself, he went on to get a teaching credential and started teaching for MUD. Additionally, he authored the first edition of MUD’s character textbook Character Make-Up and co-wrote the second edition with Gil Romero.
Even with a firm belief in the power of education, Paul manages to keep things light and fun. whether he’s stealing his coworkers’ candy or face swapping photos of him and his wife, Francine, he keeps the MUD offices running with his goofy shenanigans. With his booming voice and high energy, Paul Thompson is the joyful lead behind the MUD education.
Q: What makes MUD different from our competitors?
A: From the beginning we fundamentally believe that the most important person in our organization is the student. We want them to have an exceptional experience at MUD learning makeup. To feel good about their choice of coming to MUD, and once they got in a class, we wanted to make it so meaningful and so outcome-based that they walked away getting everything they needed to start their career. In the beginning we really felt that we could make a makeup school that was better than anything that came before us. The other thing that continues to make us different is all the people that work here–all the different people that give voice to the education, whether it be the teachers, management, or the outside industry talking to us and working with us. It’s not a person, per se. It’s not Joe Shmoe’s make-up school, it is Make-Up Designory. So, it’s not based around me or Tate or any other single individual. It’s all about a company that does something of real value.
Q: Who is the MUD student?
A: I see students as so many different individuals. Our students are people that are just getting out of high school looking to start their career, but they can also be somebody that’s changing careers. I’m a make-up artist, and I’ve been a makeup artist my whole life. I see our student as me–as what I wanted and what I needed when I started. I learned as I went, and because of that I feel like I really relate to the students. I know what their needs are and, ultimately, what their dreams are regarding them wanting to be professional makeup artists. MUD is that company that really helps students to live those dreams.
Q: In the last 20 years, how have the MUD schools changed?
A: Originally, we said we were just going to do one school. But, we wanted to make the best school possible–one that had high-end, high quality education. I felt that we were doing a service that most schools couldn’t match because they just did not have the passion that we were pouring into it. Each one of the owners of the company were in the classrooms, doing everything we could to make the school the best it could be. The big switch came when we opened our NY campus and we expanded into Studios and Partner schools. Instead of just one campus, there are now 92 campuses offering some form of MUD education.
Q: Did you envision a cosmetic line back in 1997?
A: No, not so much. I know Tate initially was kind of like “oh maybe we should do products” but we didn’t have the wear-with-all to do that. It grew from Francine, really. She was the guru in product development and the rest of us would give her our opinions. She knew manufacturing and how to acquire things, she was the one who really got us started.
Q: Did you ever think MUD would reach the size it has now?
A: It’s hard to look back and go “oh, yeah, I knew we would be huge,” but I really didn’t. I knew we would be the size of some of the schools here in Los Angeles and have two or three classrooms, maybe four, tops. But, we grew to five classrooms and had extra teachers and people in the first year! I thought that all we would have is this cool little business and we would be set–and what I mean by “set” is that we would have jobs, we would do what we loved, we would be happy, and we would be able to make a good living. It’s crazy where it’s gone.
Q: Is there a most memorable moment from the last 20 years? Or maybe a funniest moment?
A: There’s a whole slew of funny events and things that have happened over the years. Time has absolutely flown by. My youngest daughter was born right after we started MUD, and seeing her in college now and knowing that’s how long the company has been around is cool, you know?
Q: Where do you see MUD in the next 20 years?
A: I think we’re going to see a lot more growth, on the education side we will be adding more campuses. For us, we are investing in the US and helping students live that dream of working as a makeup artist. It’s interesting how other cosmetic companies are moving to sell in China, even though to sell in China you have to test on animals. Companies are looking to China for that big untapped market. I really think the sky is the limit for the cosmetics side of things, however we will never test on animals.
Q: Is there anything else you want to include?
A: I love my job! We try very hard to help students find this level of happiness, to help them live their dreams. For me, I am so happy with the choices that I’ve made in my life and the great bunch of people that I work with. I couldn’t be luckier.