Los Angeles-based celebrity make-up artist Jeffrey Paul has an unconventional approach to his craft. Ask him about beauty and you may end up discussing meditation, healthful eating and the Bollywood musical he’s directing. Ask him about his plans for the future and he’ll tell you of his dream to found a charity. Ask him to describe his specialty and he’ll say it’s “uplifting people.”
By most measures, Paul is enjoying a successful career, with agency representation and clients ranging from Eva Mendes to Jean-Paul Gaultier to Vogue. But as he sees it, a truly successful make-up artist is equal parts artist, nurturer and confidante.
When he sits down to talk with Make-Up Artist magazine, Paul is fresh from doing actress Emma Bell’s hair and make-up for a U.K.-based magazine. He is running late because he was distributing leftover sandwiches from the shoot to the homeless.
“There’s a responsibility with any success to give back,” he says. “To me, growing as a personality and as a brand means nothing if I’m not asking myself, ‘How can I improve other people’s lives with what I do?’” This ideal extends to all aspects of his work. “You’re involved with these people and at times it’s often a crisis because they’re on camera, they’re in people’s view and they don’t want to be criticized. It becomes scary. So you become nurturing.”
To Paul, the nurturing role isn’t just personal practice—it’s good business. “At the end of the day, it’s your personality that gets the job … having the right character so that you can be trusted.” If Paul’s soothing vibes aren’t enough to relax clients, his technical skill is.
“You have to know your mediums, know your clients,” he says. Advancements in high-definition powder, for example, make celebrities look flawless on film and to the naked eye, but can ruin a red-carpet walk in the snap of a camera. “It blows out the flash immediately and you see white, cakey powder all over the face.”
Paul, a Boston native, broke into the professional make-up world as many artists do—through retail. He parlayed the five-dollar makeovers he was doing in his dorm room in the late ’80s (duplicating techniques he learned from Way Bandy’s book Designing Your Face) into a job at the Chanel counter. A senior Chanel artist who also served as the Boston Opera’s head make-up artist recognized Paul’s skill and invited him to work backstage.
Paul kept his day job at Chanel; by night, he prepared the chorus women for La Traviata. The following season, he was invited back to do wigs and make-up for the principals. It was a part-time job that lasted for five years, during which time he did the make-up for large-scale productions including Madame Butterfly, Aida and The Magic Flute. The experience shaped Paul’s technical understanding of make-up artistry.
“Every time I do make-up, the theater background plays an enormous part,” he says. “Theater make-up is based on principles of light and dark, highlighting and contouring, sculpting the face and making it readable 100 rows back. I take those same principles of light and dark but put them into color and make it wearable for everyday.”
In 1994, Paul moved his make up career from Boston to New York by taking a job at the now-shuttered M.A.C. store on Christopher Street. After transferring to Southern California with M.A.C., he was promoted to special projects trainer, then to a permanent role as a trainer in the Los Angeles region. During this time, he also traveled the world and assisted M.A.C.’s owners in opening the first M.A.C. location in Japan in 1998.
“M.A.C. in those days was alive, it was thriving, it was very creative,” he says. “Everybody there was an artist. You had to be an artist.” But after the Estée Lauder buyout in 1999, M.A.C. went through a restructuring period. When he was asked to work in a store once again, Paul refused.
“I said, ‘I want to be working with the studios, I want to use my skills with people, be gregarious and further myself,’” he said. So he began to freelance and ultimately signed with Exclusive Artists Management in Los Angeles.
Today, Paul’s client roster includes Demi Moore, Tyra Banks, Christina Applegate, Faye Dunaway and Bollywood stars Mallika Sherawat and Deepika Padukone. His work has appeared in InStyle, Nylon and Rolling Stone. While keying shows for Gaultier and Hugo Boss at New York Fashion Week were huge milestones for Paul, it was creating breakthrough red-carpet moments for an as-yet-unknown Freida Pinto in early 2009 that propelled both artist and actress into the big leagues.
The two first connected in January 2009 when Fox Searchlight called Paul’s agency looking for someone to make up Pinto for the Palm Springs International Film Festival. “We really hit it off,” Paul says. Pinto booked him for her press and red-carpet appearances for Slumdog Millionaire.
“At the time, no one had any idea how big Slumdog would be,” he says. They ended up working together almost daily until the week following the Oscars.
“After the  Golden Globes, every single one of the magazines was calling for tips and quotes,” Paul recalls. Since then, he has developed something of a niche making up Indian women. “I became popular with Indian people because I understand that there are different undertones to their skin golden, beige, even a little bit of red,” he says.
For example, to cover dark under-eye circles on his Indian clients Paul abandons standard rules of color correction. Instead of using concealers, which add pigment to the skin, Paul chooses products with colors that diffuse the light and match the brighter tones in their complexions. He blends the products with moisturizer for a lighter application that he says is more suitable to the fine texture of Asian skin.
Paul’s work combines the techniques from his varied background, incorporating elements of the theater and bridging the sometimes problematic gap between New York’s high-fashion imperative and Hollywood’s celebrity beauty.
“In fashion, the clothing is the focal point and the hair and make-up supports the design, whereas in Hollywood, the celebrity is the focal point. I combine those two worlds by taking a fashion trend and adapting it so that it brings out the radiant beauty of the celebrity.”
With spokesperson opportunities and other projects being presented to the artist regularly these days, it’s hard to say where his career will go from here. But whatever avenue Paul takes next, we can expect to see his work reflecting the idea that external beauty is formed through internal health. As Paul says, “In this business, the more joy you can create and bring to other people, the better our lives will be.” –Martha Calhoon
Original Post in Make-Up Artist Magazine