WOC in the SFX Makeup Industry

 For a couple of years now, I've known the path I wanted to take in life. Since I picked up my first makeup brush in 2017, I knew that makeup was destined for me. Further, I discovered the world of special effects into my discovery of makeup, and I instantly fell in love. I found so much beauty in the horror of special effects. The zombies, the blood, and the wounds had me coming back for more. However, when showing people my work, the first thing they say is, "wow … you did this?" or "You don't seem like you do stuff like that," and each time, I wondered why those responses happened so frequently. 

 

As I began to think, I realized why. One, because I'm a girl and two I am a black girl, and of course, this probably wasn't the reasoning for everyone, but I'd bet a lot of money on some. But I can't blame them. It's like seeing a female mechanic or plumber. Tt's not impossible, but it's rare. We often hear about massive discrimination against black actors and actresses in the film-making industry, which is very accurate. However, we don't hear about the discrimination against the "Crew" in the filmmaking industry. That can be anywhere from the hairstyles, wardrobe stylist, and special effects makeup artist. Unfortunately, the young woman of color doesn't have many creatives to look up to when it comes to the film makeup industry. I want to be the one to break those barriers for girls just like me.

 

 Think about your favorite horror movie or even your favorite thriller. For each actor or actress in that film, there are at least five makeup artists for each person, and I bet none of them look like me. After doing my research, I couldn't find much information on black women within the professional industry of special effects. I even looked through the different films' makeup department list and still nothing. So I took matters into my own hands and reached out to several WOC (women of color ) that I found on Instagram and asked them about their experience in the industry. 

 

Shaina Paulson is a Los Angeles based Makeup Artist who has worked on music videos for Roddy Ricch, Wiz Khalifa, Trippie Redd, and many more. She has also worked on many films, television, and commercial projects. After asking her a series of questions, here is what she had to say:

 

 Being a WOC(woman of color), were you hesitant about getting into the special effects makeup industry?

"I was never hesitant about joining the special effects makeup industry as a WOC. I know this industry is heavily dominated by white heterosexual males and has been for decades, but that will never stop me from achieving my goals and pursuing my passion and my life's calling. I understand that it is intimidating entering a community where the majority of your colleagues don't look like you, but never think that you don't deserve a seat at the table just because no one like you has sat there before. The industry is changing though, and there are a lot more women in FX now and there is starting to be more POC in the industry as well too which is amazing! There is a group called Monster Maidens which is an online community for women in Special Effects (mostly in the LA area). The empowerment and solidarity in that group are so refreshing seeing a space for women in the industry to raise each other up and connect." 

 

 Why do you think there is such a divide in the tv/film industry between WOC and everyone else?

I feel like there is a divide in the TV/Film industry between WOC and everyone else because it is a deep-rooted systemic problem in America overall. This runs much deeper than just one particular industry, this is something that has plagued our country since it's foundations. We need to change the systems that keep POC oppressed and become more inclusive for who is in the writers room, casting room, producing these films, portraying these films, directing these films, who is on the crew from DP to G&E to script supervisor to the art department and to makeup and special effects. All of these departments and components of a movie need to be taken into account and looked at. I think the film industry is changing for the better and making some strides and progressive changes, however, there is still SO much work to be done. There needs to be a lot more inclusivity and opportunities available to WOC. Racism, sexism, and any form of discrimination should not be tolerated in our industry nor anywhere else.

 

What advice would you give to a young girl like me that is doubtful about starting a career in the industry?

My advice to a young girl doubtful of entering the special effects industry is to just go for it. Take the plunge. Take all those doubts, fears, and hesitations, accept them for what they are, and dismiss them. A lot of people want to pursue what they are passionate about but fear holds them back so they never even end up trying. Would you rather take the leap into the unknown and see what it holds or would you rather stay in your comfort zone and live a life of regret not knowing "what if" you had taken that path and followed your heart. Many people in society will try to tell you a career in Makeup or Special Effects Makeup or the film industry is not "realistic", but their reality is not your reality. Someone who has never walked your path cannot tell you what you are capable of achieving because only you know your true potential, capabilities, and what lies within your spirit. When people say "it's a one in a million shot of you achieving blank", why do they assume you won't be that one? Many people are dismissive of careers within the arts, don't listen to them. Let your gut lead you. 

 

 After reading this, I hope you feel you have more insight into women's lives in the special effects industry. I feel more inspired. To see someone that looks like me succeeding in this career not only inspires me but motivates me. I want to thank Shaina Paulson for answering all my questions. As well as Alyssa Hudson, Kenneth Calhoun, Camille Harris, and Tati Hayton for all reaching back out to me and helping me with my project. Even though I couldn't display all the answers, they helped me in ways they will never know.