Glow Up – Season 1


Who doesn’t love a bold lip and a smoky eye?

Judges: Val Garland, Dominic Skinner

Host: Stacey Dooley

Created By: Michael Fraser

Have you ever looked at a magazine or a fashion show and wondered how they achieved those amazing make-up looks? Yeah, me neither. But that did not stop me from watching Season 1 of Glow Up, the British competition reality TV show all about the art of make-up. Come on, it’s fun to learn about something new through sassy judges and unrealistic challenges!

The full title of the show is Glow Up: Britain’s Next Make-Up Star and it features a group of aspiring young make-up artists (or MUAs as we industry insiders call them) given two challenges each episode. The first is a technical challenge, where they complete an industry related job. Sometimes they’re working in teams on a video tutorial, sometimes solo on a model for a runway show – it varies along with the guest judges each week. The second challenge is a creative brief, for which the artists are able to prepare. It’s often connected in some way to the first task but is more elaborate and they are given more time. Both first and second challenges have winners, the prizes for which vary episode to episode.

After the first task, the judges decide on two MUAs to go into the “red chairs”. That means that they are headed toward the face-off task after challenge number two unless they really impress the judges. Nobody wants to be in the face-off – one of the two gets sent home. The face-off is very different from the other challenges – it’s all about simplicity, precision, and speed. Easier said than done. Last MUA standing after seven weeks wins…something. A contract maybe? It’s not a monetary prize.

What I enjoyed about Glow Up was the enormous variability in challenges. Everything from prosthetics to illusions to simple perfect winged eyeliner was on display. The contestants had a lot of arenas in which to shine, with some challenges merging with their specialties and others completely out of their comfort zones. The judges expected creativity and boldness, so even the make-up novice (yes that means me) could really compare the different looks. The contestants were also really talented, doing so much more than contouring and well applied false lashes.

What I did NOT enjoy about Glow Up were the judges. They were catty and mean when they talked about the artists as they were working, and smug and condescending during a lot of the critiques. The guest judges were a mixed bag – sometimes as bad as the regulars, but usually far more professional. I did get used to Garland and Skinner, and the artists clearly respected them, but I could have done without their catering to the meanest common denominator. As they were harping on the importance of professionalism they were exhibiting anything but.

Overall Glow Up is not the most fantastic of the British competition shows (not everything can be British Baking) but it is an interesting look at an industry that plays a vital role in a lot of places where it gets little if any credit. The artists are fun and cool and creative and the looks are sometimes pretty fabulous. The single biggest drawback is the unlikable judges. Hopefully someone convinced them to lighten up a bit before season 2. Both seasons are currently streaming on Netflix.

More British Reality Competitions

The Great British Baking Show (the original) ~ The Great British Baking Show (new cast) ~ The Big Flower Fight ~ Zumbo’s Just Desserts (actually Australian but with the same general tone)

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