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Review of BBC's Glow Up: Britain's Next Makeup Star


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The long-awaited release of Stacey Dooley’s new reality show in search of the country’s next best makeup artist is finally here.

Image Credit: BBC Three

The show centres around a group of hopefuls desperate to break their way into the industry and earn themselves a contract working with some of the top makeup artists in the world. The judging panel consists of L’Oreal Paris’ global makeup director Val Garland and MAC’s global senior artist Dominic Skinner, as well as a guest judge each week who specialises in the theme for that week. The structure is similar to that of Bake Off, with three challenging briefs each week that really put their skills to the test and quite frankly, make for some intense TV.

There were two main things I was concerned about before watching this, one being that it would take a bit of an ‘Instagram beauty’ approach, rather than be a true reflection of the makeup industry. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how well-balanced the show was. Of course, social media plays a huge roll in the beauty industry these days, so there was one week dedicated to this with YouTube royalty NikkiTutorials as a guest judge, whilst other weeks focused on different areas of the industry, such as movie prosthetics and drag makeup. I think this was a great way to show all the different areas makeup artists can specialise in, whilst highlighting the reality that there is far more to being an MUA than cut creases and Instagram followers.

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Alongside this, contestants were challenged with demonstrating other vital skills in the industry, such as working towards specific client briefs, keeping to tight time constraints and keeping a professional attitude throughout. Without giving away any spoilers, it quickly became very clear who thought they could coast through the competition purely on talent, without actually taking into consideration the organisational skills and professionalism required to survive in the real beauty industry.

My other main concern was that it’d focus too heavily on the drama of the contestants, who live together throughout the process (anyone else remember MTV flop Beauty School Cop-Outs? Ouch). This show could’ve easily taken a ‘trashy’ reality show route, but did a great job to reflect the personalities of the contestants and the struggles they faced, without it turning to an overly dramatic bitch-fest. There were some really big personalities in the group, as expected in a group of creatives, but the majority of the time they all came across as likeable and, above all, passionate - making it honestly quite difficult to pick a favourite.

Of course, surrounding the release of the show there has been some criticism aimed at Stacey Dooley’s involvement. Dooley has since hit back at claims she has ‘sold out’ and has gone on to prove herself as a talented presenter, regardless of the subject matter. In ‘Glow Up’ she takes on a sister-like role to the contestants, helping them through difficult challenges and comforting them whilst the judges deliberate on their place in the competition. Dooley does an excellent job at remaining impartial towards the contestants, whilst still showing genuine care for each of them when it comes to struggles and eliminations.

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The only slight frustration I have with this show is the elimination process. The two contestants who perform the poorest that week are put head to head to demonstrate a specific skill under a short time frame, such as perfecting the perfect winged liner in ten minutes. At first, this seems like a fair face-off, aside from the fact the contestants are judged solely on their performance in that ten-minute period. This eventually leads to contestants who are clearly far stronger and more capable of losing their place because of what they demonstrated in those ten minutes. Again, not to give any spoilers, but there is one particular contestant who persistently fights their way through these head-to-heads, despite not performing anywhere near as well as others in the main briefs and this does become increasingly frustrating. Whilst I get that the idea is for the survivor to be whoever performs the strongest under pressure, there are a few instances where the results are almost identical, yet their prior efforts still aren’t taken into consideration when it comes to deciding who stays.

Overall I think the show is an honest representation of the industry and does really well to highlight the hard work that goes into makeup artistry as a career. There seems to be an attitude recently that anyone can upload their makeup looks to social media and instantly call themselves a makeup artist and ‘Glow Up’ does a great job at showing that this isn’t actually the case. I’d recommend ‘Glow Up’ to any beauty fan as it’s a great source of inspiration for those who like to get a bit experimental and push the boundaries with their makeup looks, whilst also being addictive, binge-worthy television.

Glow Up: Britain’s Next Makeup Star airs on BBC One every Wednesday at 10:35 pm, and is available to catch up on BBC iPlayer.

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