This is a very addictive TV show! I’m only a fan of TV talent contests if they are about something I’m really interested in – other ones I’ve enjoyed include All That Glitters: Britain’s Next Jewellery Star, The Big Painting Challenge, Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes? and Race Across the World (yes, I do think travelling the world as fast as possible on as little money as possible is a talent). Glow Up is the search for ‘Britain’s Next Make-Up Star’ – not to be taken too literally of course, as there are plenty of talented young make-up artists who’d never appear on the show. The contestants are presumably chosen not just because they are good at make-up, but because they have interesting back stories, are watchable, from a diversity of backgrounds, gel together as a group and are relatable to the BBC3 demographic (millennials and Generation Z).
I’m an absolute sucker for the format of this programme. An industry-themed task, a creative task and then a face-off at the end of each episode, which sees one person go home. I feel really emotionally involved with them, happy for their successes and cringing at their downfalls. The wicked humour of the judges, Val Garland (of the massive spectacles and weird catchphrases such as ‘ding dong!’ and ‘kitchen sink’) and Dominic Skinner (very unusual shirts and perky moustache), is also appealing. It could be interpreted as cruel but if everyone was nice about everything all the time, it wouldn’t be so entertaining. They are supportive but exacting – they look for good technical skills and how the artists interpret the creative brief.
For such a fun, vibrant show, it’s also educational, being packed full of information about what it’s like to work as a make-up artist in different industries and how to use particular products. The presenter for the first 2 series is Stacey Dooley, whose role is basically to hug everyone. She was replaced for series 3 by Maya Jama, who also hugs everyone but is more of an exhibitionist so she spices things up a little.
I do have some criticisms, however. The first series saw the same pair of identical twin models used for every face-off task, meaning that anyone who repeatedly ended up in the face-off had an advantage (the twin models were varied for the subsequent series). The contestants were usually given any kind of products they wanted, but it would have been more interesting to see what they could do with a limited selection sometimes. I also thought that there could have been a wider variety of models – mostly they were young and slim with wonderful bone structures and lovely skin. Let’s see more models with wrinkles, more weight on their faces, skin conditions and asymmetrical features.
Now a few spoilers, as I’m going to mention the winners – please look away now if you intend to watch the programme and don’t want to know…
Series 1: I think that Ellis definitely deserved to win, with his colourful and generally flawless looks inspired by drag. However, I think his opponent in the final face-off should have been either Leigh (too edgy for the judges?) or Belinda (they found her too painterly, perhaps). Instead, a consistent underperformer, Nikki, amazingly kept getting through every round and ended up in 2nd place.
Series 2: Although Ophelia was technically brilliant, her creations were all in a similar style and they left me cold. She didn’t have a good attitude either. I would have preferred her final opponent, James, to win. Although his creations could be more hit and miss, they were warm and colourful. Kudos to both of them and 3rd place winner, Eve, for getting through the very scary task of presenting a tutorial to a crowd of industry experts, critics, etc.
Series 3: I was rooting for Sophie all the way through, as she was obviously the best. I was glad that she won and James was deserving of 2nd place. The standard on this series was higher than ever, the guest judges more famous, the industry tasks more prestigious. It was also notable for informing us of the pronouns of each contestant as they were introduced.
In conclusion, Glow Up is a lot of fun and if there’s another series I’m certain to watch it. They may want to change the format a little to keep it fresh, though.