If you had told me I’d become obsessed with Glow Up: Britain’s Next Makeup Star a few weeks ago, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. But here I am, head-over-heels in love with the BBC3 series (now streaming on Netflix). In hindsight, my obsession makes perfect sense: Essentially Great British Bake Off for beauty lovers, Glow Up is joyful, heartwarming, and genuinely captivating—whether or not you consider yourself a makeup buff.
I first discovered the show while stuck in isolation with COVID. Desperate for distracting content to binge but too anxious to handle something “serious,” and too tired for anything plot-dependent, I needed a very specific kind of easy-breezy, joy-inducing entertainment that could make me smile. Ideally, one with British accents.
Stumped, I polled my Instagram followers, requesting shows that fit the aforementioned criteria. Dozens of suggestions flooded my inbox: Great Big Flower Fight (also great, but just one season, and not entirely British), The Great Pottery Throw Down, and some less conventional options like Food Wars (this would require a dissertation to adequately explain). But Glow Up stood out above the rest, since I love everything that has to do with beauty and makeup—I mean, look at what I do for a living. I turned on the TV and started watching, and next thing I knew I was emerging days later, having finished all four seasons and following every Glow Up contestant on Instagram. I was, and am, obsessed.
The premise of Glow Up is simple and delightfully familiar: 10 supremely talented aspiring makeup artists, referred to as MUAs throughout, compete in an array of makeup-related challenges, like nailing catwalk-ready glam for London Fashion Week, applying theatrical makeup for Cirque du Soleil, and creating creepy characters using prosthetics for upcoming episodes of Doctor Who.
Alongside host Maya Jama, the MUAs are judged by L’Oréal Paris global makeup director Val Garland and MAC Cosmetics global senior artist Dominic Skinner, as well as a weekly guest judge whose expertise relates to the task at hand. This intimidating list of beauty icons includes Fenty Beauty global makeup artist Hector Espina, H&M Beauty global creative director Marjorie Lacombe-Jeline, and influencer Manny MUA, to name a few.
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