Cast your mind back to the glory days of America's Next Top Model. A few laughs, lots of tears, superfluous drama and a wildly fascinating insight into a generally glamorous industry. Hold on to that image. Now consider Great British Bake Off. A strangely complementary mixture of tension and comfort, the opportunity to critique skills that you couldn't compete with and the low-maintenance commitment in your midweek TV schedule. Next, I'd like you to recollect the hypnotic therapy of watching YouTube beauty tutorials. The close-ups, the detail, and the knowledge that your hands would never create something that beautiful. Got all of that? Okay. This is how we arrive at BBC Three's new reality show, Glow Up: Britain's Next Make-Up Star.
Hosted by Stacey Dooley, the programme adopts a familiar format that you'll settle into quite quickly. Glow Up sees 10 aspiring makeup artists live together and endure a series of tasks for the chance to assist some of the biggest names in the beauty. Over eight weeks, contestants will be eliminated one by one until someone is eventually crowned Britain's Next Makeup Star and, even if you don't consider yourself well versed in the beauty chit-chat, you'll soon be sucked into the good old-fashioned competition of it all. Intrigued? Allow me to give you the full lowdown of what to expect.
Who are the contestants?
The MUAs come from pretty broad backgrounds. There's Dina, whose day job is behind the meat counter at Morrisons supermarket, and Paige, whose family would rather she pursued a career in something like law. Mathieu works in a prosthetics shop, which'll give you a big clue as to the direction most of his challenges take him, while Brandon studied fashion at college and grew an interest in makeup from there. It's the type of set-up where you'll almost definitely come out of each episode with a different favourite, but you might be surprised by how quickly some of the contestants drop in and out of favour. Be careful who you're rooting for.
Let's not forget that, per America's Next Top Model, these guys all have to live together too. You'll spot friendships form and resentment grow and yes, they'll all be at loggerheads at various stages of the competition (particularly when they have to work together), if you're into that sort of drama. Also, watch out for the classic reminder that "this is a competition, someone has to go".
Who are the judges?
Our two main judges are a pair of incredible beauty industry heavyweights. Val Garland, global makeup director for L’Oréal Paris and Dominic Skinner, global senior artist for MAC head up the panel each week and provide the sassy (and sometimes cutting) quips this sort of competition-based show requires. A personal favourite quote from the first episode was when Dominic mused: "I'm wondering if she wants to win a makeup competition or if she wants to win a Blue Peter badge."
Each week Val and Dominic are joined by guest judges, too. The first is Marie Claire's beauty and style director, Lisa Oxenham; in the second episode we welcome Oscar-winning special effects makeup artist David Malinowski; and in the third we'll meet Dutch makeup artist and beauty vlogger, Nikkie de Jager.
How do the makeup challenges work?
The clue is in the guest judge, my friend. On day one the contestants are invited to a beauty editorial shoot that Lisa is running, on which they have to create a beauty look that "breaks the rules". What does that mean, you ask? Something that's bold, colourful and will look good in a close-up. Turns out it's easier said than done.
Episode two sees our MUAs take a trip to the Harry Potter set to work with David Malinowski and get to grips with prosthetics at a character test day; and when Nikkie de Jager arrives, the contestants are tasked with creating a beauty video that has the potential to go viral (the ideas for which stretch in all sorts of directions).
After the challenges set by the guest judges, the latter half of the episode kicks off with a chair ceremony of sorts. The MUA team enter the studio to find makeup chairs with their names on. If you're assigned a blue chair you're safe for the time being, if you're put in one of the red "face off" chairs, it means that your performance in the earlier challenge has landed you in the bottom two and you may end up in the head-to-head technical competition (i.e. the face-off), fighting for your survival in the competition. In the first episode, the bottom two MUAs are asked to create the perfect black lip, for example.
The second challenge, set by Val and Dominic, gives the contestants another chance to get into the judges' good graces and be swapped out of the red chair for someone else. Fail to do so, and you're going head to head with someone under intense time pressure and the judges' watchful eyes to text your dexterity to the max. Yes, Val even whipped out a magnifying glass to inspect the precision of one contestant's black lip. If you survive, you're sent back to HQ to join the rest of the contestants and wait patiently for the next week's tasks. Fail, and you're sent packing there and then.
Is it worth watching?
I approached this one with massive scepticism but it wasn't too long before I was invested in the whole thing. It came as a huge surprise. The craft is undeniably incredible and if one of the shameless appeals of programmes like Bake Off and X Factor is being able to quietly pass judgement on other people's talents, then you'll be pulled in, too. That said, hardcore beauty fans listen up, too. It's not just about your bog standard winged eyeliner and crafty contour. Oh no. Glow Up challenges a group of amateurs to tackle every aspect of the makeup industry in ways that your average viewer who's hopelessly inarticulate in beauty chat yet hypnotically fascinated by the application of it (that's me) wouldn't have seen coming.
Glow Up: Britain’s Next Make-Up Star is available on BBC Three via iPlayer, and on BBC One on Wednesday 6th March at 10.35pm