Whether it's bingeing drama-filled dating shows like Too Hot To Handle or rediscovering the outrageous old seasons of America's Next Top Model, it's clear that our appetite for reality television is at an all-time high. Filled with tense and heartwarming moments in equal measure, reality competition shows have become the perfect antidote to lockdown boredom. With little else to do than sit in front of the TV, many of us are racing through entire series quicker than you can say sourdough starter.
Thankfully, BBC Three's Glow Up: Britain's Next Makeup Star is back this week with a second season to help keep quarantine boredom at bay. Hosted by Stacey Dooley, the beauty-based competition puts 10 makeup artists to the test as they battle it out for a professional contract working alongside some of the industry's most famous faces. Giving a behind-the-scenes look at the glamorous and fast-paced world of photoshoots, brand campaigns and A-list events, the show focuses on the individual expertise of each amateur artist as they work to create the perfect look. Want to know what to expect from the second season? Get the full lowdown below.
Who are the contestants?
After seeing the success of season one winner Ellis Atlantis, it seems that every budding makeup artist in Britain applied to be part of the show's second season. Still, with only a select number of places available, the entries were whittled down to just 10 contestants. Coming from all around the UK, this year's MUAs include former boxer turned beauty student Brandon and recruitment consultant and mother-of-one Shanice. Also fighting for the top spot are sci-fi and prosthetics enthusiast Hannah, London College of Fashion graduate Berny and the youngest of the bunch, 19-year-old retail assistant Jake.
Though you might think you know who has it in the bag from the first episode, the nature of the show means that one poorly executed blend can change everything (so try not to get too attached, too quickly). Just like last year, the contestants live Big Brother-style in a communal apartment, meaning that throughout the course of the competition it becomes clear who works well together and who struggles to make the group challenges work (I'll let you come to your own conclusions on that one).
Who are the judges?
Glow Up has stuck to its tried-and-tested format from last season and kept on Val Garland and Dominic Skinner as head judges. As L'Oréal Paris' Global Makeup Director and MAC's Global Senior Make Up Artist respectively, the pair have the industry chops to make any amateur quake in their boots. However, their love of the industry and its boundless creativity really shines through on the show, with the judges providing both pinpoint criticism and piles of praise (note: a "ding dong!" from Val is equivalent to a gold medal in the beauty world).
But the show's judges don't stop there, as each episode also features a guest judge, like industry makeup artist Min Sandhu. Known for her work on ad campaigns for major brands like Nike, Puma and Chanel, Min kicks off the first week's challenge by splitting the contestants into two teams to compete in a festive-inspired beauty round. The second guest judge of the season, fashion designer Henry Holland, raises the stakes even higher when he tasks the MUAs with creating a "lived in, loved on, morning after Coachella chic" beauty look (trust me, it's harder than it sounds). Plus, if you're a Drag Race devotee, you'll be happy to know that it looks like a familiar face will be popping up at some point this season...
How do the makeup challenges work?
Each week Glow Up's first challenge is set by the special guest judge. In episode one, the amateur MUAs must assist Min on a Christmas campaign shoot for sportswear brand JD (warning to future contestants: ALWAYS STICK TO THE BRIEF). In week two however, things get turned up a notch when the MUAs have mere minutes to dress the models for the House of Holland show backstage at London Fashion Week.
Similar in style to The Voice, the second challenge of the day involves a set of scary red chairs. Depending on how well Val and Dominic think they did in the first challenge, contestants are assigned a blue chair (meaning they are safe) or a red chair (bad news). The two contestants who are assigned a red chair must then fight to get back on the judges' good side by showing their skills in a creative round. If they manage it, they are allowed to go back to the house with the other contestants but if they fail to impress, they end up in the final 'face-off' of the day alongside one other MUA whose creative look wasn't up to scratch.
The final head-to-head elimination round sees the bottom two contestants battle it out to keep their place in the competition by doing makeup on a pair of identical twins (?!). The face-off has a short time limit and challenges the MUAs to complete a classic makeup look which focuses on precision, technique and timekeeping. In the first episode of this season the bottom two are tasked with creating an 'ombre lip' in just 10 minutes, while week two's face-off tackles the tricky world of fake freckles. Then it's down to Val and Dom to decide who is safe for another week and who has to pack up their kit bag for good.
Is it worth watching?
Having never watched a full episode before, I will admit that on first watch it all felt a tad cheesy. The OTT reactions to gems not sticking in place or not being able to find the right decorative petals felt like an attempt to manufacture drama. But by the middle of the first episode, I was invested in the steadily increasing difficulty of the day's challenges. By the time the credits started to roll I already knew my favourite contestant (Ophelia for the win) and felt a sense of commitment to seeing her succeed throughout the coming episodes. Unlike competition shows like The Great British Bake Off, Glow Up makes it mark by having multiple, wildly different tasks each week, meaning it's hard to get bored within the show's one hour running time (though I'm not sure if I will still feel that way eight episodes from now).
Whether it's a creative challenge channelling the makeup artist's inner sense of self or a rushed look on a model backstage at fashion week, Glow Up covers all the bases of the life of an industry professional. Like all reality TV it has its fair share of melancholic montage music and emotional outbursts, but if critiquing makeup looks while you sit on your sofa in your sweats sounds appealing, then Glow Up season 2 is the show to see you through the next phase of lockdown.
Glow Up: Britain’s Next Make-Up Star is available on BBC Three via iPlayer on Thursday 14th May.