Glow Up, Series 4, Episode 1: Chameleon Deathmask

Stay in school kids!

It’s back and it’s creating reality TV gold dust, and that’s just Rachel and her glitter.

If you need any help remembering who the new batch of MUAs are, here’s a handy graphic

and here are links to their Instagram accounts, so go and stan:

Adam (He/Him): AdamBlends
Charlie (He/They/She): QueenAerosol
Kris (He/Him): Cannon.FX
Lisa (She/Her): LisaArtistryy
Mikael (He/Him): Kam_Eilian
Nancé (She/Her): TheNSKBeauty
Rachel (She/Her): BeatByRachel
Ryan (He/Him): RyanBeauMUA
Sophie (They/Them): MackerelMonday
Yong-chin (She/Her): YMBreslin

On to the recap!

GymShark Infested Waters

Their first challenge was a big one as they had to create a look to feature in Gymshark’s social media campaign, because apparently they’ve decided to choose violence and encourage their 17 million followers to wear makeup to the gym. They claim that a quarter of their followers who answered a poll wear makeup at the gym – I am going to assume that most of those people meant they do their eyebrows and maybe a touch of concealer, which, as a person who walks around the gym looking like a sweaty gecko, I think is even too much. It’s a gym, can we all just agree to look like swamp rats together?
So the brief was to basically make something that looked quite natural but because 10 barefaced looking models would be boring television, they muddied the waters of the challenge by saying they had to include “a fitspirational element” to accentuate one of their model’s features – whether it be a bold eye, an accentuated brow (remember that one, it’s important later) or a strong lip – although nothing makes me feel more uncomfortable than the thought of wearing any kind of lip product while trying to do burpies, they’re hard enough without worrying about whether or not your lipgloss is slipping.

Largely the approach amongst the MUAs was to spend as much time as they could trying to perfect the natural, dewy skin that they’re incredibly unhelpful moodboard clearly illustrated they should be aiming for

and then using how much of their two hours was left to quickly work out what they could do with a bit of liner and a prayer – I personally really liked the look that Kris came up with

the judges weren’t particularly fond of it as they thought “it doesn’t really fit with the model” – which I don’t really get, because I think the wiggliness perfectly matches her curly hair, and if anything he could have gone bigger with the wiggles.

I also really liked Yong-chin’s approach with creating a heartbeat with her liner which is kind of a fun tongue-in-cheek approach that would play really well on social media

I do agree with the judges that it should have been on the outer corner because in order to photograph it correctly her model did have to stand in a bit of an awkward position, I personally feel a little robbed that we never got to see it face on, because I imagine it might have looked a little goofy.

But by far and away the best liner (and the best look) was Lisa who also struck it lucky by being blessed with a model with the most incredible skin that she did a great job of making look even better and the liner she did was really cool and subtle enough to not be the first thing you noticed about the look with it looking a bit like an introverted version of Lady Gaga’s Chromatica look, like she would be secretary of a paper company on Chromatica. She is Chromatican Pam Beesly

and the subtle highlight on Lisa’s model’s cupid’s bow was *chef’s kiss*.

Adam did give Lisa a run for her money in terms of achieving the dewy skin that the brief indirectly asked for, he just seemed to completely forget about that all important “fitspirational feature” and who can blame him, it’s a nonsense word but without anything to really focus on his model did look a bit like she was on the cover a highschool brochure that offers very unhelpful career guidance

a bit of doodling with some liner and he could have easily won the challenge, but props to him for not completely losing composure when Dom and Val did their walkaround because it looked like he was on the verge of doing something awful to his model’s brows out of pure panic

and we wouldn’t want that now would we…

OK, we might as well address the elephant’s eyebrows in the room as Nancé decided to really embrace the viral social media side of the brief and began painting her model’s eyebrows purple, which to be fair he seemed to be getting a bit of a kick out of

the judges however were not so keen on the mid-bleaching look that did look a bit like the sort of photo a brand would post on April Fool’s Day

it’s like the Caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland is having an argument with himself

but I did love that Nancé was at least self-aware enough to know that she was swinging wild

you could also tell that everyone wanted to say awful things about the purple eyebrows but nobody could say anything too disparaging about them because Dom was hiding a pair of baby pink ones behind his glasses

after a three month pupation they’ll be fully fledged purple brows.

Mikael was also going with the foreshadowed “accentuated brows”, but instead of painting them like The Caterpillar, he had gone for something a little more subtle

he also achieved a really good base on his model which the judges were very impressed with – and they mostly liked the brow liner, they were however a little confused about the blue – did it mention somewhere in the riddle of a brief that Gymshark doesn’t do blue? Because they really developed a vendetta against blue liner.

The only MUA to go for a bold eye was Sophie, who was warey of the challenge because they don’t frequent a gym largely because I imagine dressing like some sort of chaotic faye creature doesn’t lend itself too well to a spin class

but the eye look that they did produce was very cool

the judges however deemed it “not gym appropriate” and would have preferred it if they had done just the orange bits of the eyeshadow and nixed the blue entirely because as a whole it does begin to lean slightly more the glamorous end of the makeup spectrum, which Rachel also had a little bit of an issue with, but I can see what she was aiming for with the flushed, rosey cheeks

and sadly the orange and pink ombre lip didn’t seem to work as well as it should’ve done – and they were very picky about her base which they thought was a little too heavy, something Ryan became even more of a cropper to

I do wonder if the MUAs were shown the lighting set up prior to the shoot because I think that might have been helpful to quite a few of them, as Ryan could have also really pushed the pink eye he was going for because it was just about completely erased during the shoot.

And lastly we have Charlie who I did immediately take a liking to because they showed up to the whole thing dressed like some combination of Princess Diana and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and I appreciate anyone who puts an effort in

and as it turns out, the nod to the revenge dress is *foreshadowing*.

Much like Adam though, Charlie seemed to slightly forget the fact they needed to do something other than skirt that thin line between dewy and sweaty – which they did end up on the right side of at least

it was a little disappointing, especially considering that Charlie was themself wearing a look that would’ve worked perfectly with this brief and looked great on their model

but I also understand not wanting to recreate a look that was in the room, because look how that turned out for Nancé and Dom’s brows.

A GymShark “Fitspirational” Look Ranking

  1. Lisa’s Fine Bone Liner
  2. Justice For Kris’s Wiggle
  3. Yong-chin’s Misplaced Heartbeat
  4. Mikael’s Was Good, Actually.
  5. Adam’s Non-existent Fitspirational Feature
  6. Sophie’s Anti-gym Propaganda
  7. Charlie, DO SOMETHING! Part 1
  8. Rachel’s Legs, Bums and Ombre Lips
  9. Ryan’s Work Out, Break out
  10. Nancé’s Surrealist Caterpillars

Lisa was very deservedly given the win, while going into the next challenge, red seats looked like a possibility for quite a few of the MUAs.

Hidden Strengths

For their first main makeup challenge of the series the MUAs had to create a look, on themselves, that showcased their hidden strengths but before they could get on with it, they did have to find out who was in the red seats and therefore getting a 15 minute time penalty – the first being Ryan who has a full on Jan moment

and then the second was Nancé, who really should have seen the writing on the wall

and then to make matters worse for herself, she was doing a look that required a bald cap, and we knew exactly where this as going when the show treated us to a lengthy, lingering close-up on Chekhov’s scissors

and sure enough, Nancé went at the bald cap THAT SHE WAS WEARING with those scissors, much to the horror of Dom, who did at some point have to apologise to the sound recordist because he screamed so loudly while Nancé trimmed the cap

the whole point of Nancé’s piece of performance art was so portray her perseverance, both in her battle against the tiny little flap of bald cap that wouldn’t lie flat for love nor money, and the celestial being that she became

I am mildly convinced that Nancé might have been an industry plant from the Avatar marketing board because at no point does Nancé mention Avatar, and as far as I could see, there was not a single Na’vi on her moodboard

and yet because of her look I’ve heard more people talking about Avatar than I did after the trailer for the extremely unwanted sequel dropped earlier this week – which is a surprise because it does feature someone riding a flying fish while wielding a gun

it’s unintentional camp.

Although, to be honest, I see less Avatar and more Africanfuturism in the look, especially with the way she turned her braids into a halo – I very much see elements of Octavia Spencer and Nnedi Okorafor in the look and for 15 minutes less than everyone else, she did A LOT of work. As did her partner in Red Chaired Hell, Ryan, whose look was inspired by finding light in the dark, and specifically calling upon his experience as someone who was at the Ariana Grande concert during the Manchester Terror Attack in 2017

it’s divinely textural – and the use of clay to get that scorched earth look that really helps make the orange and yellow tones seem like their glowing was an inspired decision.

And while the judges enthused over Ryan’s use of yellows and oranges, they weren’t quite so taken by Adam’s because he had made the decision to use a brush to apply them instead of a sponge, which would’ve meant there were no brush strokes – which I personally couldn’t see in the final photograph

and I really loved his makeup, the shapes of it are really cool, the asymmetry makes it that much more interesing and I particularly like the detail on the nose because it makes it look like he has a furry little nose and I enjoy that immensely.
I think a lot of the reason I like the look so much was because he said he was inspired by a lion, in order to show his leadership as he kind of assumed the role of father figure in his house when his dad passed away. And he didn’t go the obvious route and just do lion face paint, which would’ve only been fine had he done a whisker twirling cabaret lion like Ryan did for his VT footage

and I did have concerns because he went through a stage where he looked like Judd Apatow’s character in The Simpsons

so I was glad we ended up with something a little more conceptual and interesting.

It wouldn’t be Glow Up without a few prosthetics in the room, the biggest one being Kris’s chameleon death mask that he apparently made the night before

immediately my heart did sink a little bit, mostly because it did trigger the memory of Laura on Glow Up Ireland furiously trying to apply a frog eye and tongue to her face and sweating it off every few minutes, resulting in looking like someone had fused together the Disney Princess impersonator from a little girl’s birthday party together with the Frog Prince from The Simpsons

I’m sad I didn’t recap Glow Up Ireland, so I had to take this opportunity to process that series of events.

Luckily things went better for Kris, whose chameleon prosthetic did stay on the whole time, although I do think he looked more like a Parasaurolophus

but you know, a reptile is a reptile. As impressive as it is that he applied the whole thing and it stayed on in the 2 hours is, it doesn’t wildly excite me, it’s a bit of an obvious choice to symbolise adaptation, and I might have prefered a few more human elements to show through or some sort of transtionary effect, but I did appreciate that he used the pearls to add something beyond just being a straight up chameleon. Val and Dom did think the painting of the prosthetic was a little rushed and untidy.

Mikael had a little more trouble with his prosthetics and sweating them off because sadly he hasn’t experienced an overdose of adrenaline in the Falklands War that subsequently rendered him utterly sweatless

once he had acclimatised to the room, he could set about putting together his look which was about unsilencing his Black Voice and for the most part, I think he did very well and created a very striking image

I do agree with the judges that the visuals get slightly muddled because everything is so gold – I’m not sure why the string was gold, other than the fact the colour just looks utterly phenomenal against his skin, I think that part at the very least should have been a little grittier looking. He could have also done without the words on his chest, it’s a little passé and I think a few MUAs could take note of the “show don’t tell” approach.

Rachel, in order to signify her positive attitude, was also featuring large quantities of gold, plastering large portions of her face in enough multi-chrome glitter to kill every Leatherback Sea Turtle in existence, a real possibility given that by the halfway point she was absolutely covered in glitter and thus potentially classifiable as an environment hazard

the final look was VERY clean and well executed in terms of the glitter wrangling though

there’s a few minor details here and there that she glossed over and would’ve put the look of the edge, mostly that the top piece of card should’ve had a hole to show where her eye would’ve been, but I do wish the judges had given her more kudos for the beauty side of her look because her skin looks amazing and her lips were stunning – give the beautiful girl her dues guys!

Lisa was also doing a crack effect with her makeup, as portions of her face were made to look like they were being petrified, which turned out amazingly

it’s an insanely accomplished look, and I love the way she divided up her face, rather than going for a very straightforward half and half, there’s something much more organic about it that gives it an added sense of realism – and the details were out of this world

as to whether it was speckling, stippling or pebbledashing shall remain to be seen

but I did enjoy watching Lisa trying to apply the speckling/stippling [delete as required] while simultaneously trying to cover portions of her face with paper to avoid getting it on her bare skin in what looked like the most disastrous performance Kabuki Theatre has ever seen

we as a species cannot evolve a third arm fast enough.

I really thought that Lisa would get the introductory Ding Dong! of the series, and yet that rite of passage was reserved for Yong-chin’s look inspired by her resolute focus

and it is rather amazing, although the wide shot doesn’t really do the colours justice

it’s a stunning look and it has a very eerie, horror feel to it, like some sort of celestial planetary-devouring Lovecraftian Elder God, and by contrast Sophie’s makeup looked like its joyful, angelic counterpart

this was also a great look and I loved how the shape in the middle of their face kind of looked like one of those very pretty blue dragon sea slugs

and they nailed the symmetry, to the point where Dom just about had to pick his jaw off the floor. I’m not entirely sure I see the stem cell inspiration that they were going for – but I did also appreciate that Sophie just said “I’m a rather sickly person” and there was no prying as to what this meant and no expectation for Sophie to elaborate on what is very personal information – so many reality shows could learn from how Glow Up operates.

And lastly we have Charlie whose look was inspired by their gender fluidity, particularly focusing on the times they want to present as very feminine in order to alleviate their gender dysphoria, which they were of course doing with a half-and-half makeup look

beyond the fact it’s not the most groundbreaking look, I think the biggest flaw is the wig – given that the femme makeup is reading as kind of vintage 40s (as a winged liner and red lip always will) a slightly more styled wig, might’ve sold the makeup a little more than this rather heavy Renaissance looking hair. I did agree that some contouring wouldn’t have gone a miss. But what I will say, is that I think Val and Dom *slightly* misunderstood what Charlie was aiming for with this look, because Charlie specified that this was about their gender dysphoria and escaping that feeling of grossness and discomfort, which I think the more masculine side signifies very well – that sticky orange under the eye?

viscerally repulsive to me and I, as a transwoman, instantly recognise that feeling. And I think it was a little invalidating to say “you should have just done a more standard half masculine, half feminine makeup” when that didn’t really seem to be the point that Charlie was trying to make and I can see why they might have been a little bit upset by the critique and triggered the next series of events.

A Hidden Strength Look Ranking

  1. The Stone-a Lisa
  2. Yong-chin’s Focal Point
  3. I Don’t Know How To Write A Punny Name For Ryan’s Look Without Sounding Very Insensitive
  4. Adam’s Abstract Aslan
  5. Sophie’s Vibing Stem Cell
  6. Nancé’s Avatar Advertising Campaign
  7. Rachel’s Environmental Hazard
  8. Kris’s Miscellaneous Reptile
  9. Mikael’s Abundance of Gold
  10. Charlie’s Villain Origin Story

Due to the amount of work the two of them put in, Ryan and Nancé both manage to beat the seat and spare themselves the Face Off Challenge, which instead turned into a battle between Charlie, Mikael and the Devil on Charlie’s Shoulder.

Drawing The Liner

For their first Face Off Challenge, Mikael and Charlie were tasked with creating a Reverse Cat Eye in only 15 minute

and as soon as they were given the go ahead, Mikael was right in there with a pencil meanwhile Charlie held back and mostly spent a long time patting their model’s face with a brush and then they started rifling through the makeup kit, testing a few brushes on their hand while Mikael is completely possessed by his kohl pencil but everyone else is mentally screaming at Charlie like it was the Charlie Hides lipsync all over again

and it was uncomfortable in the edited down version, I cannot imagine what it was like to watch 15 minutes eek by with Dominic and Val just silently communicating through tense glances and Maya Jama desperately trying not to laugh out of sheer awkwardness

and then Charlie did do something, as they went at their model’s face like she was the door of a Pizza Hut toilet in 2008, choosing to write “Queer Power 4eva” across her face

honestly, the thing that annoys me the most about it is that the penmanship is so bad – had they spent 15 minutes artfully writing it out? I might have thought it was kind of a serve, and I do lowkey love the photo that they posted on Instagram with Sophie

Obviously a lot of people are very angry with Charlie, I’m not that mad, at the end of the day, someone would have to go home first and I think better this happened in the first episode, rather than doing makeup seppuku in episode 4. And at the end of the day, it’s first and foremost a television show and Charlie has created the most memorable Glow Up moment since the face that Hannah pulled when they revealed Jake’s makeup way back in series 2

a grimace that lives in my mind rent free.

I did think there was a chance they would save Charlie purely for the stunt of it all, but they do end up saving Mikael and it was goodbye to Charlie

may they live on in reality TV infamy forever.

and so we are down to 9 MUAs

If you’ve enjoyed this recap of Glow Up Series 4’s first episode and would like to support the blog you can donate to my Ko-fi account HERE!

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