Glow Up, Series 4, Episode 6: Mr. Thumb-stopper

I always wondered what happened to the MUAs once they were eliminated.

It’s a Social Media Is Bad, Actually heavy episode which does mean that we are forced to confront the fact we do in fact live in a society.


This week’s creative challenge was a bit of a strange one with the MUAs having to create a makeup that would then be converted into an Instagram filter – with the winning designs being shared by Paige Piskin who would be guest judging alongside Dan Moller, an AR Specialist who was testing my patience with the phrase “thumb-stopping” – the tech industry is so cursed.

With the filters going live on Instagram, the MUAs did have to take into account that people with various skin tones, face shapes and genders would likely be using the filters so they had to be as inclusive as possible – this mostly amounted to not adding lashes to the looks. As well as inclusivity the judges also wanted to see something unique and original that would hopefully catch the users’ eyes (I WILL NOT BE USING THE WORD THUMB-STOPPING DAN.) which is why Yong-chin quite literally threw the kitchen sink into her look

she certainly played this challenge really well by including both a very traditional looking makeup with the swirling bisexual pride flag and then adding a very digital element with the chrome effects that do make your face look a bit like a very fancy piece of Alessi kitchenware. You also know it was good because the very second Kris looked at himself in the filter he struck that distinctly Instagram influencer pose

it is quite literally Blue Steel.

Lisa was also going big and bold with her Lichtenstein Zombie

At first I was worried about the yellow and whether or not it would read as zombie flesh or a slice of American Government Cheese, there’s only so much difference, but she really pulled it off and I think it shows a really great understanding of colour, and I love the contour lines she chose.
The only complaint that the judges had was the fact the eyebrow was too big, however I don’t think that was actually Lisa’s fault because her model did have quite hefty eyebrows and the, very likely inhumanely exhausted, AR designers could have probably taken that into account when mocking it all up. Although if they’re anything like the graphic designers on The Apprentice they’re being paid in blood money and grudges.
However, ABSOLUTELY the best part of it is the fact it worked on somebody’s cat

truly the most inclusive of the filters.

Kris’s makeup also had a very clear Lichtenstein influence with the graphic nature of it and the contour lines that he had implemented to give the wearer a more cartoonish look

it’s a very Pride Month friendly look and I think if everyone had known that this episode would air in the middle of Jun they might have taken that into account because I could see this easily getting a lot of use for the remainder of the month, after which all of us queers just stop existing.
The judges were a little hesitant about Kris’s filter because they thought it was two different looks – I don’t think it was, I found it to be very cohesive and had a real Gottmik vibe about it

and it looked really good on Mr. Thumb-stopper

that’s just straight up every bearded queen at pride, I love it.

While those three all went big and brash with their looks, Rachel and Nancé both went with more minimal looks that didn’t quite take full advantage of the AR technology, although despite its minimalism I do think Rachel’s was actually quite good and would get a lot of use because it has a very festival face-paint look to it

we’ve all seen this person snapping a really great selfie at golden hour before ploughing face first into the mud at Glastonbury, it’s a tradition at this point. She could have easily brought the look in further along the forehead to create more of an elven crown design which would have given it the fantasy edge that the judges were kind of looking for. Doing so would have also helped the look remain more noticeable from a face on perspective because while it looked great from a portrait angle

the metallic effect meant it was somewhat swallowed up when viewed face on, but I LIVED for how hard her model was clearly feeling themself during the photoshoot

they’re starring in their own personal shampoo advert and I’m glad Rachel could give that to them.

Nancé’s was even more reserved than Rachel’s with it just being a grid of gradient dots around the eyes

again, I think it’s fun festival makeup but while Rachel’s had the intricacy of the linework as selling point, Nancé’s does look a bit like something you could do at home by yourself. Had she made the dots look more like a pointillist butterfly, that would have been kind of cool and then she could have maybe covered a larger amount of the face to give the look some more impact.

A Face Filter Looking Ranking

  1. Lisa’s Lichtenstein Zombie
  2. Yong Chin’s Bisexual Kitchen Sink
  3. Kris’s Well Timed Pride Month Filter
  4. Rachel’s Festival Filigree
  5. Nancé’s …

The judges couldn’t quite bring themselves to decide on a single winner and so Yong-chin and Lisa got to share the glory of having Paige share their makeups to her Instagram followers.

Avatar 2: Makeup Boogaloo

Their creative brief in what I guess is Social Media Week, was for the MUAs to create, and I quote directly, “A walking, talking, living avatar. A bold and creative, digital representation of a person. With a clear story.” – it just feels like a somehow overly specific and yet extremely busy brief. However, it did result in 100% less robots than expected which was a surprise, I really did think we were in for A Night of 1000 Android Overlords. However, there was a distinct flavour of We Live In A Society™. The most robotic of them all probably came from Rachel whose makeup featured an assortment of eyes peering out from a tangled mess of wires – it’s some pretty standard Social Media Is Bad, Actually commentary. She was however in a red chair and despite her model’s periodic motivational speeches (honestly, what a babe) she did feel the time crunch and hadn’t quite finished the the whole thing as she wanted

it was something of a blessing because she hadn’t got around to giving the eyes lashes, but it was in need of some shading to give it a little more depth. but I think it’s still a pretty good makeup, it doesn’t read as one specific character though but it does feel like it could be the cover art for a metal band’s album, and there’s something even a little Dead Alive about it if she had pushed the horror aspect of it a little further.

Nancé was also in the red chair and had similar struggles to Rachel in that the judges didn’t know if her final makeup quite read as a character

I heavily disagree because when I look at it, the first thing I see is Calcifer from Howl’s Moving Castle

but in order to keep it within the parameters of the “digital persona” Nancé name-dropped the Fire Emoji and I have to say I did LOVE the moment she began talking about how the solidifying lava represents going viral for the wrong reason because it had the EXACT same energy as me bullshitting my way through an essay about Glee in which I was writing extensively about how the piano in Glee is a phallic symbol

all film students are cringe, it’s a well known fact.

I did still really quite like Nancé’s makeup though, Dom called it “child-like” and I have to vehemently disagree – I think it’s graphic and cartoonish but I still think there’s A LOT of intelligence in the design with the use of the clay for the Bad Viral Lava™ and the slightly glittering sparks

I will defend my favs in mortal combat if I have to Dom.

Kris was back to his usual game of increasingly absurd homemade prosthetics, this time seemingly securing the actual moon to his model’s head

I will not make a Dom joke. I will not make a Dom joke. I will not make a Dom joke. I will not make a Dom joke. I didn’t make a Dom joke.

The judges were a little worried about how Kris was going to finish in time considering he had just quadrupled the surface area that he had to colour in, but luckily he had the airbrush on hand to help him – at least in theory because Val wasn’t overly happy with how he had used it

it’s a little splodgy, but considering the whole theme of his makeup was that it was meant to represent imagination and online creativity, I think the splodginess kind of fits with that. My issue is that I don’t know if it quite reads enough as a lightbulb, I would have liked to see it looking slightly more translucent, but I think this is certainly my favourite use of prosthetics Kris has done, even if it did remind me of Eureka O’hara’s completely wrong explanation about the origin of the word “Eureka”

and I do not appreciate that.

For her makeup Yong-chin was drawing inspiration from Chinese Opera, specifically the masks that the performers wear, with each one being painted in such a way to represent specific emotions or characteristics – both in the shape of the face as well as the colours. She was translating that to a makeup that represents how our social media selves tend to only portray and exaggerate certain fragments of our lives, and I think this is one of my more interesting and intelligent ways of getting that idea across than the usual “cracked mask” that we see A LOT of, it somewhat lacks anything to make it read as “digital” but who really cares because this look was MAJOR

I REALLY love this – the gill-like smile lines, the shape of lips, the colours – it’s divine. I have however seen a few people saying that Yong-chin’s makeups have all looked the same, which I don’t think they have, I see clear and obvious influences throughout Yong-chin’s work, but I see that as more of a signature than a crutch. And I think people need to be a little bit careful of using the phrase “they all look the same” when talking about things that are clearly drawing inspiration from and referencing East Asian cultures because that phrase is VERY loaded and has an ugly history of being used to dehumanise those cultures and peoples.

Lastly we have Lisa whose look was meant to embody fighting back against online hate and troll culture, which is exactly what this brief was asking for but I was a little worried because, much like online masking and competitive virality, we’ve seen a lot of looks inspired by this concept. However I think Lisa’s is the least cringe one I’ve ever seen

I think there’s enough in it that’s genuinely beautiful and it feels quite subtle and nuanced in how she approached the concept. I particularly love the prosthetics she used on the cheeks – there’s something very X-Men about them. My only wish is that the hair was maybe a touch better incorporated into the look, it feels a little bit like the character designed stopped at the hairline. But the way she paints light into her makeups, in this case on the sort of motherboard constellation over her model’s heart, is so masterful and cleverly done.
I still don’t know if Lisa making it purple was just because she liked purple or if the judges were having their own Phallic Piano moment by reading far too much into Lisa representing herself in the makeup. Either way, her colour scheme was really great.

A Digital Avatar Makeup Ranking

  1. Smile, You’re On Camera
  2. Lisa’s Anti-troll X-man
  3. Nance’s Calcifer Cosplay
  4. I Penalised Kris For Reminding Me of Season 10 Eureka O’hara
  5. Rachel’s Tripwires

With the judges not being blown away by either Rachel or Nancé’s makeups, the two of them didn’t quite manage to beat the seats and were going to have to fight it out in the Face Off Challenge.

Glossing Over It

For their Face Off Challenge, Rachel and Nancé had to create a Midnight Blue Vinyl Lip – a look I am very jealous that I cannot pull off without looking like guy from Little Big who looks a bit like James Acaster ate a fistful of blackberries

luckily the two of them were much kinder to the models as both had fairly good, if slightly imprecise final products

Nancé got the better pigmentation while Rachel concentrated on symmetry, once again pulling that face she always pulls when she has to concentrate super hard

nobody concentrates harder than a makeup artist doing lip liner.

But sadly Rachel’s unflappable concentration couldn’t save her this time and she narrowly misses out on making it to the semi-finals with the judges deeming the need for pigment more important

I’m so glad Rachel got as far as she did, she’s been a stellar addition to the cast this year and I think she really showed that there is a lot of room for more glam oriented MUAs on the show, and I can’t wait to see where she goes because she should absolutely be booked and blessed after this, and you can follow her at BeatByRache.

And so we have our semi-finalists!

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