Glow Up, Series 5, Episode 8: Vampiric Beluga Whale

Nobody tell Roo.

Please respect the sufficiently grotesque elfish aspect.

Survival of the Fittest

In a change of format, the final was starting with the creative brief after which one of the MUAs was to be eliminated while the remaining three moved on to do the Masterclass Challenge because someone at the BBC finally got all of this messenger pigeons I’ve been sending begging them to stop doing the Face Off Challenge in the final because it is always an absolute disaster and sets nobody up to end the series on a high, which does give Saphron the prestigious honour of being the only Glow Up contestant to never have to do it – there’s a very small trophy in the mail.

Due to the fact it was the final, it also meant that Keiran was seeing the dark side of 150 minutes for the first time in 4 weeks as there were no red chairs

so everyone was on a level playing field, or as Val badly phrased it “equal pegging”


The prompt for the final creative brief was for the rather vague and generic “a look that represents your ~journey~” which at some point just turned into “make a sea monster” in a game of broken prosthetic telephones. The only MUA not doing something that felt like it crawled off the ocean floor was Roo who was drawing their inspiration from the Puca of Scottish folklore, sadly not just recreating the rather adorable illustration by Wirt Sikes on its Wikipedia page

I love him and will protect him and his “sufficiently grotesque elfish aspect” – apparently Wirt Sikes was the Crystal LaBeija of 19th century Wales.

Roo was running with the shapeshifting aspects of the Puca’s mythology, creating a sort of rabbit-horse hybrid and keeping true to the mischievous nature of the creature by going about their makeup in the only chaotic way Roo knows how and forcing Dom to breathe into a paper bag for several minutes

but Dom inching ever closer to cardiac arrest was worth the risk given how good the makeup ended up being

I think it is one of my favourite makeups of the series – the shapes and colours are just divine – they really managed to capture that iridescent melanistic variance that gives the whole thing that strong mythological feel. Val thought the headpiece was a little overwhelming and if Ru had pushed it back further it would have given them a bigger, more beauty-shaped canvas. However, you can’t run out of time if you have less face to paint

I just enjoyed that Leomie put the headpiece on it and if she had rocked up wearing it on the day, I don’t think I would have questioned it

she’s had some excellent outfits this series – my personal favourite being “I lost my luggage and the only clothes I have belong to my 6 year old cousin”

to be very clear, if I looked like her, I too would dress like a moé anime character at all times.

Over in the Glow Up Sealife Centre™, Saphron was creating an amphibious alien as a nod to her ability to successfully adapt to every challenge except when in the presence of her kryptonite: Paige Louise – luckily for her though this week’s guest judge was personal mua to the Kim Kardashian Klan (DO NOT ABBREVIATE) Hrush Achemyan

there was a momentary pause for concern over Saphron’s makeup as she’d got the gill prosthetics slightly misaligned and had to remove one – the entire judging panel *gay gasping* like the world was ending

the world was not in fact ending and Saphron still managed to use the prosthetic with what little damage it had sustained in its degilling

as all the judges commented, the blending of her colours is absolutely faultless – they’re not the usual colours you would expect to see on an amphibious creature but I enjoyed the parrotfish combination

(I went to the Durban aquarium once as a child and become The Fish Kid for about a year – ask me anything about rockfish) but my favourite detail were the little blue swirls around the eyes that gave the whole thing a sense of movement as though the creature was adapting before your very eyes

also the manipulation of the nose-shape (which we’ll see more of later) is masterful.

Axel’s makeup wasn’t strictly a sea creature, but I think it looked enough like the Live-action Flounder hoax image that had eyebrows like a goth teenager in 1988 to count as one

Axel at least landed on the right side of Doctor Who Character of the Week though – it had been a bit of a struggle getting there, the yellow they were using wasn’t coming out as vibrant as they wanted

and apparently Hrush feels about pale yellow the way Keiran feels about the colour red after this series

nobody show her The Strictly Come Dancing Performance We Must Not Name

but once Axel added the shading and darker patternation it really popped, and the addition of the fairy lights in the glowing rocks particularly thrilled Val – earning Axel the second Ding-Donging after Saphron’s

which was nice because Axel has been sitting on this joke for WEEKS now

I’d have sold the rights to it to Saphron for a slice of a challenge win after her second Ding Dongening.

Lastly we have Keiran who was drawing inspiration from the deep sea – monstrous fish, the cold black abyss, tin cans full of billionaires with more money than concept of personal risk…. Their concept being a sea monster with a gaping mouth that contains a portal to another dimension, or as we know her: Sarah

the concept behind Keiran’s piece being facing your fears, Keiran now obviously being permanently traumatised by any and every red chair – they can’t walk past a Cafe Rouge without coming out in a cold sweat. Their monstrous creature of the deep being a sort of vampiric beluga whale

it also reminds me a lot of the Dagganoths from Runescape

apparently I’m hellbent on outing myself as a Runescape player in the year of our Lord 2023.
The biggest issue with Keiran’s look is that it maybe just didn’t feel quite as grand as the other three makeups in the room because there’s some really great aspects to it – the finish of the white base is faultless and has that very sleek, predatory shark feel to it but the downside of it is the fact there’s not enough contrast between it and anything else – as Dom said, had the mouth been done in black it would have created a better sense of infinite interdimensional depth – but the idea and character concept were both really cool.

The judges did have to cut someone and just missing out on the Harvey Nichols Masterclass Power Hour was Keiran

I’m so happy that Keiran made it this far, it’s always nice when someone who doesn’t feel quite so much “a part of the beautysphere” manages to go so far in a competition like this, and you can follow them on Instagram at KeiranMUSlay (it took my far too long to realise the MUA pun and that their surname wasn’t “Muslay”….

and so, we have our final three: Axel, Roo and Saphron

In A Masterclass of Their Own

Over at Harvey Nichols where the masterclasses were being held, Leomie was testing out how little clothing you could possibly wear before security gets involved

her commitment to science is admirable.

As ever, the masterclasses were being held in front of an audience of industry experts: working MUAs, journalists, influencers and… Faye Tozer and Faye Tozer’s Diet Coke for some reason

I’m choosing to believe she just happened to be shopping at Harvey Nichols that day and accidentally got roped into this. But then also there were the Unnamed Glow Up Alumni because the editor was not being paid for research duties

Dolli: “Hey, do you think they’ll make sure everyone knows who we are?”
Yong-chin: “I mean.. I’m the Current Reigning Glow Up Champion, so of course they’ll give us the on-screen name badges.”

The Masterclass Challenge is a weirdly hard one to do, because they’re doing it in Harvey Nichols which immediately sets the tone for it to lean towards being quite ordinary beauty – your backdrop is the Charlotte Tilbury display – the patron saint of Bare Minimum Glamour – but then your audience is stacked with A LOT of people that specialise in Special Effects Makeup and of course there’s also Chris Murphy, The Frog Prince of ASOS

who is now obligated to do a collaboration with Roo who was wearing the most amazing Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad suit which, lets be honest, is somehow the most nonbinary piece of clothing to ever exist

I haven’t been this jealous of a piece of clothing since Dodds’s William Morris blazer on University Challenge

I just want to dress like I’m an Arts and Crafts museum.

Saphron kicked off the event with a masterclass in playing around with beauty standards and accentuating facial features and proportions that are maybe not considered “beautiful” – which as someone who possesses the jawline of a well fed pelican is a concept that interests me, it was of course an extreme beauty look, as Saphron said before it cut to her model look like one of the Sisters of Plenitude

but there was nuance to it, it was more of a masterclass in how to shade and highlight, so as much as she was showcasing doing it to defy beauty, the same techniques are used to conform – so it was a clever way of doing something familiar but with a sense of intrigue that kept the audience interested. Saphron did struggle with her confidence towards the beginning – momentarily shutting down because she was lost on the word “spatula”

would the real Stage Whisperer please stand up, I have a cape to give you, you absolute hero. But nothing wins a group of mostly British people over to your side quite like some healthy self-deprication

and a good dose of potential innuendo

the only problem with this new format is that in the previous series, the MUAs get offered opportunities from the guests which we never got to see here (never forget the time Dolli got three job offers while Craig got to do a TikTok with Beauty Bay and Sophie got to have tea with someone over Zoom) and Saphron was going to be damned if she wasn’t reeling in a big fish

and now Karen Gillan has an extra excuse if she ever turns up to couple’s therapy in full Nebula makeup again

“I’m defying beauty standards today, I think it’ll strengthen our relationship.”

Roo was also doing an unconventional beauty look – their masterclass makeup being an editorial frozen makeup – so basically something like that time Balenciaga made all their models look like Tilda Swinton was marching across the Tundra to take her bins out

much like Saphron’s, Roo’s masterclass had a momentary hiccup in the beginning when their first prosthetic transfer didn’t take to their model’s skin but they coped with it really well

which I’m not sure I would have because apparently the library was open with yassified Waldorf and Statler over in the Harvey Nichols peanut gallery having a whale of a time

the second lot of transfers luckily did take and Roo could move on to making their model look like they’d just let the love of their life let go of a door in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean

two Titanic jokes? I’m nothing if not ~topical~. Roo’s Masterclass felt the least like it had much to offer in terms of everyday makeup consumers, but I hadn’t seen the prosthetic transfers being used prior to this series of Glow Up so I’ll assume some of the people in the room probably hadn’t either? And whoever was sat behind Dolli still hasn’t

wildly funny to me that Glow Up Alumni™ got better seating than 14 times UK Top 10 artist and Strictly Come Dancing Runner Up, Faye Tozer who probably had showed up just for the free Diet Coke.

Roo did however field a few questions with helpful tips about using your fingers when applying things for a more natural finish and was also very funny and relatable throughout – which, much like Saphron, was nice to see after the two of them struggled a little with the Paige Louise Trial By TikTok Industry Challenge. Nobody however was worried for Axel who basically treated the whole thing like their very own Netflix special

honestly, the concept of someone doing stand-up comedy while also putting together a prosthetic makeup might be kind of amazing? But also, like a tech bro thinking they’d invented the bus, I may have just thought I’d invented YouTube

you either die the hero or live long enough to become the villain, I guess.

Axel’s masterclass was all about colour theory and how you only need a few colours to create just about any makeup look (fuck the Beauty Bay 24 pan palettes’ drag, right?) by showing how you can mix them to create the transitionary shades (just in time for Pride!)

it’s nothing wildly revolutionary but it was interesting enough and Axel was a phenomenal presenter, but I do think the thing that made me laugh the hardest was Val saying “it could be bigger” meanwhile the makeup was taking up half of their model’s forehead

Ma’am, any bigger and you’d need to rent out a billboard, but the best part of the whole thing was Axel’s dad getting up during the Q&A just to say how proud of Axel they were

I don’t think anything hits me in the feels quite as hard as a supportive father figure, but Axel wasn’t done quite yet, they had to make one more important addition to the Axel’s Reaction Picture Stock Market

truly ending on a high.

The Winner Takes It All

It was a really strong final – it’s actually been an incredibly strong season across the board, but there can only be one winner, aside from Beauty Bay somehow getting away with as much product placement on a BBC show as they do – every episode there’s about 4 closeups of their palettes and it’s very obvious which brand it is. However, the non-brand affiliated, winner of Glow Up series 5 could really only have been Saphron

she’s pretty much had as perfect a run as you could possibly hope for – dominating challenge wins, numerous Ding Dongs (The Ariadne Story) and but one red chair placement to remind us she’s human – an incredibly worthy winner and an immensely talented makeup artist.

Roo and Axel both put up a good fight though and I think if you put them in any other series, they would both still make it to the final and quite possibly win

and you can follow all three of the finalists on instagram at:
Saphron: Saph.Art
Axel: AxelArtistries
Roo: Nectaroon

And just lastly, thank you to everyone that’s been reading these recaps – and especially the MUAs themselves who have, god knows why, enjoyed reading about themselves in the ramblings of a mad woman – I just appreciate that you didn’t lead a mob of Morphe brush and torch wielding makeup enthusiasts to my door.
It’s an intimidating show to write about, especially when you yourself don’t feel particularly beautiful, but hearing the MUAs’ varying ethoses and approaches to makeup and beauty does make you feel a little more confident – the last picture of myself I posted online was in December 2022 and I genuinely have the show and all of the MUAs to thank for kind of helping get over that crisis of dysphoria and dysmorphia I was going through for the last 6 months where I couldn’t bare to look at a picture of myself – so a genuine thank you from someone who maybe deserves to be a little more vain sometimes

and because it would be *very* rude of me to end this on a picture of myself, here’s Saphron’s mum being very proud of her win

and that’s it for Glow Up series 5!

TOP: Axel, Howard, Keiran, Morgan
MID: On-May, Roo
BOT: SAPHRON, Sarah, Taisha, Wezley

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