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Glow Up - episode one looks
courtesy of BBC

New BBC3 programme “Glow Up” is the X-Factor for make-up artists

We caught up with judges Val Garland and Dominic Skinner ahead of tomorrow's first episode

In the opening episode of BBC3's new make-up-centred talent contest, Glow Up: Britain’s Next Make Up Star, judges, legendary make-up artist Val Garland and Senior MAC Make-Up Artist Dominic Skinner are in the midst of giving feedback to a contestant when she breaks down in tears, an emotional outburst that comes not from a Simon Cowell-esque take-down but rather because she is so overwhelmed by the positive words from her idol Garland.

“It’s extremely exciting times to be in the beauty industry,” Garland tells Dazed Beauty, “anything and everything is possible.” Conceived as a kind of X-factor for make-up artists, the show follows a familiar formula: ten contestants live and work together as they fight to win the final prize of assisting some of the world’s biggest make-up artists. Every episode, the contestants face two creative challenges, an opportunity to impress the judges with their skill and imagination, before the bottom two MUAs take part in a technical elimination face-off at the end. It’s fun, it’s frothy, it gets emotional, it gets competitive, there’s a Dazed & Confused shout out. All round, it’s pretty good. We spoke to the judges to find out a bit more.

Why did you want to be a part of Glow Up? What did you first think when they approached you for it?
Val Garland: I thought it was a great concept and I was excited because a programme about emerging make-up artists had never been done before. So this really pulled me in.

Dominic Skinner: Firstly, I’m a huge addict of these types of reality competition shows. A show based on make-up artistry was something my best friend and I would discuss all the time so when I heard one was being produced I was instantly intrigued. One of my favourite parts of the job I do with MAC Cosmetics is artist development. I love nurturing new talent and building skill sets is something I enjoy a lot. So the idea of challenging and developing the skills of a group of mixed ability artists was so exciting. The challenges we put these MUAs through are unbelievable and experiences that some can only dream of. 

Talent contests have been on television for years, across many different fields. Why was the time right for a make-up artist version?
Val Garland: Why not? There’s no such thing as the right time, or not, I believe. I think a lot of people won’t be able to imagine how hard or competitive it can be to become a professional makeup artist if you are not already in the industry. So I guess I felt it was right the time to lift the lid on just what it takes to be a makeup artist.

Dominic Skinner: In the past 10 years make-up has really become an art form for everyone thanks to Instagram and YouTube. However, I feel it’s only now that this type of make-up show could be done as really it’s this younger generation who have grown up seeing make-up as an art form who aren’t constrained by society’s view of what make-up is. And also I think the viewer will be able to watch and see the art within the expressive.

How did you find the mentoring aspect of the job?
Val Garland: I love it! I mean the contestants are all very different, in terms of creativity as well as their personality. It was very empowering to see each MUA develop throughout the series.

Dominic Skinner: I loved the mentoring. It’s something I do all the time at MAC and get immense satisfaction from. After 20+ years of working in makeup you forget how much you actually know and how some of the simple techniques can really help. There’s nothing better that seeing someone master a skill that just hours before they struggled with. But even after all this time I still learn an awful lot myself. As an artist you never stop learning.

The contestants are tested on a wide variety of make-up skills, from beauty editorial to SFX. Do you think it’s important for a make-up artist to be proficient across so many areas?
Val Garland: The more skills you have the more you are equipped to deal with whatever gets thrown at you. Knowledge is power.

Dominic Skinner: It is so important to have a diverse skill set when you’re starting out. It’s important in the beginning to never turn down a job. You never know where that job might lead you or who you might meet. When I was studying my tutor, David Horne, taught me that whenever I was asked if I knew a specific technique I should always say ‘YES’, and then learn it ASAP. Especially in today’s makeup world the lines are getting very blurred. 

For one of the challenges in the opening episode, the brief was “what does beauty mean to you.” What make-up look would you have created for that brief?
Val Garland: For me, whatever you do, there always has to be an element of beauty. You have to see it, feel it, believe it. Then it really doesn’t matter what you do, as long as your subject looks beautiful.

Dominic Skinner: This is an interesting question. When I first started out in this industry my kit was basic and full of ‘magpie makeup’. It was full of glitters and glosses and shiny pretty things and I would have stuck everything I could on that poor model. Now, however, it’s a different story. It’s about nuance and being subtle. Clean skin, brushed brows and a hint of moisture in the skin. Beauty to me today is about the person not necessarily the makeup on top.

What criteria do you use when judging the make-up? If you had to choose between someone who was more technically skilled and someone who had better ideas, what would your choice be?
Val Garland: I would probably looking at the person who has the better ideas. I believe you can be taught a good skill set, but without the ideas, how can you be creative?

Dominic Skinner: Most definitely ideas wins hands down. You can teach technique but you can’t teach creativity. That’s something someone either has or doesn’t.

What should make-up do?
Val Garland: Make-up should do whatever you want it to do. Whether that be transforming, empowering, concealing, enhancing, masking, characterization. Make-up is an incredible tool, it’s up to you how you use it. 

Dominic Skinner: Make-up should make you feel like the person you always knew you were. It should empower you to take on the day. Now whether that’s a full beat or just a wash of mascara is entirely down to you but whatever you do should be for you and make you feel incredible.

What is it that differentiates good make-up artists from great ones? When standards are so high what is it that sets certain people apart?
Val Garland:  It’s a spark, an energy, a confidence. When I look at make-up artists, in my head I put them into two categories. There are the technicians, and then there are the innovators. The technicians will follow your guidelines exactly to the letter and get it right. The innovators will invariably make mistakes, do it wrong, go off on their own tangent. They are risk takers. You have to have a certain level of confidence to be a risk taker. With mistakes comes new ideas. I find that extremely exciting. 

Dominic Skinner: A great make-up artist knows when to stop. Knows that it’s the make-up that does the talking and doesn’t need to over-egg it and give it all the bells and whistles. Sometimes it’s what the artist doesn’t do that sets them apart and get me excited.

Why do you think beauty and make-up have seen such an incredible rise in popularity over the last few years? Do you think it’s sustainable?
Val Garland: Social media has empowered us all to feel that our own identity is important and that we are all worth it. Everyone has the right to feel beautiful.

Dominic Skinner: I would say it’s down to social media. Someone in their bedroom with one eyeshadow palette can create thousands of looks and the world can see it. I do feel though that it’s not sustainable. Like anything in life, culture changes and society shifts and we tend to go in a different direction. Makeup will still have a place and it will forever be a creative art form as it has done for centuries but the full beat face may become a semi-beat.

Beauty tutorials reveal the process behind the finished image - what do you think their immense popularity say about contemporary culture?
Val Garland: I think that what is important today for all of us, is The Journey. How did we get there. Contemporary culture is about experiencing someone else’s process. To be in the moment with that person is today’s addiction.

Dominic Skinner: As humans we’ve always been inquisitive creatures, it’s just in our nature. I feel that make-up tutorials are simply just another way of us gaining information on a subject matter we are interested in.

Where do you think the beauty look will go from here? What will the next big aesthetic be?
Dominic Skinner: Currently backstage I’ve never done so much make-up. In the past, we sometimes would turn up to a show and just groom the brows and curl the lashes. Whereas now, it’s becoming very make-up centric. Which is interesting as on the street and on social media I’m seeing things soften down and become more natural. So going forward I see this continuing. The everyday person is going to be wearing less whereas in fashion I feeling the days of Guy Bourdin. And I love that!

It seemed like you had a lot of fun together. Did you enjoy working with each other?
Val Garland: I really enjoyed doing the show, it was a great experience, especially,  having never done that kind of thing before. It was a hoot. 

Dominic Skinner: I loved working alongside Val and Stacey. I’ve been fortunate enough to work on fashion shows with Val who I’ve idolised for the past 15 years. Over those year, not only have I learnt a huge amount from her I’ve been able to get to know her over many many cups of tea. So working on this show with her was both thrilling and comforting at the same time.

What do you think we will look like in 30 years time?
Dominic Skinner: Who knows. Did we see the instabrow coming? I know I didn’t. What I hope is that we aren’t hung up on others perceptions. That’s we can live with the notion that an alternative idea is just as valid as our own. However, as a sci-fi lover, I would hope that technology gives as incredible development. Lights, lasers and electronic wizardry. I want it all!! 

Val Garland: Exhausted!

The new series of Glow Up begins on Wednesday 6th March and will be available to watch on BBC Three via BBC iPlayer and on BBC One at 10.35pm.