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Glow Up season two winner Ophelia talks sci-fi beauty and bad attitude

We find out what the future holds for the Hong Kong-born creative and how she’s grown through the competition

A little over a month ago, season two of Glow Up debuted on BBC3 – with make-up legends Val Garland and Dominic Skinner searching for the next big MUA. 

Over the weeks, we’ve seen the contestants – some of whom you can learn more about here – try their hand at challenges to create looks based on their identity, worst fears, and superheroes. Last night’s finale saw Ophelia, James, and Eve battle it out through the final challenge – a look with a theme of evolution. 

Impressing with her look inspired by diamonds, Ophelia Liu – AKA @necropheliac – took the top spot and follows in the footsteps of season one winner Ellis Atlantis. Speaking to Dazed Beauty previously, Ophelia described her aesthetic as: “Melancholic. Diabolical. Ethereal. Certain times I can be quite opulent with the more glamorous, wearable looks, but with some bad attitude thrown into it.” The attitude part is something she’s come to investigate herself, being called out for it one episode (more on that below) but, ultimately, it helped her grow into a more well-rounded creative to snatch the crown. 

Following her win, here we speak with Ophelia about her journey through the series, how she’s grown as a creative, and what the future holds for her. 

Congratulations on winning S2 of Glow Up! How are you feeling?

Ophelia Liu: I am so honoured to even be on the show, and to win it I am so over the moon. I’ve always been told by my friends and colleagues that I sell myself short, that I should put more faith in myself, give myself more credit. So, as much as I am proud of myself for achieving this, I have to ground myself and not get big headed. I still have a lot more to learn and this is just a milestone in my journey.

How have you grown as a creative throughout the process? 

Ophelia Liu: I definitely learnt to keep my cool, especially in episode six where my ‘attitude’ kind of slipped out and I got many comments about it – I’m definitely going to keep my eyes out for how I act on any set. 

Creatively, I still have so much more to learn, especially for special effects and sculpting for prosthetic pieces. Can you imagine what I can create if I know those skills?! I’m getting excited just thinking about it. Being creative also means dream big for me, to ignore the rules, be vulnerable and be free with my work. There’s still a lot of areas in creativity where I need to work on and develop. I definitely learnt a lot from all the other nine contestants, I’m honoured to have the chance to see their working styles and processes.

What was your favourite look to create? Why?  

Ophelia Liu: I enjoyed doing my ‘Superhero’ look – my character was called Karma and it is all about invisibility and psychic abilities. A very spiritual piece of work, but haunting and slightly aggressive because it’s Karma. I remember when I was creating that look I wasn’t stressed at all, there was calmness and tranquillity in me which doesn’t always happen. I find that very ominous. 

Another reason why I loved that look is because of the concept itself, it captured my muse which was a ghost I saw when I was young, and also my personal experience with injustice. To me, it was a projection of all of those thoughts and feelings; it was more than just a make-up look to me. 

What is the most valuable advice you got from Val and Dominic?

Ophelia Liu: The few times that I’ve let myself down I have been open to Val and Dom’s critiques, even though I did have my side of the story. But at the end of the day, it isn’t about me, it’s about my work and who I am working with. I have been constantly reminded that I will get jobs that I wouldn’t find particularly interesting, but I have to be open for them if I ever want to earn money and be successful – I agree 100 per cent. 

I have been working through that since I was young especially when you were brought up and forced to do things you didn’t like, and getting told off for doing things you like. I definitely need to work on that and be more open to different sides of the industry. 

“Be self-critical and be honest to yourself. It hasn’t always been easy to do that and it does put myself into a self-doubt mode. But that is your intuition, your eyes, your senses telling you whether you are achieving what you want or not” – Ophelia Liu 

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to hone their skills as a creative/MUA?

Ophelia Liu: I would say be self-critical and be honest to yourself. It hasn’t always been easy to do that and it does put myself into a self-doubt mode. But that is your intuition, your eyes, your senses telling you whether you are achieving what you want or not. Ask yourself, is this giving me the mood that I want to create? Will my audience feel what I am trying to express? Are my techniques up to par? Are my lines clean or are they intentionally messy? As soon as you get those answers, then you will know what to do next and where to improve.

Also, if you have a mentor (or as we say in Cantonese – Si Fu) or someone who can help with elevating your skill set and knowledge – learn from them and be humble because they will change your life. I have my mentors and I will never stop learning from them. 

What's your dream project or collaboration?

Ophelia Liu: I dream of having my own clothing brand while doing make-up at the same time, and hopefully to come out with my own make-up line. However, I would also love to work for Rick Owens, who is my favourite fashion designer out there. Working on a sci-fi/horror film set as iconic as Alien, is also one of my dreams. Though at this moment I would be excited for any collaborations or projects, as I have a lot to venture out to. 

How do you think the beauty/make-up industry is going to change post-COVID-19?

Ophelia Liu: COVID-19 has 100 per cent taken its toll on the make-up industry, from retail to any close-contact jobs. I have also been without work during this time. I can’t foresee how the industry will be changing in the future, but I do hope that creativity and innovation will continue to speak louder than money and selling. Businesses and creatives out there would have the time to reflect on the future generation and how important it is to nurture us, especially through tough times like COVID-19, for us to move forward as a collective. 

At the same time, I think a lot of people do miss the glamour of going to a salon to get their hair and nails done, or getting their make-up done. It is a privilege to have these services available, so it’s time to give creatives a bit more credit and not take advantage of them. 

People have been dressing up with a full face, experimenting with their looks at home just to go on a Zoom meeting with their friends. I hope from this people would become more aware of what make-up, fashion, and being carefree can make an individual feel, and that people want to look a certain way because they do it for themselves, and not for anyone else. 

What are your plans for the future? 

Ophelia Liu: I have so many dreams to turn into reality that I don’t even know where to start. I’m very excited to see what the future brings me, and then work with what I’ve got and push myself further as a creative and an entrepreneur.

At the end of the day, just like everyone, I want to at least have a stable income from doing what I love and to be able to build my empire to continue the legacy to the next generation and so on. I’m not only aiming to be a creative, I want to be influential and I will always push myself to be better and achieve as much as I can.