Glow Up Episode 5 – Drag Make-up

Glow Up Episode 5 – Drag Make-up

The fifth episode of Glow Up did not disappoint! The theme was Drag make-up. This is an area of make-up that many people think of but few understand how skilled, transformative and steeped in history this make-up style really is… From beauty techniques used today, pop culture icons to fashion make-up looks, they all stem from drag make-up. We hosted our own Drag Masterclass last month with Drag Queens Tom Scanlon and Steven Cleverley – you can read all about it here. We learned that the term ‘Drag’ dates back to Shakespeare’s time where men had to play the parts of women in the theatre; Drag literally means “dressed as a girl”. The make-up on drag queens has to make the face look feminine, dramatic and suitable for the stage. To be good at drag make-up, the artist needs to understand facial anatomy, expert blending and which products work well with sweat and strong lighting. This is not a simple or straight forward job. 


Guest judge on this show was South Korean-Amercian drag queen, Kim Chi. Known for her immaculate and daring make-up looks when starring in RuPaul’s Drag Race, Kim knows a lot about drag make-up. With three million followers on Instagram, Kim creates some of the most arresting drag make-up looks we have ever seen.

The first challenge sees the remaining contestants go backstage at top West End musical, Kinky Boots. We have had many graduates work on this show, and know the demands expected from wiggies and make-up artists alike. Interestingly, it is only the lead actors who have their make-up done in theatre, drag queens, dancers and other cast are usually expected to do their own with lessons and designs from the head of department. At Kinky Boots, the HOD is Kate Griffiths who showed the contestants the drag make-up looks that they needed to apply to the Kinky Boots Angels – a group of drag queens in the show. With only one hour, we felt this was a challenging task, as experienced drag queens themselves would take this time, if not more to complete their own drag make-up. Applying this look to someone else is HARD. We were delighted to see Tom Scanlon again, who starred as an Angel in Kinky Boots (he is now part of the #DelamarFamily). The Angels were very particular about their make-up and proved to be tricky clients for the contestants, none of which managed to smash this challenge. Ellis and Leigh did the best at this task though, showing they could work under pressure and follow the brief quite well. Timing was still a serious issue but we secretly loved watching the panic and drama unfold…


The second task was the creative challenge where contestants had more time to prepare and apply their make-up. This challenge was all about exploring gender through the power of make-up. Val wanted to see “Kings, Queens and everything in between”. Kim Chi explained how drag is all about “creating art through gender and transformation”, so naturally this challenge was a very fitting one for the episode. We loved seeing the contestants give their take on this brief, showing the ambiguous and creative ways to interpret gender. Ellis really wowed the judges, and what we liked the most about his work, was how he dressed the wig! The colour, shape and texture of the wig he chose really worked with the primary colours in his design.


Next week we cannot wait to see the fashion show episode. This episode shows the key skills needed for any make-up artist to succeed backstage at fashion shows. Check in next week to read our low down on the sixth episode of Glow Up, which is available on BBC Three via iPlayer and will also air on BBC One at 10.35pm.

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