James Mac Inerney

After watching Series 1 of Glow Up last year, James Mac Inerney was successful in applying for Series 2, which is currently streaming on BBC iPlayer, and reached the final as runner-up which saw him host a makeup masterclass at Harrods. Whilst a contestant on the show, James worked with many guest judges including Michelle Visage from RuPaul’s Drag Race and, in episode four, he won the Professional Assignment challenge with Attitude Magazine. As a makeup artist, James has previously worked on the CBBC show Horrible Histories in Series 8, and as a drag artist, James performs under the name of Jaye MacQueen. Speaking with James recently, we found out about his time on Glow Up, winning the Attitude Magazine challenge and performing as Jaye MacQueen.

You were a contestant on Series 2 on Glow Up this year, what was it like to be part of?

It was incredible to be part of Glow Up Series 2. I felt proud to be flying the Irish flag during the competition, knowing there was a lot of work to really prove myself and grow as an artist as much as a person. That was the challenge in itself when signing up. I watched all of the first season each week and knew instantly I wanted to be part of this, fortunately, a second series was scheduled, so I persevered and applied straight away.

Having come runner-up, how did it feel reaching the final and hosting a makeup masterclass at Harrods?

Being a finalist was incredible and felt like a great achievement. From day one I wanted to win, remaining focused throughout the competition. Reaching the final masterclass challenge felt right to me. I never feel too nervous on a stage – I’m not lost for words when it comes to talking to a crowd, I’ve always been a chatty character. I knew my look for the masterclass and felt well prepared, hence comfortable to be myself.

How was it having guest judges on the show which included Michelle Visage from RuPaul’s Drag Race and fashion designer Henry Holland?

It was such an honour to have some incredible guest judges on the show this season. It’s fair to say I was ecstatic when we got to meet Michelle and have her critique my work. I feel I’m going to be haunted by my “Oh Michelle” moment forever, I’m completely fine about that! Meeting Henry Holland and working backstage for his show was an incredible opportunity also, his feedback to my “Icon” Bowie look is something I hold dearly, a great day in the books!

Which week did you enjoy most and how was it working for Attitude Magazine when you won the Professional Assignment challenge in episode four?

Week four of the competition is most definitely my favourite moment throughout the whole experience. The real life assignment for Attitude Magazine was really up my street, using unconventional materials as makeup. I made a decision to make sure my model was wearing the look with the floral bodysuit half down, so I could paint onto his arm. This win was the confidence boost I needed to prove I deserve to be in the competition and keep progressing forward. The club culture creative brief was a perfect opportunity to showcase one of my favourite styles of makeup – drag/club kid. Again, I was pleased to have impressed Andrew Galimore, Val (Garland) and Dom (Skinner) and, of course, Michelle!

When did you decide to apply for Glow Up and what was it like finding out you’d be part of Series 2?

I applied for Glow Up straight after Series 1 aired and the applications for Series 2 opened. I preserved myself, seeing the show as an opportunity for me to combine two passions, makeup and media. I trusted my gut through the application process – if it’s right for me it won’t pass me. I was back in Ireland at Dublin’s first LGBT music festival the day I got the final casting call, safe to say I made sure to celebrate and mark the occasion!

What was the response like from your social media followers to you appearing on the show?

The reaction online was incredible. I did a great job keeping the show under wraps post-filming, not saying anything for months! Many were surprised, yet super supportive and excited I got the opportunity when the news was announced. Many fellow MUAs from various jobs/work were shocked I hadn’t said a thing when working. I knew the value of surprise would be much better when I shared the first press release image on Instagram.

Did you watch the series on TV and if so, how was it and would you do anything differently if you had chance?

I watched the series on TV, and not too embarrassed by anything to watch a second time with family back in Ireland (aunties and uncles). I would follow the brief in the real life challenge if I got a chance to do it all again, and make sure my goat’s horn were symmetrical and overall a more horrifying look for week five’s brief!

What do you feel you learnt from being a contestant?

I learned to listen a lot more to points about each brief – when a designer says silver, use silver! If a look needs lots of glitter, get the glitter on! I had mental blocks when overthinking some of the real life assignments, had I took an extra minute to think clearly and follow the steps I could have achieved better results. I also became so inspired by all the contestants’ work, it helped me bond and meet new friends, especially fellow MUAs my age and that share the same passion.

Can you tell us about some of your previous makeup artist work you were involved with which includes Horrible Histories for CBBC?

Prior to Glow Up, I was working as a makeup trainee in the TV and Film industry. I was fortunate to work on Horrible Histories Series 8 in September 2018, when I first moved to London. Coming straight out of college it really felt like being thrown in at the deep end on a super busy set, multiple makeup changes every day for ten+ casts members, sometimes only five to ten-minute makeups for supporting actor roles (which helped having to manage the eight-minute fashion week look).

How did you first get into makeup?

I loved art as a kid and started to draw face charts, obsessing over eyebrows and eyelashes, on all my school books. When I was fifteen/sixteen, I started to experiment with makeup, mostly eyeliner and eyeshadows at the weekends, coming home from school.

We understand you perform as drag artist Jaye MacQueen, can you tell us more about this?

I love to keep Jaye interesting and quirky, hence the infamous avocado-testicle lashes, safe to say it won’t be forgotten. Jaye helps me engage more with people and hopefully inspire others to express themselves through drag/makeup.

When I perform you can expect high energy, a statement beat, more than likely sweat proof and strong eye makeup. Ironically, there’s no shortage of glitter when doing drag! I feel very much like my boy self when in drag, hence the name reflects my real name. Drag is an amplified and exaggerated form of the regular James. For me, I identify with them/they pronouns in drag or her/she – I don’t mind which way people would like to relate to Jaye regards pronouns.

When and how did Jaye MacQueen come about?

When I was eighteen I had been practising makeup at home and doing bedroom drag. I took a small break when I went to uni, getting back into makeup and drag once I started going out in Dublin’s drag scene. Moving to London was the real birthplace of my drag. I initially called my drag persona Jmac, eventually figuring Jaye was the best solution for a proper name whilst still feeling like something I could relate to. I started to go out and discover London’s club kid scene and cabaret drag scene. From going to various club nights and meeting other drag artists, I felt the push to refine my look, practise and improve and step out with a style that would be different/recognisable.

Along with being a makeup artist, you are involved with photography, what can you say about this side of your work?

I graduated from Dublin City University with a BSc degree in Multimedia Studies. I worked as a freelance photographer throughout my three years and post-uni. I often felt my style of work highlighted what the untrained eye might necessarily not see. Experimenting with lighting, colours and textures was my favourite style – alongside portraiture work and weddings. (I have a gallery of my work on my website www.jamesmacinerney.com under ‘Foto Mac Photography’.) I loved connecting with people through my work – my final year thesis was based around colour blindness and the basis of colour imagery. It was a great lead into my understanding of colour when it came to makeup.

How do you like to spend time away from your career?

I’m originally from the Irish countryside, based in the Midlands. When I’m back home I love getting stuck into the garden, going for hikes and a hack down the road! (Horse riding.) I was an avid horse rider growing up, competing each summer through the school years. I love to go on weekend trips/travel weekends with friends whenever possible either – a great way for me to see new things, visit galleries and feel inspired to create new looks.

Do you have any makeup tips for someone not used to wearing makeup?

Regards skin/foundation – knowing your skin type and skin condition is vital, and prioritising good skincare. Good skin or trying to manage having a good skincare routine will help with trying out different foundations/brands – less is more when trying to achieve a healthy-looking base. Make sure to use good lighting when experimenting with makeup, it’s always great to see products in true lighting and how they react in evening settings also. The most reassuring thing with makeup is that it can be taken off and you can start again!

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Categories: Drag, home, Industry Experts, Interview

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