When seeing a casting call, Jack Oliver applied for Series 3 of Glow Up and after being successful with their application, they joined the cast reaching the Semi-Finals with the series being filmed during the pandemic and airing on BBC iPlayer earlier this year. As a makeup artist, Jack has created many looks and has collaborated with fellow Glow Up contestant and long-time friend Elliott Banks for their look Big Mouths, and their creations can be seen on their social medias. Jack got into drag at around the age of eighteen and up until a few years ago they had been performing as Anna Lies in clubs around the country and more recently, they made an appearance at the care home they were working in during COVID. Catching up with Jack, they talk about filming Glow Up during the pandemic, being a contestant on Series 3 and where they get the inspiration from for their makeup.
Was there anything that encouraged you to apply for Series 3 of Glow Up and do you remember how you felt finding out you’d booked your place?
I had been living in London and working in the makeup world, going out socialising and pushing myself to do better and be creative on a daily basis! This all come to a halt when I packed my stuff and moved back home to my hometown. My granddad had been diagnosed with cancer (after fighting many times) and sadly this time it was to take its toll and become life-changing! I had been caring for my granddad before he passed away and only a few months later, COVID hit us and I ended up working in the care home, where, on a quick break, I had seen the casting calls and only a few days from closing! In a moment of “WHY NOT” I think I applied just to give myself a boost of energy and life to be able to get back to what I know is my life!
Applying was just a very small moment and actually forgetting I’d done it, not mentioning or even really thinking of it again until the day I got a call for callbacks… and there the ball begun rolling… I was actually really overwhelmed by the fact I’d got on and I second thought everything… did I want the world to judge me? I’ve been through a lot as it is… do I need the added pressures? Will I have the support I need to be able to push myself in doing this? You know those creative minds like to double think… then think again on every different outcome. Well, mine does anyway. Looks like I did it, and I have to say the pressures in doing it all have just made me look at it all and see it as another small accomplishment in life and many, many lessons learnt!
Had you met any of the MUAs before appearing on the show and how was it meeting the rest of the MUAs for the first time?
Well. What I thought may have been a chunk of what our stories could have been and what didn’t make it to the final cut is myself and Elliott had been friends for over a decade! In our master interviews we had talked a lot about our friendship and creating together over the years! We both studied at the same college doing separate things and came together to create. You can see all our current work on our social medias – @JackOliverx @BanksElliott.
Meeting the other MUAs was really fun and at the start it was lots of conversations and also realisations some of us had been in same venues, club nights and events at the same dates too, or had friends in common so that’s always a great start!
Series 3 was filmed during COVID, how challenging was this?
I think more mentally this year was challenging due to not being allowed to socialise outside, go to restaurants for meals or enjoy weather in public spaces… or simply pop to the shop! Mentally this was challenging being cooped up in the MUA house and when not, we are filming long days back to back! Production definitely made us as comfy as possible in times and did everything they could within restrictions to assure safety, having tests, temperature checks and PPE in all moments when not filming and everyone being checked regularly! I was very on top of all of this as working in a care home I was also very aware in moments! Every time working with someone or entering a room to assure washing hands and keeping sanitizer at all times!
How did you find the experience as a contestant and did you have a favourite challenge to do?
In all honesty, I found myself in moments questioning why I was here as being judged is always difficult when sometimes coming from the heart and especially when we are working from an alien kit of makeup without the comforts of bits we know! But other than that I enjoyed working the challenges and meeting the guest judges and, of course, our home judges Val (Garland) and Dom (Skinner)… they’re like parents now! Love them both so much and I do have lots of respect for them. I’ll treasure the cuddles at the end with all my heart.
My favourite challenge was probably POSE… totally not following the brief and trying to make sure I wasn’t falling down a hole of similar makeup to the other MUAs. I always try to think outside the box… but maybe that time was a little too far! But doing a remaster of this look has since been my favourite, so I see that as a journey in makeup and art so I love it. Other than that, RANKIN would be my number one, it was the only one I really flourished in (without giving too much away) and it gave me so much to think about and see the journey once again.
What was the online response like to your time on the show?
Love. All but love… again without giving much away… people wanted more!!!
But don’t worry, I try and chat to everyone online as much as I can… with a growing inbox of messages, I see each one and honestly it fills me with hope for our world, being a Non Binary Queer in this world it makes me happy to see support and love!
How much do you feel you learnt from appearing on Glow Up and how was it watching the series when it was released earlier this year?
Oh I learnt a lot… within just holding my own, keeping as professional and calm as possible, even in the heightened stress I think I proved to myself, the world and other artists to just breathe, clear the mind and enjoy the art!
A lot of messages too I get is how well I hold myself and keep calm in situations and I’ll keep that as my learning forever… what’s next? Fashion Week please!
I really found it difficult to watch the show as it was coming out and everyone was watching as what you all see is just a small fraction of a day so I liked to try and remind myself what the days were like! It was funny to see some moments back though!
What advice would you give future contestants when they’re faced with the red chair?
Breathe, clear the mind… and no matter what! It’s reality TV, just be you… enjoy the ups and downs and most of all, love your work, it’s all a journey at the end.
Can you tell us about being a drag queen and performing as Anna Lies?
Drag was a huge part of my life a few years back, working all around the country doing drag and hosting nights and even doing my own with friends. Taught me a lot about people and business and finally myself.
I steered away from drag as I had always seen makeup as my true passion.
When did you start performing as Anna Lies and what did you enjoy most about being a drag queen?
Oh I was about eighteen years old when I started drag, I’d get dressed up and play with gender in day-to-day life being very fluid in my appearance so naturally played with drag and dressing up more evolving. This really took off when I moved to the city where I ended up working for the clubs around the country and having a residency with a haus called the Housewives Of Birmingham! We really put a great stamp on the scene and club culture collectively working on change and bringing a new era of drag!
I loved working in drag, travelling, meeting so many people and being able to work on myself and gain confidence to truly find who I am!
Where do you get the inspiration from for your makeup designs?
Many places really! If you look through to my older work it was very emotion-based and I would pour my feelings into my creative work, then starting to refine and find a love for neon and all things blended but sharp graphic edge!
I couldn’t really put myself into a box with my work as I can be very fluid in what I can do from full body painting, prosthetics to a beauty or full glam! I do love a snatched eye though!
I think really I leave that all up to you as an audience! My work speaks for itself in where emotion comes to play!
How did you first get into makeup and how do you feel your makeup journey has evolved over the years?
Makeup came into my life with gender… I found they both collided side by side for me! I wanted to express that I knew something was different and I wasn’t just the “boy” who liked femme things. I was another creature and looked at gender with a different light and that’s where makeup comes to light for me being able to play and change my appearance. Everyone thought I was really vain I just saw myself as ugly so I wanted to change what I saw in the mirror so makeup was the answer!
This slowly turned into what I loved, making people feel amazing and transforming! I quickly went to college to study makeup, and got my first makeup job and my life took off from there really! Got headhunted for makeup brands, travelled to different countries doing makeup business and working all over!
Do you have any favourite products you always use?
Oh absolutely! I’ve been using Illamasqua Precision Gel Liner and MAC Studio Fix Powder Plus for nearly or even over a decade! I’ve got to say I have staples in my kit but I love to play with new products and trial them out to see what the new best in the business is.
On my Instagram you’ll probably find me using my top faves and new bits!
Over your time as a makeup artist so far, have you had any favourite looks you’ve created and can you say about some of your recent work?
I have so many looks that are not even visible to the public on my socials and bits I’ve loved I have done for nights out but not shared! But I must pin my favourites from the past have to be my BRANDED Adidas brand stamp forehead makeup! And most recently the collaboration with Elliott Banks with our Big Mouths! Just fun images I have enjoyed playing with.
How do you like to spend your time away from your career?
Oh I live and breathe makeup! Every day I’ll be sat at my desk and enjoy something but when not creating or working I will be enjoying time with my partner, friends or family.
I love to travel around the country and have lots of friends all over the UK so it’s nice to see people. During COVID and lockdowns, I very much enjoyed taking the fluff dog out and watching anime shows or gaming… the geek in me playing Animal Crossing.
Alongside being a makeup artist, you also work in a care home, what did the residents and staff think about you being a contestant on Glow Up and how has it been working there during the pandemic?
Working in Dementia and Alzheimer’s it was so difficult to take the time away from them but they all loved and supported what I wanted to do. Staff and residents alike.
There are a few bits online about this as the care home made a good luck video and a beautiful story of one of my lovely ladies who wished me all the luck. I will keep them dear to my heart always and treasure the love I have with them all!
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