Competition reality shows can be brutal. Not only do people get sent home each week, but they also face drama on top of crushing disappointment. The success of shows like “America’s Next Top Model” inspired many producers to embrace chaos, manufacturing problems even when there aren’t any in order to drive viewer engagement. Unfortunately, even shows like the special-effects makeup challenge “Face Off” became prone to melodrama and a focus on the contestants struggling or having meltdowns instead of the genius behind the art.
“Glow Up” seems to want to focus instead on the incredible makeup artistry on display, along with the stories of the people who have decided to compete. There’s an incredible amount of diversity and people’s unique perspectives are prized. Just in season 4, there are two non-binary contestants, a few gay and bi contestants, and two contestants who are African immigrants. All of them discuss their experiences as marginalized people in the world, and how that has impacted their work, but it never feels ham-fisted or preachy. Instead, the series is just shining a spotlight on some talented, incredible people who have faced some additional challenges on their way to success.
By highlighting positivity and empathy instead of harsh competition, it’s easy to become attached to the competitors. Viewers really get to know each of them and their skills, hopes, and dreams, so when someone is sent home or manages to eke by for another week, it matters.