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Glow Up's Jack Oliver on bringing non-binary pronouns to the BBC and their incredible journey to the show

The MUA previously gave up makeup for a moving reason

Fiona Ward

BBC Three's Glow Up has an army of fans in the UK and across the world, and the latest season was no different.

The show, which is now airing on Netflix, won new praise for inclusivity within its 2021 series - which saw the introduction of pronouns in the on-screen bios of each contestant.

MORE: Why Stacey Dooley left Glow Up

It's thought to be the first time a TV show has displayed gender pronouns in this way. The change was brought about by non-binary makeup artist Jack Oliver, sparking a huge response from others who have previously felt misrepresented.

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Jack brought their bold and beautiful makeup looks to BBC Three's Glow Up

And as well as making television history, Jack has another incredibly inspiring story to tell, having previously given up their makeup career to care for their grandfather in his final days - before becoming a frontline worker during the coronavirus pandemic. The makeup artist tells HELLO! all about their incredible journey...

From MUA to full-time carer

For their 26 years, Jack certainly has a story to tell - from being a star of the beloved Birmingham drag scene as Anna Lies to working with brands such as Illamasqua and Makeup Forever.

But before the opportunity to appear on Glow Up came around, Jack all but gave up their creative career for a very moving reason.


Jack was famous on the Birmingham drag scene as Anna Lies

"I had been so busy working for years, from doing drag to working in makeup in London," they said. "I hadn't been home for so long - I think I'd missed five Christmases - and one day I just decided I needed to go home for a little visit."

Tragically, during Jack's return trip, they learned that their grandfather had been given just months to live.

"It just kind of broke me," they said. "It just made me think, what am I doing?

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Jack with their grandparents

"We were talking about hospices and other options, and my grandad just explicitly said that was not what he wanted. So I went back to London, I packed my bags, I handed in my notice and I left my job - and I came home and I looked after my grandad on end of life care."

They added: "He was in the house, in a hospital bed in the dining room, and I slept on the sofa next to him for about six months until he passed away. So it was pretty traumatic, to be honest."

Jack remembers: "You know, my granddad was the one that that would slip me £20 to buy a lipstick. He was always so supportive. He never questioned my image, he never questioned my sexuality, he never questioned my gender. I was just Jack, and he loved me for me. And he was always so supportive of my makeup work and what I wanted to do."

The Covid frontline

After such a difficult time, Jack stayed put in their hometown of Cambridgeshire, only to take on another huge challenge shortly afterwards.

"My mum worked as a receptionist in a local care home, and got me a job as an activities co-ordinator - so I was going to be doing nail painting, art, movie days, garden visits and things like that," they said.

"I started the job and no more than eight days later Covid-19 arrived - and a whole new world happened.

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Jack trained as a carer in order to help during the coronavirus pandemic

"We were losing carers because people were shielding, and people were being told to isolate with underlying illnesses. A lot of care staff were going off sick. So I spent three days in intensive training and became a carer myself."

Describing the gruelling conditions of working in a care home during that time, they added: "It was really tough. Everyone had to be isolated in their rooms at the very beginning. So it was really difficult - we were literally going from room to room to room to do personal care and check on everybody. We did temperature checks every hour on the hour, wearing full PPE."

The Glow Up journey

Jack had been away from the makeup industry for nearly two years when an Instagram notification popped up, inviting them to apply for the next season of Glow Up.

"I was on my lunch break, I had about five minutes, just to have a drink and sit down for a second.

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Jack with the cast of Glow Up

"I applied on a complete whim - I was feeling a bit down and missing the world of makeup. Then I completely forgot that I did it because it was such a busy day. And then a few weeks later, I got a phonecall from Glow Up."

Bringing pronouns to the BBC

Jack identifies as non-binary, and made it clear from the beginning that they weren't comfortable with male pronouns on their first application form, which only offered binary genders.

MORE: 12 stylish buys to show your support for Pride Month 2021

"I ticked the box of my birth gender but added that I don't agree," they said. "Once I had a call with them, that became a topic of conversation and we chatted about it. I said that I would just be so much more comfortable if they used they/them because that's how I've lived for so many years - if someone was to say 'he' I think it would break me.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Illamasqua (@illamasqua)


Speaking out for Illamasqua's Pride campaign

"We had a meeting on the topic during the audition process, and I suggested that adding pronouns alongside our names, age and job would be an easy way to do things.

MORE: Maya Jama addresses lack of diversity on TV in amazing way

"We spoke about it a lot, and I knew my pronouns would be included in some way, but I didn't know it was actually going to appear on screen until I saw the show.

"It's really nice to know that I was the person to put that on television. I've had hundreds of messages from people, it just makes makes non-binary people so happy to see that representation on television. I'm glad that I've been able to support them."

Looking ahead

On Glow Up, Jack was hailed both for their bold, creative ideas as well as an ability to create that gorgeous commercial glow - and after taking so much time away from the makeup world to help and support others, they're starting to embrace life as an MUA once again.

Despite that, they still dedicate their time to the care home, telling us: "I'm still working a couple of shifts a week at the home, and working in makeup too. Eventually I think the world of makeup is going to take back over my life, and I do need to go to it back at some point, but I've always said that I'll be happy to help out when they need me.

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Jack works with RuPaul's Drag Race UK star Cheryl Hole

"In the future I'd love to do some charity work for them as well, and start some conversations around dementia and Alzheimers."

Jack assures us there's lots of exciting new projects in the pipeline, having recently glammed up UK Drag Race star Cheryl Hole for a red carpet event, as well as lending their voice to Illamasqua's pride hub in an inspiring beauty campaign. We have no doubt the future's bright...

Activa las alertas de ¡HOLA! y entérate de todo antes que nadie