Urlingford native Michael Ryan is a star of RTÉ's new reality TV show Glow Up Ireland
It was nailbiting stuff with makeup brushes at the ready as Ireland’s top 10 makeup artists battled to avoid elimination on the first episode of RTE2’s new series Glow Up Ireland.
Kilkenny contestant Carol Knox made great television as she fought to retain her place in the competition. While her determination saw her through, the judges were very impressed with our other Kilkenny contestant Michael Ryan, who completed a creative drag queen Friesian cow look, topping it off with real ear tags!
The looks created by Michael for episode one of Glow Up Ireland, the new reality show on RTÉ
Make sure to tune in to RTÉ 2 every Thursday at 9.35pm to see how far our county’s contestants go. Check out Wednesday's Kilkenny People when we chat to Michael Ryan, our other Kilkenny contestant who grew up in Urlingford and swapped country life for concealer and sequins.
Michael tell me about yourself.
I’m 31 now and grew up in Urlingford through the 1990s. I went to school in Urlingford National School and onto secondary school in Thurles CBS, where I’m sure my parents thought I’d become a county hurler but here I am now doing makeup on national TV. I’ve being living in Dublin for the last 12 years but I moved home during the pandemic, so I think the Kilkenny boy is back in me now.
When did you become interested in makeup?
I got into makeup when I was in college. I went to IADT to study English but being in Art College I got distracted pretty quickly and started hanging out with people who were studying makeup. I fell in love with makeup straight away. Having never touched a makeup brush before that I went into it with no preconceived ideas of what makeup was about so I found my own style quite fast.
Have you always been artistic?
Absolutely. When I was younger I was really into painting. My mother worked as a carer for an elderly lady who was an incredible painter and she taught me a lot. I was obsessed with her. When the awkward teenage years hit and you start to worry about what other people think I stopped painting and didn’t really do much artistically until I went to college and got into makeup.
Is makeup currently your career or a pastime?
Makeup was my full-time career until I got swept up into the world of drag and nightlife. Pre-pandemic I worked as a drag queen, both performing and DJing, all over the country.
What made you decide to apply for the first series of Glow Up Ireland?
As I said I had moved home during the pandemic, clubs had been closed for over a year and I was still out of work so when Glow Up was announced I took it as a sign that this was my chance to get back into makeup full time and flex my creative muscle that had nearly disappeared by that stage.
Were you a fan of BBC Glow Up?
I was obsessed with the BBC version of the show. Val Garland has been an icon of mine since I started in makeup and to see her work on the show is incredible. I take everything she says on the show as bible script.
What was filming like?
Filming the show was really challenging. Us MUAs (MakeUp Artists) are really pushed to our creative limits, which is exactly what I signed up for. Our skills are put the test and when you’re creating in a room with 10 other incredible artists you have to focus on your strengths and push yourself outside your comfort zone.
Did you get on well with Maura Higgins?
Maura was such a gem. She has the tough job of trying to talk to us while we’re in the middle of doing our creative challenges. Our stress levels are always through the roof then, but she somehow manages to make you forget about the pressure for a second and breathe. It’s a real lifeline at times.
What did you think of the judges Emma and Cathyanne?
I have fallen head over heels in love with Cathyanne MacAllister, the woman blows my mind every time she opens her mouth - she is incredible. Both she and Emma put us through our paces for sure but the advice they gave us throughout the competition will stick with us for life.
Tell us about some of the other MUAs - did you make friends or was it very competitive?
It’s such a reality TV show cliché but I can honestly say I’ve have made some lifelong friends from this show. They are the most incredible bunch of people and their talent is going to amaze everyone.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I pull most of my inspiration from art and the fashion world. I’m inspired by artist like Keith Harring and Jean Michelle Basquiat, and designers like John Galliano and Gareth Pugh.
We know you can’t tell us how far you get in the contest but what are your plans for the future?
I hope after the show I can take all these new skills I’ve learned and bring them with me into my work. I would love to work in the fashion scene and my love for the theatre and entertainment scene will also stay in my work
What tips would you give to someone who wanted to create looks like these?
Don’t be afraid to mess up. Makeup is all about making mistakes. It’s through mistakes that we find new techniques and different ways of thinking. Just give yourself time and have fun.
What was your reaction to seeing episode one?
It feels so strange to finally have it on air and shared with the world. It was very surreal seeing myself on TV; we filmed so much for the show and have no idea what is going to be used every week. It was terrifying and overwhelming at times but so exciting. Everyone on the show is so talented and the looks that are produced are amazing. I’m so proud of what we all achieved.
Can you give us any clues what to expect this week in episode two?
So this week is our social media week with Keilidh MUA. I’m very much a millennial so being in with lots of people who’ve grown up with Tik-Tok and other platforms is very intimidating. I can’t wait for you all to see what we got up to with Keilidh.
How have family and friends reacted to the news that you are on TV?
My family have been so supportive through this whole experience. I have the most incredible parents anyone could ever ask for. They’ve always encouraged me to go out and achieve my dreams so they’re over the moon watching me now.
Who did you watch the first episode with?
I watched the first episode with some other members of the cast. This was such a unique experience to go through so it was special to share that moment with them.
Why should viewers tune in for the next seven weeks?
The creative art scene in Ireland can often get overlooked but we have an amazing creativity in this country and this show will highlight that. Plus Maura Higgins is on it - what more do you need?!
Have you ever made makeup mistakes?
I was an emo, that’s really all I need to say on that. Lots of black eyeliner...
What’s your best beauty tip?
Hydrate! It’s so boring, but it’s the best beauty tip out there. Hydrated skin is the best base for any look.
Do you wear makeup every day?
I’m very low maintenance on the daily, so it’s just skin care and dab of concealer.
Who’s your favourite celebrity for makeup looks?
You can beat Lady Gaga, she serves it to us every chance she gets.
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