June 2024

Prosthetics ace working with world’s leading make-up artists after winning BBC show

By Melanie Hall

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Read time: approx 6 mins

A former prosthetics master's student from University College Birmingham is working with the world's leading make-up artists after winning BBC talent show Glow Up – Britain’s Next Make-Up Star.

Shania Parris, who studied the MA Prosthetics for Film and Television postgraduate course, wowed judges on the show to be crowned series six champion, winning a coveted contract to assist industry leading lights on high-profile campaigns.

During her time on the show, Shania had the incredible opportunity to create looks for Lady Gaga's global brand, Haus Labs, and sneaker brand Foot Locker, create body-painted avatars for Roblox, host a masterclass at Harvey Nichols and show off her work to surprise judge NikkieTutorials.

Contestants also had the chance to work on the BBC's Casualty series, as well as try out their make-up creations on partners and family members.

Shania, from Coventry, was hand-picked from thousands to be one of just eight contestants on Glow Up, one of whom, George, also studied at University College Birmingham, completing his Level 3 Theatrical Hair and Media Make-up college course in 2020. They follow in the footsteps of graduates Stephanie Harrison and Brandon Gaunt, who appeared in the show in previous years.

Shania told the BBC it felt "absolutely unbelievable" having wanted to take part since the programme first launched.

"It just felt like this year was going to be my year," she said.

"It was emotional when they all walked in, it was crazy."

Shania, who would like to go into productions and special effects, completed a university placement creating prosthetics for West Midlands Police's disaster training. 

The 24-year-old from Coundon’s success on the show, which gives contestants the chance to unleash their creative vision with jaw-dropping results, is even more poignant considering how she first got into specialist make-up.     

During Glow Up, she spoke about her struggles with mental health and how she had started experimenting with make-up as a teenager because she was self-conscious about her hyperpigmentation.

Bullied when she was younger, Shania said make-up gave her a chance to cover up the things people could potentially bully her for. "Then it just turned into an absolute love and passion for the art that is make-up," she told the BBC.

Since her win, which has led to 24k followers on Instagram, she said it had been "a rollercoaster" as friends and family did not know what the results were, but she had "so much love from the people closest to me".

The contract she won would be "the biggest stepping stone for my career", she said.

Prosthetics senior lecturer Alexandra Massie, who has worked on everything from Doctor Who, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and Games of Thrones to Lady Gaga’s Born this Way music video,  said she was very proud of Shania.

“Working in prosthetics is a lifestyle choice and takes a lot of dedication, determination and passion to reach the top,” she said.

“Throughout Shania's time studying with us, she demonstrated a real keenness to succeed. 

“She has shown resilience during setbacks, with the maturity and confidence to learn from errors to develop further, and I am proud of Shania for the achievements she has made so far to realise her dream career.”

She added that there was a £2.19 billion (63%) spend increase on scripted production in the UK between 2017 and 2021, which has led to a huge demand for skilled crew, according to the BFI Skills Review (2022).

“Crew shortages are impacting film and High-End Television (HETV) productions and are especially threatening for the success of the independent film sector, a developing ground for new and exciting world-class UK talent,” she said.

“Our prosthetics courses are designed to produce graduates that have the necessary skills to ensures the industry continues to thrive.”

Building the portfolio

Due to demand, University College Birmingham has launched a new Prosthetics for Screen and Stage BA (Hons) / FdA undergraduate degree with an optional placement, starting in September 2024. Graduates from this course can progress onto the MA Prosthetics for Film and Television.

Students will work with industry standard prosthetic materials, techniques and digital software such as Photoshop, ZBrush and 3D rendering technologies, all while developing an in-depth understanding of entrepreneurship and business strategies to succeed. 

“This new course is designed to equip learners with a wealth of knowledge, tools, professional attributes and development opportunities within a range of career avenues in order to succeed in a creative and dynamic career,” Alexandra said.  

Find out more about our Department of Creative Industries and our world-class facilities.

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