July 24, 2021

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Stop Everything + Watch “The Circle’s” Beauty Challenge

I hope Netflix’s “The Circle” lasts forever—mostly for an annual injection of pure, mindless television (I promise you that no 13 hours of reality TV measures up to its level of dumb-factor). But also to keep up the ensuing beauty conversation that the show always brings. During its first season, which last year Utibe described as “the psychological underbelly and gamification of social media,” we were introduced to contestant Joey Sasso’s high octane beauty routine. This time around, the editors skimped on the primp scenes, but did give us a glorious cameo from Jonathan Van Ness, who presided over a beauty challenge that cost a player $100K and an exit ticket from the show. Can we pleeeease talk about this?

I’ll set the scene for the uninitiated. Seven strangers are living in an apartment complex together, where their only means of interaction is via social media. No in-person get-togethers, no live videos—only photos and chat rooms. The seven players periodically rank each other, and the most popular contestant at the end wins $100K. Sounds easy enough, right? The catch is that some people are who they say they are, while others are catfishing their way through the game in a bid to win more popularity points.

Jack Atkins is playing Emily, who is his real-life, very good looking friend. Jack presents Emily as a carefree sorority girl who might have a piece of driftwood with “live, laugh, love” somewhere in her home. The rest of “The Circle” contestants seem to believe Emily is real and not a catfish—that is, until Jonathan Van Ness waltzes in. (Celebrities make a few appearances this season; keep up!) Equipping the players with a mannequin head and a glam kit, JVF instructs the players to construct their “most fabulous self.” A 3-D self-portrait, if you will, featuring wigs and makeup the show provides. And Jack is terrible at this. He is abysmal!! Listen, I know that not everyone wears makeup, and that it doesn’t even come easy for people who do wear makeup, but Jack approaches makeup like he’s from Pluto and encountering gravity for the first time. Foundation? Jack’s got that covered! Unfortunately he reaches for blush instead, sweeping it all over the mannequin’s face. His first clue should have been that the powder formula didn’t want to adhere to the plastic mannequin head. “It’s like powdered sugar,” says Jack. He brushes on some eyeshadow underneath his mannequin’s eyes, and affixes a pair of eyelashes above the eye, which admittedly, does not look terrible. When it comes to the brows, he draws two skinny lines straight across and, come to think of it, he draws the lipstick straight across too for what ultimately becomes a mannequin version of -_-

As he puts the finishing touches on his Franken-creature, Jack knows his days are numbered: “I feel like I’m a caveman discovering fire for the first time,” he lets out. I’m not here to poke fun at his technique, but I seriously cannot get over it. To be clear, every other person on the show, of all genders, completed this makeup challenge with far fewer difficulties. Jack’s performance was so incredibly bad that it was unequivocally hilarious. In the end it cost him the $100K prize. A “take that,” for anyone who says learning about makeup doesn’t pay.

—Ashley Weatherford

Photo via Netflix