If you have yet to stream all 10 episodes of the first season of GLOW, get thee to your Netflix account immediately—the series is a fictionalized take on Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, which was a real, syndicated wrestling show that was huge in the 1980s, featuring the most badass women clad in equally-badass character costumes.
It was a passion project for makeup artist Lana Grossman in particular, considering that she actually grew up watching the original GLOW on TV back in the '80s. "It was sort of serendipitous because when I was doing Masters of Sex, Betty Gilpin, who played Debbie Eagan, had an arc on the last season. She came in and asked to borrow a wig for an audition, and while the hair department helped her out, I asked her which show it was for," she tells us. "Betty was like, 'some show called GLOW,' and I was like, 'You mean the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling?' When I was 10 years old, that was my obsession in life. I was at that age where I was old enough to stay up and watch it, but too young to have a life on Saturday night, and I was just obsessed with it. I was always asking people if they remembered the show, but they never did, so I lost my mind when she told me. I called my agent to see how I could get involved. Like, I was born to do this show."
And we're pretty confident that no one else could have done it better. Because the characters in the Netflix series weren't direct interpretations of the real-life wrestlers on the original, Grossman pulled a few reference photos from some of the women who were in GLOW, as well as from her own childhood. It was also a reunion of sorts—she had actually worked with the show's hair department lead on Mad Men, not to mention, Alison Brie and Rich Sommer, a.k.a. Trudy Campbell and Harry Crane, respectively. "The differences this and Mad Men were that I wasn't around for the time Mad Men was happening, so extensive research went into those looks," Grossman tells us. "I remember GLOW vividly, so I basically got to relive my glitter fantasy."
For Grossman and her team, it was important that the makeup looked like the girls could have done it themselves. "Trying to make it look not perfect is hard because our instinct is to make the actors look their best, but we'd have to go back in and make one eye slightly uneven for the sake of realism," she adds. For the final match, the team experimented with graphic Jem and the Holograms-esque shapes, which ended up looking more editorial than home-grown.
We asked Grossman to recount some of her favorite beauty moments from filming, what the biggest obstacles were with each girl's super-physical role, and of course, the inspirations she drew.
VIDEO: GLOW Tells a Warm, Compelling Story in The World of 80's Women's Wrestling
1. Finally a Team
Even in the training scenes, prior to determining their personas in the ring, having a distinct look that represented each girl was important to the hair and makeup team.
2. The First Fight
Although the fantasy match took place early in the series, it was shot after the rest of the episode in question had, roughly a month into training. "We hadn't gotten much into the actual wrestling at that point, but that was the moment everyone on the team was like, 'Oh my god, this show is going to be huge,'" says Grossman. "That was the first time we saw what Alison and Betty could do, and they killed it. I watched the transition from the previous scene, where Ruth has this ridiculous war paint makeup on, to this one a thousand times, and I think it's my favorite moment in television ever."
3. Dripping in Gold
Because the roles were so physical, keeping the hair and makeup pristine was a constant challenge, but that's how things would react if the girls were actually fighting in the ring, so Grossman and her team decided to go with it. "It was a trial and error thing because makeup obviously wouldn't last through all of it, so we assumed that if it was going to sweat off, that's how it would be in real life," she tells us. "We would let it smear and fall apart, then set it so that the makeup looked the same in the following scene."
4. Melrose and Rhonda
Between the hair and Robert Palmer-esque contouring, these two could would easily look right at home within Contempo Casuals at the mall. "I loved getting to know the girls, and Kate Nash [Rhonda] as well as a few others would come over every Sunday to get spray-tanned," Grossman tells us. "Jackie Tohn [Melrose] was also so funny. Look, it wasn't a beautiful time! There was a ton of glitter, and more was definitely more. It was so fun to see how everything looked once it was put together, and when the crimpers came out, I was just like, 'YES!!'"
5. The Glamorous Debbie Eagan
"With Debbie's makeup, we decided that, since she had a background as a soap actress, she likely knew how to do her makeup herself," Grossman tells us. "We had so much fun, and she was like my Barbie. Every time she changed her clothes, her eyeshadow or lipstick always matched her outfit."
6. Sheila the She-Wolf
Sheila the She-Wolf's transformation scene was probably one of the more fascinating scenes out of the series, and in real life, Grossman described actor Gayle Rankin as a platinum pixie, which was a huge contrast from her on-screen persona. "The shots of her putting on her makeup are probably some of my favorites. We never saw her without the wig and makeup, except once," she tells us. "It was complicated because we wanted it to look like she had done her makeup herself, which was fun to put together."
7. Throwdown in the Ring
Shoutout to Debbie with her matching patriotic makeup. Though Grossman had a hard time picking a favorite look or character from the series, the transition of Alison Brie's character Ruth from totally natural to a wrestler painted up like a Patrick Nagel painting was probably the most fascinating. "We filled in her eyebrows a lot, and I loved her makeup looks as Zoya," she tells us. "For the final match, we have her this solid eye of copper glitter, which faded out toward her eyebrow. It looked so cool in person."