Cork woman says she 'jumped' at chance to be on reality TV show

A young woman from Knocknaheeny features in new TV series, ‘Glow Up Ireland’ on RTÉ 2 tomorrow. EMMA CONNOLLY catches up with the talented Jade Foley
Cork woman says she 'jumped' at chance to be on reality TV show

Jade Foley from Knocknaheeny, who stars in Glow Up Ireland, on our TV screens tomorrow, September 2.

A YOUNG Cork woman who once felt her life wasn’t even worth living is taking part in a new RTÉ series featuring some of Ireland’s best make-up artists.

And 20-year-old Jade Foley feels the strength of her late Nana and best friend Noreen with her every step of the way on the journey helped show her that anything is possible.

Jade will hit our TV screens on RTÉ2 tomorrow, Thursday September 2 in Glow Up Ireland. The reality TV show is known to thousands as the UK version was a huge hit on Netflix.

Following the exact same format, Glow Up Ireland will be presented by TV star, model and influencer Maura Higgins of Love Island fame and follows 10 of Ireland’s best amateur make-up artists, including Jade, in their quest to become Ireland’s Next Make-Up Star and win a fantastic opportunity to further their professional career. It’s an incredible experience for Jade, from Knocknaheeny, who growing up felt like like she never fitted in.

“I never liked the same things as everyone else,” she said. “And I always felt like I didn’t belong. I was extremely creative, and never really liked nights out, or even drinking. I wasn’t a group person and much preferred doing things one on one.”

Those feelings developed into social anxiety and she remembers having her first panic attack when she was 13-years-old and in first year in school.

As a person of colour, she had experienced racial bullying before this and when, the week before her 14th birthday, her beloved Nana died, she started struggling with depression.

Makeup artist, Jade Foley.
Makeup artist, Jade Foley.

“My Nana was my best friend and my inspiration. She had battled cancer for 16 years and was the glue in our family,” said Jade.

As she continued to struggle with her mental health, Jade, who was a very academic student, switched secondary schools in fifth year hoping it would help her.

“I was in a very bad place, and was considering dropping out and not even finishing school. It was a very tough time in my life,” she remembers.

The change didn’t help, and she took the radical decision to be home schooled for her Leaving Cert year; and while at one stage she would have been aiming for top points, she dropped to lower level in all subjects except Art.

“It worked really well for me and I passed everything. Learning wasn’t what was hard for me, it was keeping up as I would miss out on a lot due to my mental health. I put really high expectations on myself but I couldn’t fulfil them due to my mental health,” she said.

At one of her lowest moments, aged 17, Jade felt convinced she wouldn’t live past 18.

“I really felt my life wasn’t destined to go anywhere, and that’s why I now take all opportunities that come my way and why I jumped at the chance to be on this show,” she said.

Jade Foley and rest of the contestants
Jade Foley and rest of the contestants

She only got involved after someone tagged her in a post about the show on Instagram and she was invited to audition. She clearly impressed, and has only recently finished up filming.

With the help of counselling, thankfully Jade realised she had the power to turn things around for herself.

“I realised I could either wallow in all the things that had happened to me, let all that dictate my life, or use it as a stepping stone to get to where I wanted to be. So I took matters into my own hands and threw myself into my art and my work,” she said.

That saw her attend a beauty course with Cork’s Tiger Training, which she’s now following up with a further make up course with Solas.

An only child, growing up with a single mother, Jade says she realises now that it wasn’t always easy for her mum, whom she’s very close to. She says she still finds people try to project certain stereotypes on to her on the basis of her skin colour.

But being involved in the RTÉ series has been ‘amazing’ for her.

“It was both one of the best and one of the hardest experiences in my life, and I know the people I met doing it will be in my life for a long time.”

She said she could feel her Nana Noreen’s presence with her the whole time: “I feel I became her, that I embodied her strength. As I put my heart on the line, she got me through it.”

And to anyone feeling as low as she once did, she said: “Just keep reminding yourself how you far you are after getting already; and how you got through all the obstacles you thought you could never face and you will get strength from that.”

Jade is finishing her course in a few weeks and is looking forward to getting as much experience as possible in the beauty industry she loves, and hopefully travelling.

She also loves creating content on her social media platforms (follow her on makeupbyjade_1).

She’s under strict orders not to disclose how she does on the show, and will only reveal she’s the only Cork contestant — for everything else we’ll have to tune in.

“Go on the Rebels!” she laughed.

If you are concerned about any of the issues raised in this piece, contact, support is at hand:

Samaritans 116 123

Aware Helpline: 1890 303 302

GROW 1890 474 474

Pieta House 1800 247 247

Maura Higgins and the contestants, including Cork woman Jade Foley.
Maura Higgins and the contestants, including Cork woman Jade Foley.


Glow Up Ireland is an established format, produced first for BBC Three and now produced in territories like Norway, New Zealand and the Netherlands.

Each episode contains two themed challenges — a professional brief and a creative brief. The professional brief will involve a guest judge and will be based on the work of professional Make Up Artists — for example red carpet; catwalk; editorial; movie prosthetics; drag; theatre; advertising.

The creative brief will, as the name suggests, test the creativity and interpretation skills of the MUAs.

The two worst performers in the professional brief find themselves in the Red Chairs in the second challenge, facing extra pressure, extra scrutiny and potentially a time penalty, and only one can return to the competition. The two judges putting the 10 make up artists through their paces will be industry professionals Cathyanne Mac Allister and Emma O’ Byrne.

With over 35 years experience, Cathyanne has worked with massive design houses including Christian Dior, John Galliano, Roberto Cavalli, Givenchy and Dolce and Gabbana, along with countless editorials with Vogue, Harpers Bazaar and literally thousands of Fashion Week shows.

Emma has been working as a make-up artist for 20 years. She has travelled the world working with Charlotte Tilbury on shows including Victoria Secret, Tom Ford, Victoria Beckham and Donna Karen in New York as well as the likes of Gucci, Chloe and Versace. Having been backstage at the wedding of George and Amal Clooney Emma went on to work on the British Royal wedding making up both Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie and has done several other Royal weddings.

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