YouTube star and beauty influencer James Charles is launching a “Project Runway”-style reality competition show — in which he’ll pick one up-and-coming makeup artist as the winner of a $50,000 cash prize.
The show, which has the working title “James Charles Instant Influencer,” is slated to debut in the spring of 2020 on Charles’ YouTube channel with episodes to be released weekly. Charles will host, direct and executive produce the series.
YouTube is funding the four-part series as part of its revamped originals strategy, focusing less on scripted fare and more on personality-driven, music and learning content, with all original programming being made available on the free, ad-supported service.
“Ever since I entered the beauty space three years ago, I’ve dreamed of producing my own beauty competition show,” Charles told Variety. “It’s a dream come true… It’s such an amazing opportunity for [YouTube] to take it above and beyond what we expected.”
L.A.-based Charles, 20, was famously the first male spokesperson for CoverGirl and is among the most popular makeup artists on YouTube, currently with 16.3 million subscribers to his channel. He also has 15.3 million Instagram followers and 4.3 million on Twitter.
Starting Friday (Nov. 15), aspiring contestants can apply at jamescharlescasting.com for consideration to be on the show. Entry is available to U.S. residents 18 or older who have an active YouTube beauty channel. Creators must submit an application by Nov. 21 at midnight PT that includes a YouTube video link showing off their makeup skills.
Out of the applicant pool, Charles and his production team will pick six finalists, who will be flown out to Los Angeles and participate in different challenges on the show for Charles and various guest celebrity judges and industry veterans.
“The whole point is to pick a person I think will bring something positive to the community,” Charles said. “It was important for me to make it really true to how the beauty influencer community works.”
Charles said he’s looking for beauty “micro-influencers” who are actively posting content — “people who already working hard but haven’t had their discovery yet.”
For YouTube, the show is another bid to leverage homegrown, native YouTubers to drive what the video site hopes will be a big audience. “James Charles is a leader in the industry when it comes to pushing boundaries with creative content,” Susanne Daniels, global head of original content for YouTube, said in a statement. “We are thrilled that James is bringing his energy and talent to our YouTube Originals slate with our first beauty competition series.”
The competition show is being produced by Brian Graden Media, which is behind YouTube original series “Escape the Night” hosted by YouTube star Joey Graceffa. Charles said he’s friends with Graceffa and reached out to the company to develop the project. The show is exec produced by Charles and his manager, Jake Walsh.
“BGM is thrilled to extend its partnership with YouTube Originals on yet another exciting project,” Brian Graden, president of Brian Graden Media, said in a statement. “We love helping content creators realize their longer form visions, and James Charles is truly a one-of-kind star.”
Other personality-driven YouTube originals include “Almost Ready” with Shay Mitchell; “Kevin Hart: What the Fit”; “Liza On Demand” starring YouTube creator Liza Koshy; and “A Heist with Markiplier,” an interactive, choose-your-own-adventure-style series. Upcoming 2020 projects include documentaries with Paris Hilton and trick-show artists Dude Perfect as well as season 3 of “Cobra Kai,” the scripted series based on “The Karate Kid.”
Earlier this year, Charles was snared in a controversy with beauty vlogger Tati Westbrook, who accused him of objectionable behavior including being sexually aggressive toward men. After the issue erupted in May, Charles’ YouTube channel lost millions of subscribers; he subsequently apologized to Westbrook (and his fans) before his YouTube subs counts rebounded. Charles declined to comment on the incident.
Watch Charles’ announcement video of the YouTube beauty-influencer competition show: