Series / Face/Off

Face Off is a reality show where makeup artists compete to design and apply makeup and prostheses. It is hosted by McKenzie Westmore, and the judges and guest judges are accomplished leaders in the industry. Every week they complete challenges and the judges eliminate a contestant until only three are left, who then compete one last time for the grand prize. The prizes change from season to season, but they usually involve a cash prize and a supply of makeup.

Every week they face a spotlight challenge, after which a contestant is eliminated. Sometimes there is a foundation challenge at the beginning of the episode where the winner will gain something to help in the spotlight challenge. The challenges are usually the sort of thing you would find in a science fiction or horror movie, but they will occasionally be given something more mundane, like aging someone or designing a tattoo.

The first season premiered in January 2011, and the second season ran at the same time in 2012. Since 2013, two seasons have aired per year, typically one premiering in January and the other in July or August.


Face Off provides examples of:

  • Accentuate the Negative: Commercial breaks are almost always set up showing something going wrong for one of the artists, and the judges' closer looks at the finished make-ups always go to break after having negative comments about one of the creations in particular.
  • A Day In The Lime Light: The main three judges themselves (Ve, Glenn and Neville) received this treatment in the season 7 special "Judge Match" which they assembled a team of past contestants to compete with each other to raise money for charity. This is the only time we saw the judges display their creative process and actually experience the competition themselves.
  • All Trolls Are Different: A season 8 challenge had the artists create trolls based off of real-world bridges. There was a lot of variation, but certain classic tropes associated with the usual folklore-boggart-type troll popped up in most makeups.
  • Ambiguous Gender: Some of the more inhuman or alieanic designs can fall into this.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The Season 7 episode "Creature Carnage" revolved around creating a make-up for a giant, rampaging monster reminiscent of King Kong or Godzilla.
  • Audible Sharpness: The Season 7 finale pick-your-theme phase involved pulling swords from stones complete with this.
  • Audience Participation: The audience ultimately decided who won the third season, American Idol-style.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Some contestants get in over their heads by attempting major fabrications or animatronics that are impressive in concept, yet fail to work properly.
    • Roy, ROY, ROY. He has ambitious ideas that overshadow his (usually excellent) makeup when they don't work. See Crippling Overspecialization.
  • Bait and Switch: Judge Glenn Hetrick is fond of these, though mainly in the earlier seasons. It's not uncommon for him to say something along the lines of "I don't like this.... I love it!"
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: In the Cryptic Creatures challenge of season 6, Daran completely takes over the project, not listening to anything Cat says, and Cat, (correctly) guessing that they're going to be in bottom looks, states in a talking head interview that she'd much rather go home on an individual challenge where she knows it's her fault than be eliminated for the poor decisions of somebody else. The very next episode, she gets eliminated on an individual challenge.
  • Bioluminescence Is Cool: The glow-in-the-dark creature challenge from season 4.
  • Bishōnen: In season 1, one of the challenges was to take soon-to-be-married couples and turn the groom into a bride and vise versa. Connor exploited his first pick to choose the Asian couple with a pretty boy groom, reasoning that making women look like men isn't as difficult as making men look like women.
  • Black Guy Gets Eliminated First: Troy, the only African-American in Season Four, was eliminated in the first episode.
    • Averted in Season Six. Rashaad, the only African-American competitor, made it to the finale, and won, having only been in bottom looks once the entire season.
  • Body Paint: Most seasons include a body-painting challenge.
  • Brutal Honesty: If the judges don't like your work, they will let you know. Neville in particular can come out of nowhere with his more brutal opinions just because he's so often quiet and polite.
    Neville: (paraphased) It looks like an anime sex doll and it's distracting.
    • Glenn also said of one makeup in the season 4 "Hell has frozen over" challenge that "It punches you in the face with how bad it sucks", but he never directly said that to the contestants who made it (though evidently they thought it was such a good line they had the "coming up next" previews make it look like he did).
  • Butter Face: Ben's design for the Bridge Troll challenge is this - it's a cute girl in a bikini from behind, but has a potbelly and bulbous nose when she turns around.
  • Came Back Strong:
    • Nicole from the Third Season returned to the show after being eliminated, and the judges noted the fight that came from her after returning, awarding her with two consecutive wins. Not only that, but she ended up being the season winner.
    • Miranda, who was the third contestant eliminated from season 2, won four challenges in season 5, and it took her eleven weeks— longer than any other contestant that season— to even be on the bottom looks. She probably would've been eliminated that week if not for Laney quitting, and was eliminated the week after.
  • Captain Obvious: Crosses over into CMOF considering Glenn is usually on the ball.
    Glenn: But it doesn't look like a bull...
    Lois: That's because she's a girl. *smirk*
    Glenn ... *walks away*
  • Catchphrase: McKenzie aside there's really not a lot of catchphrases from the judges that airs. But amusingly enough, Ve tends to use 'bitchin' a lot during the post-season wrap up episodes and presumably during the season as well.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Season Ten gives us Robert.
    Glenn: You are a strange, strange man.
    Robert: Thank you.
  • Confession Cam
  • Continuity Nod: The Reality TV Show Mansion usually incorporates pictures of some work from the previous season into the decorations.
    • Additionally, Season 1's winner, Connor, was a guest judge for the first challenge of Season 2, while Season 2's winner Rayce gave the contestants some pointers during Season 3's "Supermobile" challenge.
    • Both are visible in the season 3 finale among audience members. In the season 3 finale, one contestent notes that even after the show, a number of contestents and judges have remained close including living together, working on the same projects, and so forth.
    • Dina from season 7 mentions that the season 4 champion was the person to push her/inspire her to become a makeup artist. A little bit of Foreshadowing perhaps that she eventually becomes the winner of her season. It doesn't hurt to have that kind of tutelage.
    • The Season 1 Opening Credits sequence had clips of original makeups being prepped, but these have increasingly been displaced by highlights from previous seasons' creations. By Season 10, every makeup shown during the credits is a winning entry from some previous challenge.
  • Cool Old Guy: Mr. Westmore becomes this in later season when he becomes a mentor to the contestants, offering advice and direction during each challenge. Of course, being quite the talented artist himself, more than just being cool, his advice and how each contestant decides to act upon it can often make or break a makeup.
  • Costume Porn: Glenn's outfits can swing between this and Sharp-Dressed Man.
  • Creepy Doll: One of the challenges in season 8 was to create a monster based on a classic doll. There have been two others: a makeup for the horror villain challenge in the first season, and Sasha's design for a Monster Clown based on her own fear of dolls in season 7.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Several contestants.
    • Roy from season 3 was noted for his awesome fabrications (that is, non-makeup props). While they commonly added to the design, the judges did point out several times that they tended to overshadow the makeup which, of course, was what they were focused on. He has gotten better since his return in season 5, pulling off some truly astounding makeups.
      • This has been his downfall again for some of his lesser makeups, including his squid man who was supposed to have massive tentacles and his and Laura's alien creature tamer with a parasite. note 
    • Also from season 3, most of Rods characters had almost identical faces. Ve pointed this out to him, but try as he might he still leaned towards the same shapes and was eventually eliminated because of it.
    • Wayne from season 4 was an amazing sculptor, but because he put so much detail into his sculpts he rarely had time to fully paint his models. Despite this he often was in the top looks and made it to the finals.
    • Lyma, a newcomer from season 5, is a body painter by trade. Her makeups are frequently criticized for their lack of realism and hard lines. She's eliminated in episode 6 for a combination of unrealistic painting and poor sculpture.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Glenn can really rip you a new one before you even realize what's going on.
  • Dull Surprise: Laney, who seemed to have her voice stuck on "Dull Monotone" and face stuck on "Half Stoned".
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Several species from Defiance, along with the character Irissa, appeared in one of the later episodes of season 4 during a challenge inspired by the then-upcoming show.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Originally the illustrations of each phase of design were done almost completely digitally, there were clips of each person winning or being sent home rather than narration by Mackenzie, and more focus was placed on the home drama and struggles in the lab than now.
  • Elephant in the Living Room: During the Roald Dahl challenge from season 6, nobody ever mentions that Vermicious Knids actually were described and illustrated in Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. Even Dahl's own daughter makes it sound like Knids have never been depicted before now.
  • Eliminated From The Race / Voted off the Island: Those on the "bottom looks" as chosen by the judges are most likely to be eliminated. There is usually at least one artist eliminated each episode.
  • Elimination Statement:
    • So far, the only contestants who haven't given an Elimination Statement are the runners-up for the finals, and Joe from Season Three (he stormed off set).
    • We can now add Laney from season 5 to this list, as she walked out two weeks before the finale due to not wanting to be in the competition anymore, being upset her last fellow newcomer was eliminated and general homesickess.
  • Engagement Challenge: Self-imposed example: Ben from season 8 promised himself he'd propose to his girlfriend if he won a spotlight challenge. His ram/cactus Planimal won one, and he popped the question in a contestant-commentary clip.
  • Epic Failinvoked: Tate is completely at a loss for words as to how he managed to completely decapitate Laney's makeup bust while taking it out of her mold in season 5's Mother Nature challenge.. "It's made out of fiberglass, they make boats out of this shit, so I don't know... what happened..."
  • Everyone Meets Everyone: Usually how the seasons start.
  • Eyes Do Not Belong There: Several of the veteran's creations in season 5's Stylized Fantasy Setting challenge, where their theme was a blind witch who sees through her servants. Notably, the faun had eyes on his horns and forehead, and the pixie had eyes on it's earlobes.
    • The birch entry from Season 7's twisted tree-creature challenge had eye-like markings all over its bark/skin.
  • Extreme Doormat: Sasha from season 7 who tends to let other people walks all over her in team or duo challenge even though she (correctly) thinks there's something wrong with the concept.
  • Friendly Rivalry: Competitors on the show are refreshingly good sports, and are frequently seen helping each other with their projects. Common examples are helping open and clean molds, or teaching each other how to use unfamiliar tools and materials. Many former competitors have gone on to work together professionally, and the season 3 finale revealed that several former competitors had gone so far as to move to LA together to support each other while pursuing their careers.
    • Averted in Season 1 due to Early Installment Weirdness and overall Jerkassery on the competitors - Tom and Jo were out for Megan's blood because of how much she was riding on Conor's skills and not her own.
  • Gender Flip: Adolfo and Lyma's Humpty Dumpty supermodel, as well as Eddie and Scott's waitress take on the Man In The Moon, in the Mother Goose challenge. Additionally, Gage and Sam from season 1 swapped their own genders in the "Family Plot" episode, where they had to disguise themselves from a loved one with makeup.
    • One challenge specifically required contestants to swap two models' genders.
  • Genius Bruiser: Glenn can probably name any, every, and all part of the human body by their anatomical name (quick, do you even know that the line of the cheek has a name? Glenn does!) as well as dropping obscure words like they're written on note cards. And yet he's also the judge that has the smallest personal censor - Neville will at least pause to find a way to say things gently and Ve will use humour words ('goofy') to lighten the blow. Glenn will just outright say he doesn't like something and that he thinks it's a stupid idea. Season 7 judge, Lois Burwell, strikes a balance between Glenn and Ve - she can be pretty blunt and tends towards agreeing with Glenn more often than not, but tends to be so in a somewhat proper manner.
  • Grimmification: Many challenges are to take something normally cheerful and darken it in some manner. Often this happens when it isn't part of the challenge criteria, as most contestants have heavy backgrounds in horror and monster makeup.
  • Heart in the Wrong Place: A costume of a re-imagined, horror-themed Tin Woodsman featured a bare chest with a gaping hole where the character's heart is missing. Naturally, it's very high on the left side.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: Laney has one after Eddie's elimination. It results in her having to leave the competition.
  • Irony/Pun: In Episode 4 of Season 5, Frank says of his creation when he's called up that it lost its eyes through evolution. Glenn immediately afterwards praises him and says he's "Made a ton of intelligent design choices this week".
  • Jerk Ass: Frank from Season 1. He gets better in Season 5. As Roy puts it:
    Roy: When Frank's nice, he's nice. When he's not, he's the king of assholes.
    • Season 4 Autumn could give Frank a run for his money. She rapidly gained a reputation among the other contestants as being hell to work with, to the point that literally everyone after the first episode who has teamed up with her gets a talking head interview where they express their fear at what's going to happen because of it. She also had very little respect for the judges, on multiple occasions questioning their judgment. For example, one episode she rolled her eyes at the judges after they criticized her makeup. Unsurprisingly, she was kicked out that episode, and when she was eliminated, they didn't even give her the consolation speech at the end. And then on her way out, instead of being the good sport most contestants are, she blamed the partner she had been incredibly pushy towards.
  • Kaiju: Season 7's "Creature Carnage" challenge.
  • Lame Pun: Neville can be fond of these.
  • Lighter and Softer: In Season 8's "Imaginary Friends" challenge, the child advising Julian requested a rather gruesome zombie character, which Julian had to tone down into something that wouldn't give the other child-advisors nightmares when it walked out on stage.
  • Mad Lib Fantasy Title: Almost literally in the season 8 finale, where the contestants had to create a team of 4 characters, then grab words off a board and assemble them into the title. This created the relatively straightforward "The Fortress" and "Spirits of Eden", but also the bizarre "Paradise Reckoning."
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Tate barely has any reaction at all to his massive mold smashing down on his hand in the Living Art challenge of season 5 and doesn't even realize he needs to be hospitalized for it until he sees how much it's bleeding. Completely justified by the fact that it was almost instantly numbed by damage.
  • Mars Needs Water: One spotlight challenge required the creation of aliens whose home planets are in great jeopardy. Naturally, one of the planets is running out of water.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The intent of the Season 7 episode "Animal Attractions" was to make a mix-and-match critter of the designer's choice.
  • Mouth Stitched Shut: Jordon's entry in the Season 9 Addams Family/Munsters-inspired challenge.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Laney from Season 5, to an extent, if only because she's also a model herself as well as a SFX artist and she almost is always dressed up with makeup applied unless she's in the lab, making shots that flip between her in the lab and her in the confession cam somewhat jarring.
    • McKenzie herself is this for the show in general. This is downplayed when she had to present outdoor in exchange for more practical attires.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Frank, as one of the veterans in season 5, says he experienced this reaction when he realized how much of an ass he made of himself in season 1 and disappointed his father, who had been rooting for him. He vowed to win season 5 in his dad's honor, as his dad had died about a year prior.
  • Naked First Impression: Episodes that feature body-painting always reveal the nature of the challenge to competitors by having a line of models walk on-stage in the buff. Any artist who responds with a wince, a double-take, or other visible dismay is guaranteed a Reaction Shot.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Some of the challenges invoke this trope, with themes like "Zombie Apocalypse In Wonderland" or "Alien Werewolves".
  • Non-Mammalian Hair: Usually, the models' hair is covered up if they're meant to be some kind of alien or non-mammalian creature, but Roy once did a snake creature and not only put hair on it, but put awkward-looking and rather jarring hair that almost ruined the entire thing.
  • Oh Crap!: Tess has this reaction in the Season 6 episode "Guitar Gods" when one of the flimsy horns she designs falls off with almost no effort, right in front of the judges.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Happens whenever one contestant's/team's work is bigger and overall better technically and conceptually than another contestant's/team's. Especially made obvious when the makeups are all lined up.
  • Planimal: The "Dangerous Beauty" and "Film/Hunger Games predator" challenge.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: The Season 1 episode Family Plot required the artists to disguise themselves as a store clerk and assist their family members in a wig shop without them noticing. Megan was eliminated for having nothing to show for herself by the end of the week and attempting this trope, with Ve pointing out that Megan's mother probably knew that it was her, but was smart enough not to say anything until Megan revealed herself.
  • Pixellation: Used for body-painting challenges to blur nude models' naughty bits.
  • Previously On
  • Put on a Bus: All of the eliminated contestants...
    • The Bus Came Back: ...who return at the end of the season to help the finalists with their enormous final challenge.
      • For season 5, the bus came back for 8 contestants eliminated from previous seasons. The returning contestants are Frank and Tate from season 1, Miranda and RJ from season 2, Alana, Roy and Laura from season 3, and Eric Z from season 4.
    • Season 3 offered the opportunity for an eliminated contestant to return.
    • The web spin-off Face Off: Redemption allowed fourth-season contestant Eric Z. to win a spot on Season 5.
  • Reality Show Genre Blindness: It's pretty surprising that so many contestants don't learn how to do beauty makeup prior to getting on the show. It's fundamental for many challenges and many character archetypes, and many grandiose designs have fallen flat because the artist didn't know how to do a proper beauty makeup.
  • Reality TV Show Mansion: Where the artists live during the competition.
  • Recurring Extra: The same models are used over and over and are seen in close-up for the "morphing" shots, although they seldom say anything and their names are almost never mentioned.
    • Those very familiar with the show found it jarring when they brought in some never-before-seen models in season 5.
    • Averted for the nude body-painting challenges, which use different models, and other specialty builds such as the Giants theme which used only large men.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The reptiles chosen for the "Dangerous Beauty" Planimal challenge, to those that knew anything about them, were somewhat unimpressive in terms of danger to humans, being a monitor lizard, a green tree python, and a chameleon. The first two are strong with sharp teeth and could hurt you, even if they couldn't kill you; however, the less said about the dangerous chameleon, the better. Someone must have been using this trope and thinking reptiles would automatically be seen as dangerous. Definite overlap with Somewhere, a Herpetologist Is Crying.
  • Rule 50: Season Three gives us Alice's Adventures in Wonderland meets Resident Evil... with the Resident Evil film franchise's producer/director, Paul W.S. Anderson, as a guest judge for that challenge, no less!
  • Secret Test of Character: The premier of season 9 was this, as nobody was eliminated. The Judges specifically gave the contestants a highly-difficult first challenge in order to test their limits from the get-go.
  • Serial Escalation: The finales of each season demonstrate this:
    • Season 1: A diorama-style exhibition for a party with several big-name makeup artists in attendance.
    • Season 2: The models perform choreographed dance routine to a live audience.
    • Season 3: Not only is the audience live, but so is the finale itself.
    • Season 4: Cirque. Du. Soleil. In water.
    • Averted in Season 5. Obviously there was only so much bigger you could go than Cirque du Soleil in water, so the season 5 finale was scaled back to a ballet performance of Swan Lake with themed costumes and make ups the contestants had to create.
    • Season 6: Live dance routines at a nightclub.
    • Season 7: A full-blown battle between opposing pairs of knights, played out on a spectacular set used for medieval dinner-theater jousts and duels.
    • Season 8: Create four film franchise heroes based on a genre to be judged at a public showing at Universal Studios
    • Season 9: Create two (later three) characters based on a script to be filmed for a short film.
    • Season 10: Create two characters for a horror short in accordance with an up-and-coming young director's vision.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: As the season 3 finale revealed through cut footage, Neville and particularly Glenn are fond of this.
  • Seven Deadly Sins: The challenge for the Halloween special of Season 5. All seven makeup artists chose a colored apple and did a costume for the sin that corresponded with it. Frank ended up getting sent off for creating something 'on the lowest hanging branch' for the sin of gluttony.
  • The Stoic: Glenn has smiled less than a handful of times and laughed only once. And in the latter case (despite evidence to the contrary and Neville teasing), he tries to brush it off as 'just a chuckle'.
  • There Can Only Be One: Only one person can win the spotlight challenge at the end of the episode, even when working in teams. Which McKenzie will always point out, As You Know-style.
  • This Is A Competition: Very, very often. Those who take it too far usually suffer for it.
    • Connor from Season 1 proved to be an exception. He actually said "This is a competition" early in the finale, displaying the exact attitude of the trope, and won.
    • Joe in Season 3 had this or some other issue. The lack of information coming from the fact that he stormed off the set in the first episode of the third season for being in the bottom looks. He was subsequently disqualified and not invited back.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Will sometimes pop up whenever an artist is faced with a challenge that is clearly outside of their comfort zone, like when a gore artist is asked to do beauty make-up, or a whimsical artist is asked to do horror. Some artists have cringed at the body-painting challenges because they're uncomfortable with the models' nudity.
    • This trope is now the Pavlovian response to any time McKenzie says "just one more thing" her way of introducing a new twist or addition to each challenge.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Frank from season 1, upon returning in season 5. Season 1 Frank is widely regarded as the single biggest tool the show has ever seen, but his intro in Season 5 shows that he came to deeply regret his behavior, and was shown to be much nicer and a much better person, to the point where when Tate's hand got smashed by his mold, he was the third person shown to help get his massive mold open and cleaned while he was hospitalized.
  • Totem Pole Trench: The concept of Roy's "Funny Ghost" makeup: a pair of vaudeville little people who died while in such a getup, and are stuck that way in the afterlife.
  • Transformation Sequence: Each spotlight-challenge costume is shown in close-up to we viewers, as the model undergoes a CGI morph from human to whatever-it-is.
  • Two-Faced: Plenty of the finished makeups have asymmetrical faces, one side disfigured by injuries or cybernetics. A few have two faces in the literal sense (e.g. the Giants and Torture Cellar challenges).
  • Viewers Are Goldfish: Every episode explains the purpose of design, sculpting, molding, and applying makeup. With the exact same clips to demonstrate, and near-identical voiceovers from contestants.
    • Recent seasons have downplayed this, only showing the clips in the first episode of each season.
    • The Confession Cam aspect of the show has shades of this. The most obvious example is season 5's Living Art episode. Tate smashed his hand while tipping over a heavy mold, and from that point on in the show we're reminded constantly by Tate and other contestants that, well... he hurt his hand.
    • If something particularly notable happens during a week, usually the episode will focus on primarily on that artist and those who get involved.
  • Wedding Day: For the show's 100th episode, Season 9's paired contestants made up seven real engaged couples, who then got married on stage in their matching make-ups.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Contestants kicked off in the first couple of episodes, obviously. Some otherwise-interesting characters are sent off-stage after an initial inspection as neither top nor bottom looks, so the artists don't get to explain their backstories to the judges. Some characters produced for foundation challenges don't even rate a full-screen view, just a momentary windowed view in a montage.
  • When She Smiles: Glenn, usually The Stoic, has had only two occasions where he's smiled. Both times, it made him look like a very different person. Nevermind the one(!) instance when he actually bursts out laughing.
  • The Worm That Walks: The basis behind George's killer clown make up based on his own fear.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: A lot of challenges have involved taking a sweet theme and make it darker. Which is exactly what several contestants did in season 5's Mother Goose challenge. Unfortunately for them, they were supposed to make whimsical characters, not scary or grotesque ones.
  • WTH, Costuming Department?invoked: Sometimes the contestants will remark that the wardrobe people sent them horrible stuff that's not at all what they asked for. The biggest example was in the mother nature challenge of season 5, where two contestants complained about them screwing up their orders, forcing them to work with what they were given.

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