Reality television has taken over the airwaves. Though this actuality may perturb some, there’s no denying that its what the masses want—and what advertisers are spending their money on. Shows like The Voice, Survivor and Project Runway have raked in wads of cash and fervent followings throughout their long tenures, proving that the genre is not losing steam anytime soon. Hopping on the bandwagon is American Beauty Star, a new competition-based program on Lifetime that is eager to take a bite out of this revenue stream—especially those from beauty brands.
Following a familiar formula, American Beauty Star takes professional hair and makeup artists and pits them against one another in a string of tasks each week. It features supermodel Adriana Lima as the host; celebrity makeup artist Sir John as the contestants’ mentor; and photographer Russell James and Sarah Brown, the former beauty director at Vogue, as the judges. Essentially, its Project Runway, but with lipstick and curlers instead of fabric and sewing machines. It even follows the fashion program on Thursdays, debuting tonight at 10:30pm ET/PT.
The series in masterminded by Norton Herrick and his production company, Herrick Entertainment. Admittedly, Herrick, who is the firm’s chairman and CEO, doesn’t seem like the type of man who would watch this type of show or know anything about the beauty space. His experience lies in film (Lone Survivor) and Broadway (Waitress, Pippin and Hair), along with other enterprises. That said, he is a businessman who is perceptive to what consumers are craving. And according to him, they’re craving a reality television show devoted entirely to the beauty industry.
Here, Norton chats about what led him to create ‘American Beauty Star,’ and how he sees the show—and the perception of beauty—evolving.
What led you to venture into reality television—specifically in the beauty space?
It’s my grandkids that gave me the idea. My granddaughters were searching for a beauty show, and saw that there was nothing on television. So they ended up going on Youtube. Since the age of four or five, they’ve had an interest in makeup.
What is the premise of the show?
It’s a competition series, where 12 hair and makeup professionals become beauty directors. They are responsible for creating the overall look of their models. Every week we’ll have a different challenge—like one for red carpet, and one for public servants. One person will win each episode, and then we’ll have one overall winner in the end.
Would you describe this as a Project Runway-type show, but for beauty?
Yes, I would say that. It’s similar, but not exactly like theirs. And Adriana Lima is our host.
Why was Adriana Lima the right fit for the show?
At first, she wasn’t interested. But after we described everything to her, she started to get excited about it. We love her. She’s everything and more than what we expected. It was a great choice.
Why was she a great choice to host the show?
I would say that she is a beauty expert in her own right. She’s known throughout the world. She’s certainly at the top of the model list. She also has 10 to 15 million followers [on social media].
How about the judges for the competition, Russell James and Sarah Brown?
Sarah Brown was a beauty editor for about 14 years, which made her a perfect choice. Russell James is a world-renowned photographer who has done Victoria’s Secret shoot among others. Her turned out to be really great. And Sir John is the mentor.
Why was Sir John a great choice?
He does the makeup for many stars, including Beyoncé. That says a lot.
What type of audience are you targeting for American Beauty Star?
I would say we’re targeting females, but seeing how my son watches Project Runway, which is also for females, I guess men will watch the show, too. We’re primarily looking at women between the ages of 25 to 55.
How are you targeting them?
On the show, the contestants will be describing and teaching how to do certain things. Sir John also chimes in on how things should be done or done better. Along with the show, we’ll also have a website that’ll teach beauty. There’ll be tutorials on how to do other things.
What is the reason for also having a digital presence?
That’s what out audience is looking for. There are so much tutorials and activity on Youtube. Now, that audience can watch it on TV as well as go on our site.
You don’t seem like you’re very attuned with the beauty industry. Why would you venture into this realm?
I like to do things, particularly in the last 10 years, that people want; that people want to see. I’m interested in good, successful and interesting projects. The beauty industry—companies like L’Oréal and Walmart—have sales that are about 50 billion dollars. That’s a tremendous [market], which was lacking in television.
Why are people more interested in the beauty industry nowadays as opposed to, say, five years ago?
Well, I didn’t think about it five years ago. I’ll give a quick, interesting story. I’ve done all these great Broadway shows and movies. I’ve done all these great things in my career, and haven’t got my wife to be interested in anything—until this. With this show, she’s pushing me more than anybody. She wants to know everything, which never happened before. It shows that I have a winner.
What can we expect from the first season?
After watching the Emmys this week, I expect to have an Emmy. I think the show is great.
Everything is exciting. The contestants are all bright and brilliant when it comes to hair and makeup. We did a search that took about two months, and I believe we found the best. Also, many of them have followers—up to a million. Every episode is exciting because of them, and also the great celebrity judges.
If the series does get renewed for a second season, how will it evolve?
We plan on the show going worldwide. We have a number of sales companies that want to take it worldwide for us. It’ll be like a franchise, with countries producing their own [version of the] show. We also have a variety of models: plus-size models and models of different ethnicities. Project Runway did it this year, and I think that’s what the audience wants.
Do you think the perception of beauty has changed?
Actually, I did a survey with almost a hundred females of different ages. We asked them if they preferred Victoria’s Secret models or, for lack of a better word, plus-size models, and almost every one said they preferred the plus-size models. Women now want to see themselves instead of something imagined.
American Beauty Star airs on the Lifetime channel on Thursdays at 10:30pm ET/PT.