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Lifetime Banks on Buzzy Beauty Industry for Next Reality Competition Series

Lifetime is home to fashion’s biggest reality show, “Project Runway,” and now the network is banking on the beauty industry for their next competition series.

American Beauty Star,” hosted by supermodel Adriana Lima, brings celebrity stylists and salon professionals head-to-head to compete in a series of hair and makeup challenges over the course of 10 episodes. The contestants are mentored by make-up artist to the stars, Sir John, who has worked with everyone from Beyonce to Karlie Kloss, and judges are Vogue’s Sarah Brown and photographer Russell James.

To celebrate the launch of “American Beauty Star,” the cast was joined by an crowd of entertainment and fashion types at the Gramercy Park Hotel’s terrace for an intimate, yet swanky, cocktails-and-conversation soirée on Tuesday night where guests were greeted with champagne and bid adieu with gift bags full of — what else? — beauty products.

The series, which debuts Thursday night at 10:30 p.m. right after “Project Runway,” features similar elements of its companion show from a plugged-in mentor (like Tim Gunn) to a magazine editor judge (like Nina Garcia) to a Victoria Secret supermodel host (like Heidi Klum), and though Lifetime is, of course, hopeful that the new series will have the longevity and awards buzz of “Runway,” the cabler hopes “American Beauty Star” will create its own unique brand as the first-ever competition series to incorporate both hair and makeup artistry.

“There’s not too much new in reality competition format. This has a fresh appeal,” Christian Murphy, Lifetime’s SVP of daytime and programming partnerships of A+E Networks, told Variety this week at the New York City premiere event. “Even though it may borrow from some other formats like ‘Runway’ or ‘Top Model,’ what is unique about it is that we haven’t seen something with hair and makeup in a long-form television format. There are shows about hair stylists and makeup artists, but I haven’t seen those two things come together where we’re celebrating the creativity of the artist. We thought it was a good fit to ‘Runway’ and that their audience might enjoy this, but I also think the show has the opportunity to bring in new and fresh viewers.”

Those new viewers could perhaps be much younger than the typical Lifetime viewer, thanks to social media’s explosion of beauty tutorials over the past few years on YouTube and Instagram, which has revitalized the beauty industry, while making lucrative stars out of bloggers with millions of followers. (Case in point: Kylie Jenner’s cosmetics brand, which was given rise on social media, was recently valued at over $400 million in retail sales in just its first 18 months.)

With the internet obsessing over beauty tricks and tips, “American Beauty Star” seems to be hitting TV at a seamless time to tap into the buzzy beauty trend — which is why Lifetime is gearing up for more than one show in the genre. Also coming up on the network’s programming slate is another new unscripted beauty series, “Glam Masters,” executive produced by Kim Kardashian West.

“I think social media in general has had a really big turn,” Lima says, referencing both the beauty and fashion industries. “Everyone [looks] to that so I think it’s great timing.”

Aside from social media momentum, Lifetime executive Murphy says beauty is a universal subject matter, so the network is already getting international interest in “American Beauty Star,” which he believes will travel well across territories.

“The idea of beauty and the definition of beauty is such a different thing than it was five years ago or certainly 10 years ago. Beauty is really celebrated in so many more different ways now,” says Murphy, noting the fascination across generations, mentioning his 11-year-old daughter who can’t get enough of online beauty tutorials. “Beauty is up to your interpretation so [the show] has the opportunity to be quite broad.”

With the hope that “American Beauty Star” will at least mirror “Project Runway” when it comes to the show’s long-running success, Lima says her fellow model-turned-TV-host Heidi Klum gave her a bit of advice, warning her of the intense schedules with long days of shooting as a reality show. “I saw her and Zac Posen and asked her, ‘What should I do?'” Lima shares. “And she said, ‘Just be yourself.’ And then I turned to Zac and he said, ‘There are going to be many, many hours.'”

Should the show continue for seasons to come, Lima says she will juggle her new role as a TV host with modeling and still make time for her other job — at least for another four years.

“I plan to be there until I’m 40,” Lima, 36, says when asked how much longer she’ll walk in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. “I want to make a statement for women that are mature. I want to show the world that as a mature women you can still walk in a fashion show in lingerie and still feel confident next to younger girls. Nothing is wrong with it. Every woman, no matter where they’re from or how old they are, they are beautiful and they should be out there and feel confident. We need diversity.”

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