The Shorty Awards honor the best of social media and digital. View this season's finalists!

Special Project

Special Project
From the 16th Annual Shorty Awards

Make Up Over Makeup

Bronze Honor in Branded Series


As the company that makes the best of beauty accessible to every eye, lip, and face, we know that makeup is a powerful way to bring people together.

Our challenge? Getting the world to believe it, too. So we decided to put it to the ultimate test: could two people heal a blemished relationship by applying makeup to one another?

With that, e.l.f.’s “Make Up Over Makeup” video series was born.

With video views as our primary KPI, our goal was to get, and sustain, our audience's attention. While snackable video content normally reigns supreme on social, we knew that the right thumb-stopping talent pairings would keep our audience captivated for longer.

We tapped Gen Z’s favorite former couple, TikTokers Chris Olsen and Ian Paget, and famous Vanderpump Rules frenemies Katie Maloney and Scheana Shay. Both episodes brought so much drama, tea, and emotion, that our audience immediately took notice. We even drove them from TikTok and Instagram via teasers over to YouTube to watch the full episodes, generating massive cross-platform conversations. Fans were moved by the honesty and maturity of each pair.

Turns out, applying makeup broke down barriers. It brought out a vulnerable side that fans hadn’t seen before. Our episodes demonstrated the power of our products and how they were so much more than skin deep – they were a catalyst for conversation and connection.

We successfully proved through our content series that makeup really can be a powerful tool to bring people closer together.

Strategy and Execution

“Make Up Over Makeup” was born from a simple, but powerful insight: that having your makeup done by someone else is an immensely vulnerable experience. You must literally face them head on, bare-faced, and exposed.

From there, we had to find the right pairs that we knew our Gen Z audience would want to see sharing a vulnerable moment. We ultimately decided to kick off the series with ultra-popular TikTok exes, Chris Olsen and Ian Paget. Our audience was heartbroken when they announced their breakup in 2022, so we knew there was an opportunity to deliver some much-needed closure to both the exes and to their massive fanbase. For Episode 2, we explored a different type of feud: frenemies. We tapped Vanderpump Rules frenemies Katie Maloney and Scheana Shay, who were particularly relevant given the Scandoval cheating scandal that rocked the country.

We had our thumb-stopping talent, now came time to capture the actual content. The entire production had to be treated very delicately. These are people with real hurt and love towards one another, and they’re getting ready to lay it all out for the world to see. We needed to treat it with care so that it never felt exploitative.

Our challenge was to create the most intimate, safe environment possible in order to encourage honest, raw conversation. One of our solutions was using two long lenses when filming. One camera focused on each of our individual talent, which allowed us to effectively capture intimate moments without destroying the intimacy with the physical presence of the camera. We also didn’t over direct; we treated filming almost like a documentary. We let the awkward, uncomfortable moments come, and watched the conversation unfold organically. After all, reunions can be messy and awkward, and we wanted our series to reflect that. Our efforts paid off: our content was praised for its authenticity and relatability.

Leading up to our launch, we knew we wanted our full YouTube episodes to get the attention they deserved. The best way to do that with our Gen Z audience was to tease our content on TikTok and Instagram. So we made short, snackable teasers that immediately went viral. Fans were even begging for us to drop the full episode early. When the episodes did finally drop on YouTube, fans flocked to watch, and then came back to social to talk about it. The most rewarding part was seeing the fan’s comments, reactions, and videos regarding the series. Fans wrote paragraphs praising e.l.f. for creating this format, and praising the talent for their maturity and vulnerability. Fans even begged for the episodes to be longer.

This all started from a simple insight, and it’s grown into a series that can be repeated 100 times over, we’re even pitching it to streaming services. But the very best part is that we get to bring people closer together, all thanks to our products and the power of makeup.


Our series “Make Up Over Makeup” was a huge success in every sense. As a Gen Z brand, our objective was to get everyone watching our long-form content and talking about it, and that's exactly what we did.

Our primary KPI was video views, and Episode 1 alone received 7.6 million views across owned and earned channels. Episode 1 landed at #16 on YouTube's Global Trending Videos chart, and quickly became e.l.f.'s best-performing YouTube video ever. Oh, and did we mention this was all with $0 in paid media spend?

Episode 2 (which did include some paid media) cemented the success of the series, and brought in an additional 6.4 million views. Once again, the series was a hit with fans and with the press.

And people didn't just watch, they engaged. Beyond video views, the content brought in 1.2 million engagements, with overwhelmingly positive sentiment. Overall, the biggest success was the quantity and quality of positive comments we received.

“Make Up Over Makeup” proved once again how e.l.f. is always at the cutting edge of Gen Z culture. In a world of 6-second attention spans, people were watching our long-form content and asking for more!


Video for Make Up Over Makeup

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Madwell, e.l.f. Cosmetics


Entry Credits