Office drama meets relationship issues in Netflix’s ‘Glamorous’

Graham Parkhurst as Parker and Miss Benny as Marco in an episode of "Glamorous."
Graham Parkhurst as Parker and Miss Benny as Marco in an episode of “Glamorous.”

In the new Netflix series, “Glamorous,” the exuberant gender non-conforming makeup artist and would-be influencer Marco Mejia (Miss Benny) has a message for his followers: “Buckle up, Bitches.”

When his mother, Julia (Diana-Maria Riva), prompts 22-year-old Marco to get a “real job,” rather than sell makeup at the mall, he surprises everyone — including himself — by becoming the second assistant to Glamorous by Madolyn cosmetics CEO Madolyn Addison (Kim Cattrall). 

Madolyn sees spunk in Marco, who knows makeup and understands the brand’s customers. And Glamorous by Madolyn needs customers — because the whole company may be going under unless they are sold to Vendemiaire. Marco also comes into conflict with Madolyn’s “gay but not ‘gay’” son, Chad (Zane Phillips), who does not appreciate Marco becoming his mom’s favorite.

Marco, of course, also faces personal challenges. His budding relationship with a hunky finance bro, Parker (Graham Parkhurst) — who isn’t the straight boy Marco initially assumes him to be — hits some turbulence because Parker may not be looking for “anything serious.” Marco has issues with the way Parker treats him, which play out (over and over) during the course of the season, but Marco also wonders if he is catching feelings for his coworker, Ben (Michael Hsu Rosen). Ben has a serious crush on Marco and the colleagues cross some boundaries at an underwear party they attend together.

“Glamorous” shows how the naïve Marco finds his footing even as he wears fabulous heels. (Chad notices a stylish new pair Marco sports in one episode, proving that he is, indeed, gayer than people think.) The series leans hard into its “Ugly Betty” vibe right down to the vibrant costumes, bright set design, and intimidating Boss Lady. 

As Madolyn, Kim Cattrall is almost too perfectly cast as a jaded former model turned businesswoman with impeccable taste, and an intolerance for BS. While she is vulnerable about her age and her company, Cattrall delights in looking down on the perky Mykynnleigh (Nicole Power), the green corporate sale representative for Vendemiaire. However, Madolyn does look up to some inspiring drag queens she meets at a gay bar Marco takes her to one evening.

“Glamorous” is a gratifying and an easy-to-binge sugar rush of a series. The characters are ingratiating, even if they tend to be exaggerated. (Chad, who is stacked, works out shirtless in his office in more than one episode). The series is also fabulously queer inclusive, featuring a second interoffice romance between the bisexual Venetia (Jade Payton), Madolyn’s efficient and ambitious first assistant, and the more laid-back lesbian Britt (Ayesha Harris), who works in product design with Ben. “Glamorous” also checks boxes for diversity, with more BIPOC than white characters. In addition, there are very few straight men. 

The episodes all slay for gay. A major storyline has Glamorous by Madolyn doing a Pride campaign, which culminates in the company hosting a Stonewall-themed event. Another episode, this one set in Provincetown, has Marco “dressing down” to ingratiate himself with his boyfriend Parker’s friends — only to have Chad and Ben show up. The episode amusingly reunites Zane Phillips with his “Fire Island” co-stars Joel Kim Booster and Matt Rogers and features a fun drag performance of “Cell Block Tango” from “Chicago.”

Back in New York, the employees focus on rebuilding the business and they try to find meaning in their work. The characters also try to decide about letting go or holding the line after people are hurt. Chad has tensions with his mother, but finds an ally in Judy, who is feeling isolated from Marco. Marco is on-again/off-again with Parker and confused about Ben. And Britt makes it clear that she wants respect from Venetia. The characters wisely talk about their issues, and Britt excels at being the voice of reason in the series, counseling Marco, Ben, and Venetia about their personal and professional problems. Ayesha Harris steals her every scene.

The series certainly repeats its message about learning to stand on your own two feet in almost every episode, which may make “Glamorous” feel superficial. But despite its emphasis on looks and flawlessness, it is how the characters navigate the messy bits that give the show its heart. Various subplots address the characters developing their self-worth, while dealing with sabotage, betrayal, and scheming to get ahead in business. 

The show also benefits from Miss Benny’s energetic lead performance and the strong ensemble cast. In addition to Cattrall and Harris, the standouts include Phillips, who tempers Chad’s macho posturing with his mommy issues, and Jade Payton, who excels at playing up Venetia’s anxieties about losing control. Riva is also wonderful as Judy, the practical mother to Marco and unexpected confidante to Chad. As Parker’s boyfriend, Parkhurst is equally irresistible and unlikable. He also provides the series with its eye-candy when Phillips isn’t gracing the screen.

“Glamorous” does not end with an urgent cliffhanger, but a second season would not be unwelcome. The show is what Madolyn wants to promote in her branding campaigns: a glamorous fantasy. 

“Glamorous” | Netflix | June 22