Meet the first Miss Great Britain contestant in history to compete with no make-up

·7-min read
(Supplied: Elle Seline)
Elle Seline is competing in the finals of Miss GB without wearing any make-up. (Supplied: Elle Seline)

A woman who was bullied at school over her appearance is to make history by being the first contestant to compete in Miss GB totally make-up free. 

Elle Seline, 31, from Guildford, said she previously used make-up as a mask having received negative comments about her looks when she was a teenager.

But during lockdown the mental health worker felt the pressure to wear make-up and to conform to traditional beauty standards ease.

Now she hopes her bare-faced entry into the competition will promote beauty positivity and help empower others to have confidence in their natural selves. 

Read more: Emily Clarkson changes her appearance 12 times in 35 seconds to show how filters can distort

"It's about women having that choice to do what they want to do for themselves, wearing make-up or not, being powerful as they want to be and not to feel like they need other people's validation to feel good," she explains. 

Seline says her confidence was impacted at school after being ridiculed for the way she looked. 

"I was a little bit curvier than the other girls. My hair was also quite frizzy and they would always say that I had head lice and that I was a gorilla because I had a bit more facial hair and arm hair," she explains. 

(Supplied: Elle Seline)
Elle hopes to inspire other women to realise that wearing make-up is a choice. (Supplied: Elle Seline)

The comments lead to Seline straightening her hair, shaving her arms and wearing makeup from the age of about 13.

"If someone ridicules you enough you start to believe it yourself and going into adulthood I could still hear what they said about me," she says. 

In the end Seline says she developed what she describes as an unhealthy relationship with make-up. 

"I would use it, not because I felt like I wanted to or just for fun, but because I felt like I had to hide behind it," she explains.

"I used it a shield to hide who I was,"she continues. "I remember buying foundation, which was a bit lighter than my skin colour, because I want to blend in with the other girls, I wanted to fit in.

"It makes me feel sad because dark skin is beautiful, my Mediterranean skin should have been accepted, but I felt like I just couldn't be myself, because everyone else didn't look like that or was ridiculing that."

(Supplied: Elle Seline)
Seline previously competed in MIss GB wearing make-up. (Supplied: Elle Seline)
(Supplied: Elle Seline)
Seline competing in Miss GB before the first lockdown. (Supplied: Elle Seline)

Seline, who is also a musician, said she would never previously have dreamed of doing gigs on stage with no make-up on. 

"Without it, I felt really uncomfortable," she says. "I used to model my looks on what I felt like people on social media or people online would want to see and it wasn't a nice, it wasn't a healthy place to be because if a woman wants to wear make-up, it should be our own personal choice. 

"She should just wear it for herself, but I definitely wasn't doing that for myself - I was wearing it for someone else's validation."

Last year she was a finalist in the Miss Great Britain pageant too and wore her usual full face of make-up to take part. 

"I had a great time, but I wasn't myself, I tried to hide myself because I was scared to give them that side of me," she explains. 

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So this year she decided to enter again, but without the aid of make-up, after finding confidence in herself during lockdown.

“I used the time and space during lockdown to think about things I had been aware of before but had been too busy to work through," she says. 

"The validation that I wanted from others suddenly didn't matter anymore because I was by myself," she explains.

"Not feeling that pressure to conform, and to wear make-up, led to me having the realisation that I'm happy in my own skin."

Watch: Demi Lovato shows how photo filters set 'unrealistic beauty expectations'.

She hopes taking part in this year's pageant make-up free will help challenge unrealistic beauty standards and empower others to feel they are enough. 

"It's quite scary how much people rely on social media and filters to get validation from others," she says. 

"It's such a dangerous tool, especially for young people, feeling that if they don't look like the person in the filters or the people they follow on social media their life isn't worthy."

She believes the impact it can have on body image and self esteem can be extremely damaging to mental health. 

"There's so much pressure to look a certain way and it's just really scary. 

"My hope is that if I can do this pageant make-up free, maybe someone who feels not good enough will feel better and feel okay about how they could go to the shops without make-up or go out without it. It's a whole domino effect that I hope it kicks off."

Seline believes that beauty pageants these days are more about "who you are and what you bring to the table" rather than how you look. 

"Naturally I am a little nervous, but I also will be making history when I walk on the stage, as the first woman who's ever done it so there's a mixed bag of emotions.

"Whenever I feel nervous I just try to remember the reasons behind why I'm doing it, and hope that will override any nerves that I have.

"My aim is that people will be talking about this It needs to be discussed," she continues.

"This is my story, this is my power, and I'm bringing that to the stage, and regardless of the result I feel like I've done a good thing

"We owe it to the next generation to say it's okay to be you."

Read more: M&S praised for lingerie photo of model with 'beautiful body'

Seline is through to the finals of Miss GB and hasn't worn any make-up. (Supplied: Elle Seline)
Seline is through to the finals of Miss GB and hasn't worn any make-up. (Supplied: Elle Seline)

A make-up free revolution?  

Seline isn't the only one who seemingly had something of a beauty epiphany during lockdown, it seems the coronavirus pandemic has caused many women to rethink their make-up regimes, with 71% of women surveyed by the market research company NPD Beauty saying they now “wear make-up less often due to COVID-19 lifestyle changes.”

But it didn't take a pandemic for Alicia Keys to realise the benefits of bare-faced living. The singer officially decided to go makeup-free back in 2016, writing in a Lenny Letter post that she simply no longer felt like conforming to the industry's unrealistic expectations and standards. 

"Every time I left the house, I would be worried if I didn't put on makeup: what if someone wanted a picture?? What if they POSTED it," she wrote. "These were the insecure, superficial, but honest thoughts I was thinking. And all of it, one way or another, was based too much on what other people thought of me."

Keys, like Seline, is hoping to inspire others not to feel the pressure to pile on the products. 

“I hope to God it’s a revolution,” she says. 

“'Cause I don’t want to cover up anymore. Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles, not my emotional growth. Nothing.”

The finals of Miss Great Britain will be held in Leicester on September 16 and 17.

Watch: Camila Cabello praised for body-positive video embracing 'curves and cellulite'.

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