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Well-behaved women seldom make history, or so the adage goes, and Elle Seline is keen to cause a disturbance at the Ms Great Britain pageant.
The 31-year-old is the first woman to ever compete in Ms Great Britain, an off-shot of the famous Miss Great Britain pageants, without a scrap of make-up on.
Deciding to go bare-faced may sound trivial, but for a lot of women, being seen without public without their ‘face’ on is something they would never do.
Elle’s confidence is fairly newfound. The charity worker says she started wearing make-up when she was 13, when she first moved to the UK from Greece.
“I got a lot of comments about my hair and my eyebrows, and my skin colour,” she says. “I was also a bit curvier.
“When you’re young, people’s opinions do have an impact on you quite a lot. I had quite an unhealthy relationship with myself. With make up, I only wore it to please other people and to feel good enough and to fit in. I could try and create looks and wear outfits that other people would like.
“I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression all my life, and make-up was definitely a mask for me. I would wear it to hide from other people and just society, and I was scared to show them me. I felt more confident wearing heavy make-up.”
Elle adds that putting on a face helped her form a more confident “alter-ego”, particularly helpful when she was performing at gigs as a singer.
“That was the barrier between me and the audience,” she said. “Make-up gave me some courage. When I wasn’t wearing it, I felt more reserved, and less confident. When I put the make-up on and was performing, I was part of an act.
“I was scared of being ridiculed and showing them my true face. If I was at a gig or social event and I would meet people I knew would be there, that was my biggest fear.”
However, it was during the first lockdown earlier last year that Elle noticed her opinion towards make-up – and herself in general – changed, as she was holed up with just her boyfriend Sam at home in Surrey.
“The coronavirus pandemic was such a wake-up call for me,” she says. “It just went to show life is so uncertain.
“Lockdown took away the usual pressures of life, so I stopped wearing make-up and it made me realise I just never needed to wear it.
“Lockdown saw me reassess my life and what I really wanted from it. I discovered I want to be happy and healthy. I want to enjoy myself how I am. I don’t want to rely on other people’s validations or opinion of me anymore.
“I want to embrace my natural self and my natural flaws and celebrate them and help other people celebrate their own.”
Elle has now made it her mission to help other women embrace the same confidence she found, choosing Ms Great Britain as her platform.
Having competed before in make-up, Elle reflects on her previous years in the competition as not really competing as “herself”.
“I wasn’t my whole self. I didn’t give them everything that was me,” Elle says candidly. “I felt like I was just following the crowd to fit in again.
“My friends and family have been really supportive about it. When I told my boyfriend I was doing it, he just said he’s really happy that I’m finding myself.
“Our relationship’s a lot happier than when we first started getting together two years ago. I’m happier, I’m more confident, then in turn he’s more happy and confident.”
Some may argue that Elle may not have chosen the right platform to make her make-up free statement. Pageants have always been steeped in sexism, with Miss Great Britain no exception,
Having been launched in 1945, the contest makes no bones about its chauvinistic beginnings, explaining on its website: “Men could enjoy watching pretty girls, women could enjoy backing their favourites and young girls could aspire to be a bathing beauty when they grew up.”
But Elle argues it’s because of the pageant’s history that Ms Great Britain – the spin-off beauty contest for women aged 28-39 – that it will allow her message to be broadcast the loudest.
“This issue runs deeper than pageants. If I did this at a gig, it might be noticed,” she explains. “People are saying this is a pageant, you’re being judged on your looks. And that’s exactly why I’m doing it, because I’m defying these expectations.
“If a woman can see me get on stage and be judged without make-up, she may no longer feel uncomfortable about going to the shops without make-up. It gives her that choice.”
And now, with apps such as Instagram being so prevalent, and photo-editing apps commonplace, Elle wants her bare-faced bravery to launch part of a wider movement to show younger women and girls that looking perfect and polished at all times shouldn’t be a necessity.
“Apps like Instagram are so dangerous to people’s expectations They’re just out there for out there for kids to access,” she says. “I used to kick out of using them and putting filters on to make myself look different and that I didn’t need to look like me.
“But that behaviour is dangerous and unhealthy. We shouldn’t feel the need to change ourselves.
“Make up in this day and age is always seen as much as a necessity as hygiene. Women are always expected to be ‘polished’ and ready and they shouldn’t be.
“Women don’t owe you pretty. Women are brilliant and we deserve more than what society has given us.
“This is my promise to the next generation of girls that we will do better for them.”
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