Miss England finalist Melisa Raouf competes without makeup and makes history

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Melisa Raouf used to spend three hours perfecting her makeup because she was not confident in her natural beauty. But as other contestants put on theirs in preparation for the Miss England pageant this week, Raouf faced the competition without her.

In doing so, 20-year-old Raouf became the first contestant without make-up in the 94-year history of the Miss England pageant, making her the face of a bare-face movement that has resonated with women around the world . It was a challenge for herself, Raouf said, after years of being shy and insecure, discouraged by a social media ecosystem overrun with meticulously edited and filtered images.

“Women are pressured to look a certain way due to society’s narrow perception of beauty and perfection, and they are often scrutinized for not conforming to it,” she said in a statement. interview. “I wanted to challenge those unrealistic beauty standards by taking that bare face to the next level.”

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Skin positivity campaigners have criticized the role of the beauty industry in marketing their products with photoshopped images and taking advantage of women’s insecurities. Raouf, a political science student at King’s College London, said she wanted to inspire girls like her who felt they couldn’t measure up.

Contestants qualified for the Miss England final, held Sunday and Monday in Birmingham, in a number of ways, including winning a special title (such as ‘advertising queen’) or a regional pageant. Raouf did so after winning June’s Miss London Bare Face Top Model pageant, an optional round added in 2019 that invites contestants to post a photo of themselves without makeup on their social media accounts and then claim the same title at the Miss England semi-finals in August. .

Before the final, Raouf picked up litter in London and organized a 10 kilometer event to raise funds for the non-profit organization Beauty with a Purpose, affiliated with Miss World, which provides food, water and education to those who need it. She also started the #barefacetrendmovement, which boosted her confidence and connected her to a community of women seeking positive skin.

“I’m very proud of her,” said Elle Seline, who last year became the first woman to enter the Ms Great Britain pageant without makeup, a pageant for women aged 31 to 44. “It’s great that other women are waking up and using their platforms to keep this conversation going.

Seline, 32, used her platform during the Ms Great Britain pageant to promote women’s empowerment and the right to body choice, from makeup to abortion. She said she was bullied for her olive complexion and heavier features and struggled with bulimia growing up, but being alone during pandemic lockdowns, away from judgment or validation from others , gave her time to work on herself before the competition.

She sees Raouf’s no-makeup choice, she said, as a stepping stone to a beauty revolution.

“We will see a difference in how society views beauty, and we hope to see a lot of changes,” Seline said.

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Raouf and the other Miss England finalists took part in 10 rounds, including hair and talent. The crown went to an aerospace engineering student on Monday night Jessica Gagenwho will then compete with more than 120 other participating countries for the title of Miss World.

But, in his final statement, Raouf got his point across.

“For too long, women have been pressured to look, act or behave a certain way, and I think it’s time for a change: to show women, whatever their age, regardless of background, we are beautiful just the way we are,” she said on Monday.

The push for natural skin love slowly gained traction, surprising even some real skin influencers who feared their unfiltered images would be met with hateful comments.

Mariia Bilenka, a 25-year-old Ukrainian living in Hamburg, had shared her skin story on social media in 2018, fed up with the inconsistency she faced trying to deal with the rashes she had suffered since age 13 years old. shame because skin problems used to be such a taboo subject,” said Bilenka, marketer for a skincare app for acne-prone people.

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Today, more than 500,000 Instagram posts include #bareface, and nearly 250,000 more include #skinpositivity, signaling the growth of a once niche group. as real-skin activists and no-makeup influencers resonate with the push to see unfiltered and unedited images as beautiful.

Lou Northcote’s modeling career was cut short at age 16 due to severe acne. It hurt Northcote, now a 25-year-old Londoner working in fashion, that she couldn’t pursue what she loved. But the community she found through her Instagram hashtag, #freethepimple, gave her tremendous support for embracing her bare face.

“We all have wrinkles, veins, scars, marks of anything. But for some reason we’re being told we have to be completely blameless,” Northcote said. “I didn’t invent acne. I just talked about it.”

“After participating in this competition, I learned this ability to love myself [and] accept myself for who I am in my own skin, whether with or without makeup,” she told The Washington Post. “That inner confidence will radiate far more than any makeup or filter.”

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