A Ms Great Britain contestant who was bullied at school over her appearance is to enter the competition make-up-free to “empower young women”.
Elle Seline, 31, said she used make-up as a mask when she was a teen and was ridiculed for having more body hair due to her mixed Greek/English heritage.
She wants her entry in the national pageant to inspire the next generation.
“There may be a young girl at school who sees it and feels that, actually, I’m good enough as I am,” she said.
Elle grew up on the Greek island of Skiathos before attending Warminster School in Wiltshire.
“I came from a different culture. I was ridiculed for my body shape, my hair was 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 said.
Now a mental health worker and living in Surrey, she said the bullying led to depression in adulthood.
“I would look in the mirror and ridicule myself, because that’s what they did,” Elle said.
She straightened her hair, shaved her arms and started wearing makeup from about the age of 13.
“I would wear foundation that was a bit lighter than my skin because I was desperate to fit in. And the filters and the apps nowadays are doing exactly what I did at school,” she added.
Elle entered last year’s Ms Great Britain – a new category for Miss Great Britain, the UK’s longest-running beauty pageant – for 27-38-year-olds.
But she said she did not “give them Elle”.
“I gave them something I thought they wanted to see,” she said.
Elle, who is also a musician, decided to enter again this year, but without the aid of make-up, after finding confidence in herself during lockdown.
“When I was onstage doing gigs I would always make sure that I looked, in my eyes, pristine. It was my shield, to be honest.
“During lockdown I didn’t have the pressures that I had before, which were to wear make-up. I had to learn to accept myself as I was,” she said.
Her school-friend Kate May, 30, said: “The amount of bullying (Elle) had, it was really dark, it would be enough to break anyone, but she used it to fuel her dreams.”
Miss May said she had also struggled with her own appearance, often using a lot of filters on social media, which Elle told her she did not need.
“Even I’ve gone a little bit more make-up-free because she just makes me feel great about myself,” she said.
“It takes a lot of courage to bare your own self. I think she’ll pave the way for other women to think, I don’t need that. It’s so inspiring.”
Elle said these days beauty pageants are more about “who you are and what you bring to the table”.
“Standing onstage in front of loads of people on a national pageant platform is going to be really scary. But I know after the competition I’m going to feel really good about myself, regardless of if I win or not.
“We owe it to the next generation to say it’s okay to be you,” she added.
The finals of Miss Great Britain will be held in Leicester on Thursday and Friday.
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