‘We’re proof beauty is more than skin deep’: Miss Unique Beauty UK contestants show off their scars

Rochelle Barrett never used to consider herself a beauty. The 30-year-old dance teacher from Sheffield was just eight months old when an accident with a kettle of boiling water left her with third degree burns over 70 per cent of her body.

She was bullied as a teenager and spent years hiding her scars. But after getting into dance and performing in her 20s, she was attracted to the world of beauty pageants.

‘I love anything to do with fashion and beauty so when, in 2015, I saw that Miss Caribbean UK was looking for contestants, I thought it would be a wonderful thing to do,’ she says. ‘I didn’t know there would be a bikini round until halfway through and to be honest, I didn’t know if I could do it. But I’d come so far I thought ‘why not?’

It’s a decision she has not regretted.

A group of women are taking part in a new type of beauty pageant called Miss Unique Beauty which is 'exclusively for and celebrating survivors of disfigurement and visible differences'

A group of women are taking part in a new type of beauty pageant called Miss Unique Beauty which is 'exclusively for and celebrating survivors of disfigurement and visible differences'

A group of women are taking part in a new type of beauty pageant called Miss Unique Beauty which is ‘exclusively for and celebrating survivors of disfigurement and visible differences’

Rochelle Barrett, 30, is a dance teacher from Sheffield. She was just eight months old when an accident with a kettle of boiling water left her with third degree burns over 70 per cent of her body

Rochelle Barrett, 30, is a dance teacher from Sheffield. She was just eight months old when an accident with a kettle of boiling water left her with third degree burns over 70 per cent of her body

Rochelle Barrett, 30, is a dance teacher from Sheffield. She was just eight months old when an accident with a kettle of boiling water left her with third degree burns over 70 per cent of her body

Rochelle Barrett, 30, is a dance teacher from Sheffield. She was just eight months old when an accident with a kettle of boiling water left her with third degree burns over 70 per cent of her body

Rochelle Barrett, 30, is a dance teacher from Sheffield. She was just eight months old when an accident with a kettle of boiling water left her with third degree burns over 70 per cent of her body

‘When I stepped on stage and showed all my scars, it was the most wonderful and empowering experience I’ve ever had,’ she says. ‘I felt like I could do anything.’

After being crowned Miss Personality in the contest, Rochelle was determined to give other women the opportunity to experience that same feeling.

‘The pageant built up my confidence so much, I wish I’d done it long ago. There are lots of women out there who have visible differences that mean they haven’t felt accepted in society and by the worlds of beauty and fashion. I wanted them to be celebrated as beautiful and desired, to show you’re more than your trauma.’

And so, at the end of this month, the winner of Miss Unique Beauty UK will be crowned.

‘The pageant is for survivors of burns, scarring and disfigurement and flips the traditional beauty pageant on its head. Everyone is beautiful in their own way and we should be celebrating those differences,’ says Rochelle.

Rochelle’s desire to challenge that cookie-cutter perception of beauty could not be more timely. In an era when we’re bombarded with more images of so-called aesthetic perfection than ever before, anything that forces a reassessment of what we consider to be ‘beautiful’ is surely a force for good — for all women.

Rochelle was bullied as a teenager and spent years hiding her scars. But after getting into dance and performing in her 20s, she was attracted to the world of beauty pageants

Rochelle was bullied as a teenager and spent years hiding her scars. But after getting into dance and performing in her 20s, she was attracted to the world of beauty pageants

Rochelle was bullied as a teenager and spent years hiding her scars. But after getting into dance and performing in her 20s, she was attracted to the world of beauty pageants

Rochelle was bullied as a teenager and spent years hiding her scars. But after getting into dance and performing in her 20s, she was attracted to the world of beauty pageants

Rochelle was bullied as a teenager and spent years hiding her scars. But after getting into dance and performing in her 20s, she was attracted to the world of beauty pageants

She was born with a cleft lip and palate, which means her facial features didn't form properly, and admits that she was 'not always a fan' of her face

She was born with a cleft lip and palate, which means her facial features didn't form properly, and admits that she was 'not always a fan' of her face

She was born with a cleft lip and palate, which means her facial features didn't form properly, and admits that she was 'not always a fan' of her face

She was born with a cleft lip and palate, which means her facial features didn't form properly, and admits that she was 'not always a fan' of her face

She was born with a cleft lip and palate, which means her facial features didn’t form properly, and admits that she was ‘not always a fan’ of her face

Lauren-Marie Cross, a 22-year-old radiographer’s assistant from Doncaster who is one of the finalists, thinks it’s about time ‘girls like me’ were celebrated in the world of fashion and beauty.

She was born with a cleft lip and palate, which means her facial features didn’t form properly, and admits that she was ‘not always a fan’ of her face.

‘Boys have said nasty things in the past. I’ve been taunted, called ‘Scarface’ and ‘Clefty’ but now, I absolutely adore my scar. I wouldn’t be me without it,’ she says. ‘If you try to hide your scars, you’re trying to hide a part of yourself. I’ve never tried to cover it with make-up — now I even put highlighter on it to make it stand out more.

‘There was no one moment that changed how I felt about it, but as I got older I realised that a lot of the negativity comes from people not understanding it, so now I just explain why I look the way I look.’

Lauren-Marie says she’s frustrated she doesn’t see people with facial disfigurements in the fashion industry. ‘The way beauty is defined so narrowly makes many women feel ugly, because it seems so unobtainable,’ she says.

When she finishes university later this year, she intends to challenge this by redoubling her efforts to become a model.

Laura Masters, 26, jumped at the opportunity to take part in a competition actively seeking women with visible differences

Laura Masters, 26, jumped at the opportunity to take part in a competition actively seeking women with visible differences

Laura Masters, 26, jumped at the opportunity to take part in a competition actively seeking women with visible differences

'I've applied for beauty competitions since I was 18,' says the care worker from Caerphilly, who at just a year old was placed in a bath of boiling water by her birth mother's boyfriend, resulting in third-degree burns across half her body

'I've applied for beauty competitions since I was 18,' says the care worker from Caerphilly, who at just a year old was placed in a bath of boiling water by her birth mother's boyfriend, resulting in third-degree burns across half her body

'I've applied for beauty competitions since I was 18,' says the care worker from Caerphilly, who at just a year old was placed in a bath of boiling water by her birth mother's boyfriend, resulting in third-degree burns across half her body

'I've applied for beauty competitions since I was 18,' says the care worker from Caerphilly, who at just a year old was placed in a bath of boiling water by her birth mother's boyfriend, resulting in third-degree burns across half her body

 ‘I’ve applied for beauty competitions since I was 18,’ says the care worker from Caerphilly, who at just a year old was placed in a bath of boiling water by her birth mother’s boyfriend, resulting in third-degree burns across half her body

Like Lauren-Marie, Laura Masters, 26, jumped at the opportunity to take part in a competition actively seeking women with visible differences.

‘I’ve applied for beauty competitions since I was 18,’ says the care worker from Caerphilly, who at just a year old was placed in a bath of boiling water by her birth mother’s boyfriend, resulting in third-degree burns across half her body.

 I can’t think about what I’d have looked like if I hadn’t been burned. My scars have made me the person I am, and I can’t imagine being anyone but me.

‘But I’ve been told I couldn’t take part because of my scars — they’d never say it outright, instead they’d say things like: ‘Your image doesn’t meet the requirements.’ That’s a horrible thing to hear. It tells you that you’re not good enough.’

After months in intensive care as an infant, Laura was placed with a foster family who went on to adopt her, supporting her through more than 100 operations, the most recent a laser treatment to help break up her scar tissue. ‘I can’t think about what I’d have looked like if I hadn’t been burned,’ says Laura. ‘My scars have made me the person I am, and I can’t imagine being anyone but me.’

She hopes taking part in the pageant will give her the opportunity to spread the word about the organisations she credits with giving her confidence.

‘There are clubs all over the UK for burn survivors, and it was through them that I met people in the same boat as me. I was 21 when I took a trip to South Africa with one of the clubs and although up until then I’d always worn clothes that hid my scars, out there I wore shorts — I didn’t have to worry that anyone was going to stare at me, they understood.’ Again and again, these women bring up the difficulty they face in dealing with others’ attitudes to their appearance.

Maxine Syrett, 33, from West London, currently works as a volunteer. She was born with a cleft palate and lip, which affected her hearing, speech and sight

Maxine Syrett, 33, from West London, currently works as a volunteer. She was born with a cleft palate and lip, which affected her hearing, speech and sight

Maxine Syrett, 33, from West London, currently works as a volunteer. She was born with a cleft palate and lip, which affected her hearing, speech and sight

Maxine Syrett, 33, from West London, currently works as a volunteer. She was born with a cleft palate and lip, which affected her hearing, speech and sight

Maxine Syrett, 33, from West London, currently works as a volunteer. She was born with a cleft palate and lip, which affected her hearing, speech and sight

She had her first corrective surgery at the age of six months and the last just over two years ago. She sees the pageant as an opportunity to come to terms with something she says she's 'always resented'

She had her first corrective surgery at the age of six months and the last just over two years ago. She sees the pageant as an opportunity to come to terms with something she says she's 'always resented'

 She had her first corrective surgery at the age of six months and the last just over two years ago. She sees the pageant as an opportunity to come to terms with something she says she’s ‘always resented’

‘Just because I have a facial disfigurement, it doesn’t make me different,’ says Maxine Syrett, 33, from West London. ‘I still have my intellect, I still live a normal life.’

Maxine, who currently works as a volunteer, was born with a cleft palate and lip, which affected her hearing, speech and sight. She had her first corrective surgery at the age of six months and the last just over two years ago. She sees the pageant as an opportunity to come to terms with something she says she’s ‘always resented’.

‘As a child I was bullied and called names, such as ‘Bent Nose’, so I had to learn to stand up for myself. I just felt angry at the world. As a teenager, the way I looked had a profound effect on me. I was always rejected by the boys I had crushes on. I remember one telling me ‘I won’t kiss you with a lip like that’. I constantly felt ugly, and as if I didn’t fit in.

‘People would assume that I had learning difficulties because I looked and sounded different. It makes it hard to make friends, or to create a good impression in a job interview. People are scared of what they don’t understand, they don’t know what to say to you.

‘But I want to show people that no matter what I’ve been through I can still face the world. I hope it will show others self-worth shouldn’t be based on appearance.’

Growing up on the south coast she was always in a swimming costume, but when she hit her teens she became much more self-conscious

Growing up on the south coast she was always in a swimming costume, but when she hit her teens she became much more self-conscious

Growing up on the south coast she was always in a swimming costume, but when she hit her teens she became much more self-conscious

Growing up on the south coast she was always in a swimming costume, but when she hit her teens she became much more self-conscious

Growing up on the south coast she was always in a swimming costume, but when she hit her teens she became much more self-conscious

Saffron Cohen, 21, a student at Southampton University, has struggled with the fear that other people might not accept her because of the way she looks. Saffron was four when she was dancing in front of a gas fire and her dress caught light, leaving her with burns up her legs and torso. Growing up on the south coast she was always in a swimming costume, but when she hit her teens she became much more self-conscious.

‘It would upset me when people stared, because you realise you’re different and, as a teenager, the last thing you want is to be different. The biggest hurdle was my own worries that other people might not accept me. Now, I accept people will look at me, but it’s taken a while to get to this point.’

She’s at pains to point out that these things don’t happen overnight, that you have to ‘be patient with yourself’.

Lauren-Marie agrees. ‘It’s a process, learning to love your scars, but you get there eventually.’

Kira Evans, 24, admits that she still struggles. She was in a house fire aged 14 and had to be put into an induced coma for several months while the burns that covered a third of her body were treated. ‘Even today I won’t wear shorts and I’ve never been in a swimming pool since,’ she says. Kira, from Llanelli, a stay-at-home-mum to Carys, five, and Levi, three, says that after the fire she became a recluse. ‘I shut down, I didn’t leave the house for well over a year.’

Kira Evans, 24, admits that she still struggles. She was in a house fire aged 14 and had to be put into an induced coma for several months while the burns that covered a third of her body were treated

Kira Evans, 24, admits that she still struggles. She was in a house fire aged 14 and had to be put into an induced coma for several months while the burns that covered a third of her body were treated

'Even today I won't wear shorts and I've never been in a swimming pool since,' she says.

'Even today I won't wear shorts and I've never been in a swimming pool since,' she says.

Kira, from Llanelli, a stay-at-home-mum to Carys, five, and Levi, three, says that after the fire she became a recluse. 'I shut down, I didn't leave the house for well over a year.'

Kira, from Llanelli, a stay-at-home-mum to Carys, five, and Levi, three, says that after the fire she became a recluse. 'I shut down, I didn't leave the house for well over a year.'

Kira Evans, 24, admits that she still struggles. She was in a house fire aged 14 and had to be put into an induced coma for several months while the burns that covered a third of her body were treated. ‘Even today I won’t wear shorts and I’ve never been in a swimming pool since,’ she says. Kira, from Llanelli, a stay-at-home-mum to Carys, five, and Levi, three, says that after the fire she became a recluse. ‘I shut down, I didn’t leave the house for well over a year.’

When she met her partner, Andrew, 29, seven years ago, she says she was 'shocked he had any interest in talking to me. I wasn't comfortable being out in public at all.'

When she met her partner, Andrew, 29, seven years ago, she says she was 'shocked he had any interest in talking to me. I wasn't comfortable being out in public at all.'

When she met her partner, Andrew, 29, seven years ago, she says she was ‘shocked he had any interest in talking to me. I wasn’t comfortable being out in public at all.’

When she met her partner, Andrew, 29, seven years ago, she says she was ‘shocked he had any interest in talking to me. I wasn’t comfortable being out in public at all.’ They started off as friends — ‘I didn’t want to let my guard down’ — before their relationship developed. This tentative approach is something Saffron and Lauren-Marie both recognise.

‘I tend to build relationships quite slowly, because I feel like I have to pick the right moment to tell them about what’s under my clothes,’ says Saffron. ‘Although it’s never been a problems for any of my boyfriends, so I think a lot of that fear is based on my own worries rather than reality.’

Lauren-Marie has been with her boyfriend since they were 15, but remembers the first time he asked to kiss her. ‘I remember saying to him, ‘My mouth might feel weird, it might put you off’ — but he told me he couldn’t care less.’

The pageant is for survivors of burns, scarring and disfigurement and flips the traditional beauty pageant on its head. Everyone is beautiful in their own way and we should be celebrating those differences

All of the women see the pageant as an opportunity to be the role models they wish they’d had when they were growing up.

‘Back then there was nothing,’ says Kira. ‘It was hard to find out about burns or scars, there was nobody you could look up to.’

‘I want our voices to be heard,’ adds Maxine. ‘And to change society’s perceptions of disfigurement and disability.’

They also see it as a chance to reframe our conventions. ‘There isn’t one standard of beauty,’ says Saffron. ‘It’s more than the generic vision we’re usually presented with, and I hope this shows that.’

However, it’s telling that, despite many beauty brands’ outward claims of inclusivity, when we spoke Rochelle was struggling to get sponsorship for the pageant, after being rebuffed by many of the companies she approached. She has even taken on a second job to finance the project.

This quiet determination to make the event go ahead regardless of the obstacles she faces is characteristic of all of the finalists we spoke to, and is encapsulated in a quote Saffron tells me she found on the internet which, she says, ‘just seemed to sum up how I feel. It said: ‘I survived because the fire inside me burned brighter than the fire around me.’

  • For more information about the pageant, see Rochelle’s Twitter feed at twitter.com/BarrettRochelle

 

Link hienalouca.com

(Просмотров всего: 22 Время, 1 визитов за день)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *