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Meet the winner of the world's first makeup-free beauty pageant

Pageant organizers were concerned about the influence social media had on contestants and wanted a new way to show off their natural beauty.
Natasha Beresford.
Posted at 12:11 PM, Oct 19, 2023

When you picture a beauty pageant contestant, what words come to mind? Flawless. Exquisite. Perfectly made-up.

What don’t you imagine? A bunch of women strutting the catwalk with the face they woke up with this morning.

But that’s exactly what happened last month during what's billed as the first-ever makeup-free beauty pageant. It was held by the Miss England organization to crown Miss London, which is part of the process leading to the Miss World Contest.

Peruse photos of the competitors, and it’s fair to say that they all have more than their fair share of natural beauty. But they were not permitted to embellish it with cosmetics, and they were also judged on their “occupations and studies” and their “ethical values,” according to pageant organizers. They all wore “boho-themed, ethically sourced” clothing.

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The winner, Natasha Beresford, is a 26-year-old dental nurse from Sheffield who wowed the judges with her humanitarian efforts in the dental field. She spent two weeks volunteering at outreach clinics in Uganda with charity Dentaid, helping to relieve 1,354 people from dental pain. She has also worked at Project Tooth Fairy at Royal London Dental Hospital, helping provide treatment for kids.

She wore a white gown from the sustainable wedding dress brand Shikoba Bride.

Miss England / @gemxphoto

Beresford will go on to compete for the Miss England crown later this year. She’ll also get an offer to model for ads for Cetuem London, a natural skincare brand that co-sponsored the pageant. And they gave her free skincare products as part of her prize.

In 2019, the Miss England pageant introduced the Bare Face Top Model competition into the Miss London contest — one round in which contestants could not wear makeup.

Angie Beasley, the director of Miss England, told British newspaper The National that this decision was made “due to the amount of contestants submitting heavily made-up and filtered photos of themselves to enter the contest.”

Pageant organizers were concerned about the influence of social media on younger generations as the contestants posted photos of themselves with so much makeup and filters.

When an Iranian English contestant named Melisa Raouf saw her photos from the Bare Face round, she told The National, “It made me realize that I don’t always need the make-up or filters that I’ve been so dependent on.”

She decided to continue bare-faced into the Miss London semi-finals as well, claiming the same title and qualifying for the larger Miss England competition, the Washington Post reports. And while she did not win there, she did become a social media influencer when word of her unusual strategy came out.

“I think people should love and embrace their flaws and blemishes, as we know real beauty lies within simplicity,” Raouf explained, saying that she wanted “to show women that make-up or filters are never compulsory, it’s a choice.”

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Beasley said, “Melisa chose to take the Bare Face round a step further by competing in the whole Miss England competition make-up free, which is very brave, considering the finalists are all wearing make-up in the other rounds.”

This all led to this year’s introduction of an entire pageant sans makeup. Raouf returned to be one of the judges, who crowned Beresford the first-ever makeup-free Miss London pageant winner.

Here’s a TikTok post from the Miss England organization announcing Raouf as one of the judges for this year’s event and showing images of her after she won the Bare Face award in 2022.

@interestingtruth ⚠️⚠️ Interesting facts that will blow your mind! 🧠💡 #facts #randomfacts #LearnOnTiktok #factsyoudidntknow #curiosities ♬ Paris - Else

“I am thrilled to have been selected as Miss London,” Beresford told the Daily Mail. “All the girls that competed are so beautiful and truly inspirational, so it was an honor to be chosen.”

While Beresford won the crown, the two runners-up were 23-year-old engineering student Afrose Ameen and 26-year-old accounts assistant and model Temi Adeyemi.

Will this new “natural beauty” trend catch on in other pageants? Cosmetics companies won’t like it, but it could be a real boon for young women to see that you can go without makeup and still be considered one of the most beautiful women in the world.

This story was originally published by Jennifer Graham Kizer at Simplemost.com.