Just When You Thought Pageants Couldn’t Get Any Worse – They Did

There's a new round in the Miss England contest, encouraging female participants to wear less make-up. How patronising, writes Hannah Banks-Walker

miss england 2013

by Hannah Banks-Walker |
Updated on

In today's instalment of something we never asked for but got anyway, there is a new optional round in the Miss England contest entitled Bare Face Top Model. As the name might suggest, participants have to go without make-up in this round, which was conceived by the event's organiser, Angie Beasley.

"I'm hoping this round will encourage our contestants to wear less makeup," Beasley said. “I see so many of our contestants entering with a face full of make up covering their natural beauty. Fake eyelashes and brows, there really is no need for this to enter our contest." The only thing I find more patronising that the very existence of pageants, which essentially just compare women and assess their value, is a woman telling potential participants what they should or shouldn't do with their faces. However you dress it up, pageants judge women on their appearance, and it's now apparently not enough to be objectively attractive – you have to be objectively attractive without any sort of make-up, too.

To enter this round, contestants are required to submit a headshot and full-length photograph of themselves wearing jeans, a black vest top and, of course, not even a hint of mascara. They have to post these pictures on social media, where they'll be judged by a model scout. The winner will be "fast-tracked" into the top 20 contestants at the competition.

Alisha Cowie, who currently holds the Miss England title, told the BBC: "On social media we have influencers and role models which set an unrealistic standard, which I do believe results in mental health issues." This is a fair point to make but photographs of beautiful women without make-up hardly seems like the antidote. Also, this feeds into a kind of moral debate around make-up, with the idea that you're somehow lesser if you choose to wear it.

Perhaps, in order to really boost women's confidence and "empower" them, competitions which directly judge women against other women, largely based on their appearance – with or without make-up – should be scrapped altogether? And perhaps women could be celebrated for more than just whether or not they're wearing lipstick. It is 2019, after all.

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