Third degree burns, facial disfigurement and scarring: Women are competing in a unique beauty pageant to challenge society’s perception of beauty

A BEVVY of beauties will be taking to the catwalk next month to compete to be crowned a pageant queen this month.

But this is not your average beauty contest, as each beautiful contestant will be proudly celebrating their bodies “flaws” – from third degree burns and scarring to facial disfigurements.

The Miss Unique Beauty UK pageant was set up by 30-year-old dance teacher Rochelle Barrett, who has third degree burns covering 70 per cent of her body.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, she said: “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.”

Rochelle was inspired to set up the contest to challenge society’s limiting perception of beauty, and was spurred on by her own pageant history.

Rochelle was involved with an accident involving a kettle full of boiling water when she was eight months old, and the scarring led to cruel comments from bullies when she was older.

After years of concealing her scars, she decided to apply for the Miss Caribbean UK contest in 2015.

Her initial excitement was put on hold when she discovered there would be a bikini round as part of the pageant.

Strong. Scarred. Sexy. Never be afraid to be all 3! #bodyconfidence #empowerment #empoweringwomen #burns #burnsurvivor #disfigurement #positivebodyimage #nofear #swimwear #bikini #strong #scarred #sexy #dancersknees #embraceyourbody #embraceyourself

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Rochelle admitted she didn’t know if she could go through with it, but said she had come so far that she decided to be bold.

Her bravery paid off as she found the experience to be the most empowering thing she’d ever done – and she even walked away with the Miss Personality award.

Rochelle said the contest built up her confidence and she left determined to give other women shunned by society the chance to feel beautiful.

Behind the scenes photo from the other week at the @dailymail shoot ? Can't thank everyone enough for the beautiful dresses/makeup/hair/photos and making us all feel special ? Really excited for the next few weeks to see the girls again! ?#missuniquebeautyuk #photoshoot #cleftlipandpalate #burnsurvivors #strongwomen #beauty #confidence #learningtoloveyourself #dresses #modelsearch #scars

A post shared by Lauren-marie ? (@lozzcross) on

I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to be taking part in the amazing #missuniquebeautyuk as a finalist with some of the most inspirational and beautiful women I have ever met. This is something I am very passionate about, as by doing this I am hoping to increase my own confidence as well as encourage other women to love their scars, disfigurements, visible differences or any part of their body they don't feel confident about. #internationalwomensday #cleftlipandpalate @clapacommunity #scars #beauty #model

A post shared by Lauren-marie ? (@lozzcross) on

~I'm blossoming ????? #workinprogress #gettoknowyourself

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One of the women competing in the final of the pageant is 22-year-old Lauren-Marie Cross, from Doncaster.

The radiographer's assistant was born with a cleft lip and palate and admits that she “hasn’t always been a fan” of her face.

Lauren-Marie said in the past boys have called her “Scarface” and “Clefty”, but she now “adores” her scar.

She said: “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.”

The brave contestant said there’s a lack of people with facial disfigurements in the fashion industry and she wishes to challenge the cookie-cutter perception of beauty.

When she graduates university this year, Lauren-Marie has been spurred on by the pageant to become a model.

Photo shoot #photoshoot #burnsurvivor #disfigurement #bestmemmories #photography #photo #hideaway #watchthisspace #burns #blue #scars #legs #beauty #modeling @rochellejulianne26 #curlyhair #curvygirl #welshgirl #size10 #beproudofyou #beproudofwhoyouare #burnsurvivor #getyourskinout #thisisone #noonespergected #missuniquebeautyuk #thedailymail

A post shared by Laura Masters (@28laura1992) on

When u have to go for check ups #photo #burns #scars #scarstoyourbeautiful #scarstories #burnsurvivor #bathtub #hotwater #childhood #hospital #legs #beutiful #disfigurement @scarsarebeautifulproject #getyourskinout

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Miss unique beauty uk head to the Facebook page miss unique beauty uk the first ever beauty pageant that’s is there for woman who scars and disfigurement #missuniquebeautyuk #beautypageant #walesonline #beautypageant #beachgirl #surfgirl #curvygirl #burnsurvivor @animalclothing_uk #animalclothing #bikini #scars #scarstoyourbeautiful #scarstories #reallife #realwoman #instagram #beauty #positivevibes #news #tv @changingfacesuk @channel4 @chanelofficial @thismorning @modelcitizenmedia @nunude_official @bbcnews @bbcbodypositive @bbcradio1 @bbcwalesnews @bbcthree @bbcone only you can change ur life and only you can make the first step in being confident ? never give up #lorraine @lorraine @lorrainekellysmith

A post shared by Laura Masters (@28laura1992) on

Also taking part is Lauren Masters, 26, who was placed in a bath of boiling water by her birth mum’s boyfriend, resulting in third degree burns on half of her body.

After being placed in foster care, and later adopted, Lauren had over 100 operations to treat her burns.

The care worker from Caerphilly admitted she’s applied for beauty contests since she was 18, but was cruelly told she couldn’t take part due to her scars.

Although it was horrible hearing her “image didn’t meet requirements”, she said that her scars have made her who she is today.

She wishes to promote the UK-based burn survivor groups who have given her confidence to accept herself.

The inspiring women hope that the pageant will let them be the role models they didn’t have growing up.

Despite many brands trying to be more inclusive, host Rochelle admits it has been a challenge to get the pageant off the ground.

The dedicated organiser said she has been rejected by many companies she has approached for sponsorship, and has taken a second job to fund the event.

Regardless of any obstacles, Rochelle hopes the contest will “reassess” what society considers “beautiful”.

We previously shared the story of a fire dancer who suffered horrific burns after a freak accident, but has embraced her looks. 

We also reported on a First Dates contestant, 24, who was told she should "kill herself" because of her rare skin condition – and hasn't dated for five years.

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