Clare Cullen - Ireland's Beauty Champion

Clare Cullen - Ireland's Beauty Champion

In 2011, Clare Cullen represented Ireland at the WorldSkills Competition in London – basically the Olympics for skills, and a competition she didn’t even realise she was competing in until she qualified for the world finals!

Clare was the Beauty Therapy competitor for #TeamIreland at that year’s WorldSkills Competition representing her country, while competing with the best students from around the world in her field.

Clare’s journey started out while she was in secondary school in Loreto College, Foxrock. She knew exactly what she wanted to do after her Leaving Certificate – Body and Beauty Therapy. We spoke to her recently about her journey and she told us: “I didn’t even fill out a CAO application. There was no need to - I knew exactly what I wanted to do and where I wanted to study, and that was Senior College Dun Laoghaire (now Blackrock Further Education Institute).”

“My family were really supportive of my career choice. They understood that this was the only route I wanted to take and were completely behind me. I applied, was accepted and started at Blackrock Further Education Institute (BFEI) after the summer.”

“The course was everything I hoped it would be. As well as all the practical elements there was also quite a bit of theory. During our practical classes we spent time giving treatments, as well as receiving them and holding open salons for friends, family and the public.”

“We also had science and business modules, which makes it a really well-rounded course. The science aspects helped us all to get a better understanding of the chemistry, biology and physiology involved. The business side of the course really prepares you for the real world and even setting up your own salon. The course gave us lots of different directions to go in with our careers.”

When asked about the elements of the course she thought were best, she Clare told us: “The tutors were brilliant. It was really clear how much they truly cared.”

“The BFEI course I did was also particularly beneficial because we did all of our practical work using the industry’s top brand products and we were always exposed the latest treatments and industry developments. We were educated and experienced in what our customers would expect when we were working professionally. We also provided treatments to members of the public during open salons which was great because they would expect a certain standard and would be more honest in their feedback than our peers. I finished the course feeling really prepared and experienced.”

And what about the WorldSkills Competition – how did that come about? “Well,” Clare told us, “that all started as small competition in college. We didn’t actually know it was linked to anything more at the time. I placed in that and was told that I was through to the National Beauty Therapy Competition in the RDS which was run as part of the National Beauty Show. I was delighted! It was great to watch and learn from the other competitors, although strange to be giving treatments in front of spectators and judges in such a public forum.”

“I placed first in the national competition and was over the moon. It was only then that I was told that this meant I would be representing Ireland for the WorldSkills Competition, that I’d be going to London and competing against 20 other countries from around the world! I joined a team of 10 other Irish competitors, competing in various other skills including aircraft maintenance and plastering.”

After she qualified for the competition, Clare went into full time training for six months before competing in London. She tells us: “The college and WorldSkills Ireland were amazing. They gave me so much support, provided facilities for me to train full time from Monday to Friday and I was teamed up with an industry expert, Sharon Doyle, to learn as much as I possibly could in advance.”

“When I got to London, the competition itself was enormous and took place in ExCeL London. 51 countries in total were competing in 2011 and 20 countries were in the Beauty Therapy category. What was great about the competition was being able to learn techniques from the other international competitors, make international connections and friends for life. You would be showcasing skills to thousands of spectators at a time but you would be so focused you wouldn’t notice a single person.”

Clare came in 10th in the world at the competition, and her performance earned her one of the five Medallions of Excellence scooped by the Irish team that year. We asked what life was like afterwards: “The confidence I got from the whole experience was incredible. When doing interviews, I would explain the competition and you could see that interviewers were impressed, so it definitely helped when applying for jobs. I also gave some talks in schools about Beauty Therapy as a career path. It really opened up a lot of doors for me.”

If you’re considering a future in Beauty or Body Therapy, there are lots of courses around Ireland. Could you be the Irish representative at the next WorldSkill Competition?

Head to and start your future now.