My Beauty is a visual social history of Margate beauty queens, which also paints a picture of the culture and subculture of beauty queens in the 20th century. The project came about quite by accident, as (when working on something else) I met an ever-increasing number of local women who would introduce themselves to me as a former Miss Margate, Miss Dreamland or similar. I soon learned that this was a lost local history that needed to be explored, explained and documented.
At the height of beauty shows being a part of mainstream UK culture (from the late 1950s to early 1970s), Margate was at its centre in many ways. Shows would take place during the summer on an almost daily basis at bars, swimming pools, entertainment venues, civic halls, workplaces and even political conferences. It is hard to believe now. Miss Socialist really was the name of one local show.
My project, which began in 2016, has involved collecting memories from participants in the shows, who were now aged between 40- and 90-years-old. This took the form of interviews and borrowing collections of photographs to scan. I also worked with local archives and historians. In addition, I took a new portrait of each new participant.
The work will become an exhibition and booklet. Some of the photos from the work in progress can be seen in the gallery. You can see more on the project on the dedicated website my-beauty.co.uk.