For those new to My Beauty, here is a quick recap. I started the project (in my head at least) way back in 2011 when in Margate working on a project called Cachet about youth subcultures in the town. The idea was to get working class locals into Turner Contemporary while recording their important part in the area’s cultural history. This worked surprisingly well.
While doing my research I kept meeting ladies of a certain age who would stroll up and proudly announce themselves as Miss Margate 1972, Miss Cliftonville 1964 or Miss Lido 1958. At first I was confused. Then I was hooked. What was it that was so important about these contests? What was it about the beauty shows that had stuck with them? And just who were they?
As I dug a little, I found out that the contests were as varied as the women I met. Some shows were about civic pride and evening gowns, others were about swimsuits and cash prizes. Sometimes the cash prizes were life-changing. A flat and a sports car life-changing. A Way Out. In the same way that boxing was for young working class men. For me, this is working class history, told from a working class perspective. These are untold stories, refreshed and not moderated through the same old lens.
Fast forward five years and I spent the summer back in Margate, interviewing and photographing 25 women. Quizzing them on class, feminism, beauty, family, local pride and just about everything else I could think of. They were ALL wonderful, ranging in age from 50- to 84-years-old.
Now for more hard work, putting it all together as a book and exhibition. More soon!