Wonderland – I Was Once a Beauty Queen: Tracey Dodd, Della Dolan, Carolyn Seaward, Carolyn Moore, Madeleine Stringer, recall their glory days in this fascinating documentary
Nowadays the only TV broadcasts that would get an audience in excess of 20 million would be royal weddings, Olympic opening ceremonies and um.. the final of Britain’s Got Talent however back in the 1970s the crowning of the annual Miss Great Britain would often attract that sort of huge audience.
The latest programme in the Wonderland documentary thread looks at five ladies who either won the Miss Great Britain or Miss United Kingdom crown and how this accolade changed their lives. It also looks back at when the BBC televised the event, something that last happened 30 years ago, and how big the craze was with even Terry Wogan taking on hosting duties!
Carolyn Moore was the first of the featured ladies to win her title, becoming Miss Great Britain back in 1971 after just leaving school. Moore saw the attraction of competing in beauty contests as a way to earn a bit of money between school and work, however soon she became very much addicted. She revealed that she loved feeling appreciated and being the centre of attention, though was still shocked when she won the big prize and was suddenly bombarded with press interest.
Although the beauty didn’t feel pretty enough to be a model, she eventually found work at the Playboy Club in London which apparently back then didn’t have such a bad image. Carolyn’s parents even came down for a meal. She was only there for a short time though as one day her future husband Mark walked into the club and eventually she left to marry him and the pair are still together to this day.
They are both heading towards retirement age and spend their days clay shooting and generally ‘having fun’ with her claiming that she enjoyed her life as a beauty queen and she was proud of the way that she did it but is all the while glad she got out when she did. Sadly Carolyn’s story of a happily married life is the exception to the former Beauty Queen story rather than the rule.
Take 1977 Miss UK Madeleine Stringer for example who when she won the title was an experienced beauty queen, who kept returning time and time again to appease her competitive nature.
As one of the taller beauty queens in Britain, Stringer was instantly recognisable when she became Miss UK and one night she caught the eye of a man who turned out to be Chas Chandler, former bassist with The Animals.
Madeline’s recount of her relationship with Chas, who she later married, sounded fairly intense as she claimed he would often get paranoid about her going off with other men and that he didn’t let her out of his sights. Chas later made plans to build a giant arena in Newcastle, however during the development he collapsed and in 1996 died of an aneurysm leaving his wife with six million pounds worth of debt.
At least Madeleine briefly found love as it seems that Miss UK 1979 Carolyn Seaward had relationships with a string of men who were no good for her over her years at the top. Carolyn admits that she wasn’t very glam, however her ambition was to earn money straight away so she could move out of home and support herself. Out of the five girls here, Carolyn’s fame was arguably greatest as she went on a date with Prince Andrew as well as appearing as an Octopussy girl in the iconic Bond film. As she said though, there were never any nice men approaching her at the time, and some of her obnoxious lovers included a Swiss banker and a Greek shipper. It seemed that her last relationship was with a mad Doctor Uri who returned to South Africa to get married but not before asking for money from Carolyn to buy the ring. Today Carolyn lives a nomadic existence taking up life as a house-sitter and tending for horses in her spare time she, like Marilyn, also thinks the time for romance has passed her by. Ironically though for someone who wanted to be independent as a teenager she still lives with her mother who worries that she’ll never move on.
Perhaps the oddest introduction to any of our beauty Queens is that of 1982 Miss United Kingdom Della Dolan, as we first heard from her then boyfriend Craig Druper who talked of how beautiful he thought she was the first time he met her. Durban’s story looked at how the beauty contest had changed as instead of a swimsuit round there in her year, there was a Krypton Factor style assault course which she manoeuvred her way around with ease. After winning the crown Della caught the eye of Manchester United goalkeeper Gary Bailey and the two quickly became a celebrity couple….she was even pictured holding the FA Cup.
Instead of keeping up with the modelling though, Della bought clothing business Hobo from her ex Craig and became an entrepreneur. Della know lives in Switzerland with her two daughters as well as her husband Craig, a fact that was revealed to us in a very laborious way, as he slowly took of his ski helmet. It turns out she got back with her first love, after giving Gary the boot. As with Carolyn Moore, Della got out of the beauty scene when at the right time and has now instilled an entrepreneurial spirit into both of her daughters who still seem proud that their mother won her title.
Della’s Miss Great Britain counterpart was Tracey Dodd from Merseyside who bunked off school to take part in her first beauty contest and her love for competing grew from there. She quit school while still quite young, touring the seaside resorts to compete before finally hitting the big time and becoming Miss Great Britain in 1982.
However Dodds’ reign was marred in controversy as topless photos of her were printed in the paper and she lost her crown with her victory wiped from the record books, and by this I mean Wikipedia, though she did get married to Steve and move to Australia.
The couple went on to have a daughter together, however Tracey became suspicious that he would leave her for a younger model something he eventually did, finding a woman 12 years her junior and leaving her to fend for herself as a single mother. Dodd used this set-back to her advantage studying for her A-Levels aged 40 before getting a Bachelor’s Degree and being offered a job as a teacher at the University of Sheffield.
Today though Tracey is in promotions, while her life has come full circle as her daughter India is now a full time model. India provides the perfect contrast between the innocent beauty queens of the 1970s and their 21st century counterparts as she caked in tanning lotion, while also has a pair of fake breasts and is in a long term relationship with a footballer.
Hannah Berryman’s film was a fascinating one, looking back on what at first-glance is a simpler time, but one in which 20 million people tuned in their TVs to watch teenage girls in their swimwear. All five women questioned were very interesting subjects all of whom have suffered their own personal setbacks but all seem wiser after them. My big question was would these women be in the places they were today if it weren’t for their lives as beauty queens and my answers were mixed.
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