Miss England was a cattle market and I was terrified to rock a swimsuit – but bikini round must stay, says Angie Beasley | The Sun

IT'S 13 years since she banned the swimwear parade at Miss England but pageant organiser Angie Beasley says she won’t bow down to the ‘woke brigade’ any longer. Here’s why . . .

IT’S 2022 – both body positivity and female empowerment are huge so we have decided to embrace the bikini round as women should be able to decide if they want to show off their bodies.

On Monday our contestants took to the catwalk in London for the semi-finals and 40 will battle it out for the crown in October — with swimwear as one of ten rounds, and optional.

And the major difference from the old days is that the girls submit a photo of themselves — they won’t be paraded around like show ponies on display this time.

There’s no wonder the contest got a reputation as a cattle market because in the Seventies and Eighties, that is exactly what it was.

I competed in Miss England for three years, from 1984 to 1987, and competed in hundreds of competitions around the country.


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I can still remember the feeling of my knees knocking together the first time I stepped on to the catwalk wearing a swimsuit and a pair of white stilettos.

I was 16, as pale as a piece of paper and extremely shy as I listened to my bust, waist and hip measurements, which were 34, 24, 35, being announced to the judges.

We were even asked to do a twirl so they could check out our bodies from different angles.

I kept it a secret from my mum but she found out the following day when a neighbour said they’d seen my photo in the local paper.

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Still, I have no regrets because it was my decision — a baptism of fire — and stepping out of my comfort zone did heaps for my confidence. But the ethos around the competition has changed — today it’s all about bolstering women.

In 2009, I’d been at the helm of Miss England for seven years when we became the first contest in the world to ban the swimwear heat altogether.

With interest in the contest dwindling and more women saying they felt uncomfortable being on stage in swimwear, we moved with the times.

We wanted to get the message across that the contest should become about more than congratulating girls for looking good or having the bravery to parade on stage half-naked.

Coincidentally, Miss World followed suit five years later. Over the years, some contestants welcomed the decision, while others were sorry to see it go.

We’ve introduced a wider variety such as the bare-faced round where girls are asked to pose a make-up free selfie on social media, a charity fundraising round, as well as an eco round which is all about promoting sustainability.

Although the competition has become more about brains than beauty, we feel that now is the right time to officially bring swimwear back.

'More about brains than beauty'

On social media, there are millions of posts about body positivity and celebrities of all shapes and sizes share photos in bikinis — Miss England should be part of this movement.

Swimwear has crept back in a couple of times over the years since 2009 — like when the finals were held at seaside towns, which seemed the ideal setting for a beach photo-shoot.

But it’s never been in catwalk form — and I will never let it return to a time when women were lined up on stage listening to their statistics being read out to a panel of male judges.

This year, it’s all about choice and promoting body confidence, plus the panel of judges is mainly made up of successful businesswomen or former winners.

Crucially, though, it is the contestants’ choice if they want to partake by submitting a photo — not mine. They don’t have to enter the round.

We want to encourage women to feel proud of their bodies.

Crucially, though, it is the contestants’ choice if they want to partake by submitting a photo — not mine. They don’t have to enter the round.

We floated the idea with former contestants and they said they wanted it back.

They told me: “If you have a nice body, keep healthy and look good, then why shouldn’t we show it off?”

I predict that three- quarters of this year’s entries will submit a photo in swimwear between now and the final, which speaks volumes.

And I hope that Miss World, which our winner will compete in, will do the same.

The organisers planned to bring swimwear back during their finals at a beach location in Puerto Rico last December but it was postponed due to a Covid outbreak.

To win our competition overall, entrants must have won, or done well in, one or more rounds. These days, turning up to the catwalk looking beautiful simply isn’t enough.

In 2019, NHS doctor Bhasha Mukherjee won, and in 2015 singer-songwriter Natasha Hemmings took the crown. Critics might say that bringing swimwear back is a slippery slope. It’s not.

I won’t let it go back to the cattle market days. But I also won’t bow down to the woke brigade and go back to abolishing swimwear altogether because girls deserve the choice.

Ultimately, whether you’re a size 8 or a size 18 and regardless of how good you look in a dress or a bikini, to win the crown you have to be the full package — not just a pretty face full of lip fillers, Botox and heavy make-up.

‘I encouraged daughter to enter swimsuit round’

AT 16, Alanta Shattock is this year’s youngest contestant and will be studying for a BTEC in travel and tourism in September.

She lives in Farnham, Surrey with mum Karon, 52, a sales merchandiser, and stepdad Paul, 56, who owns a construction company. Karon says:

"When I was younger, swimwear was a big part of the Miss England catwalk and I’m glad they’ve brought it back because it’s going back to the competition’s roots.

"Now we have social media, I wouldn’t want Alanta parading around on stage in swimwear because you don’t know where the photos might end up. When I was 18 I competed in Miss Camberley (Surrey) and I had to wear a swimsuit on stage in a local nightclub.

"I wasn’t fat but I was more athletic than the other girls and I felt very self-conscious.

"Expecting young girls to parade on stage is a big ask, while submitting a photo is a great alternative, especially for girls who don’t have lots of self-confidence.

"Alanta plans to get some photos in her bikini on the beach. It means she has full control over which photo she submits.

"I’ve encouraged her to enter this round because I want her to be proud of her body, and lots of parents don’t get behind their children."

‘Charity work attracted me, it’s part of who I am’

MISS Birmingham title holder Amrita Saund, 26, pictured, is a pharmacist in an ITU, and lives in Handsworth. She says:

"When it was compulsory and women had to walk around the stage in swimwear that was different. I don’t think I would feel comfortable with that at all. But there’s now a choice, and that gives the power to women.

"But the competition has completely changed with the times. The charity work is what attracted me – it’s a big part of who I am and my religion.

"A core value of Sikhism is “Sewa”, which is basically giving unconditionally. A lot of people think that women in Indian cultures are repressed but it’s not like that.

"I’m proud people see me representing Sikh women in this competition. I want to be a role model for that."

ALICE Jones, 26, a paramedic from Walsall, was this week crowned Miss Black Country. She says:

"I’ll definitely be taking part because it’s about the contestants being confident enough to put themselves forward and hopefully it will encourage others.

"We’re all different shapes and sizes, and this swimwear round is showcasing that it’s good to be different.

"I’m 6ft tall and I had massive hang-ups about that growing up. I used to slouch to try to blend in, but the swimwear round feels like the pinnacle of me getting to my most confident self."

‘It’s got nothing to do with body positivity’

REBECCA Reid is a journalist, feminist commentator and author of The Power Of Rude. She says:

"The rules about swimwear rounds in pageants seem to change as often as most people change their actual bikini.

"First they’re in, because who wouldn’t want to see a beauty queen in a two-piece? Then they’re out because they’re sexist and pageants “aren’t about how you look”. And now it’s back, but allegedly “optional”.

"In a previous attempt to pretend that pageants aren’t sexist, organisers had a “no make up” round. As if expecting these women to be judged without even the help of mascara and foundation somehow made it less problematic.

"The problem isn’t the title of each round, it’s the fact that it’s fundamentally inappropriate to grade women against each other. I’ve got no issue with a beautiful woman using her looks to get ahead – that’s her right.

"Why bother with all that diet, exercise and skincare if you’re not going to use it?

"But in an age where you can become an Instagram influencer overnight, why does any woman need to compete with others to decide who is more attractive, or offer herself up to be judged by a panel of people?

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"If pageants are going to continue to exist in 2022, when they belong in 1952, the least organisers could do is be honest. The truth is that it’s got nothing to do with body positivity or self esteem building.

"People just like looking at beautiful women in bikinis, and swimwear rounds put bums on seats. Ultimately, pageants will always be a competition where women are ranked by how attractive they

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