Scandals & controversies in beauty contests

Scarborough-born, Sally-Ann Fawcett, has published a book documenting the media coverage of beauty contests.

When she was growing up in Scarborough, Sally-Ann fell in love with beauty queens and contests and during the 70s, these were on every TV station and covered in all newspapers.

However, nowadays, these contests are barely covered in newspapers or on TV, which led Sally-Ann to write her book, Misdemeanours.

She said: “I was brought up in Scarborough and was always fascinated with these contests and in the late 80s I entered competitions myself.

“The last couple of years, I decided to put all this knowledge in my head down on paper and got my book written and published.”

Misdemeanours is a factual book based on the scandals and controversies that made the headlines in the papers which, according to Sally-Ann, kept these contests going.

“It is all fact and took days of research,” Ann said.

“I had the basic story in my head and still had the newspaper cuttings going back to the 70s but I needed more.”

The book contains 27 different stories that made the papers all over the world, including the Helen Morgan scandal where she was kicked out of the competition because they found out she had a little boy.

There are also some explains from across the Pacific Ocean. America is renowned for beauty pageants and there are plenty of controversies especially with Donald Trump. However, most of the book is primarily British scandals.

“I have got as many background stories as I could and reported as it was in the paper,” Sally-Ann said.

“This research has allowed me to see the differences between the styles of writing each publication has from the sensational side of The Mirror and The Sun through to the serious reportage of The Times and The Telegraph.”

Sally-Ann studied at Scalby School and Scarborough College, finished 3rd in Miss Scarborough 1986 and 4th in Miss Yorkshire 1986, as well as competing in Miss York and Miss Radio York 1988.

“That was the height of my achievement,” she said.

“I did win the local carnival queen but there was about four of us.

“I just loved them so much and I thought it would have been a waste if I didn’t enter.”

As these contests are rarely reported in the papers and TV anymore, it has become a somewhat underground cult for the young beauty queens.

“They spend thousands on prom dresses and it is like a vocation for them,” she said.

In the 80s there was a big back lash towards them by the BBC and ITV who described them as being degrading to women and not PC anymore and were taken off the TV and that caused the newspapers to stop reporting on them.

“I was speaking to one girl who said that she has never seen a Miss World contest,” Sally-Ann said.

“It has changed so much. There should be a TV programme, like a reality programme where people get voted out like Big Brother.

“I think there is still an audience for that.”

Sally-Ann now lives down south and is currently working part-time for Shell Aviation and is in the process of writing volume two of Misdemeanours.

“It is a very time-consuming thing to do,” she said.

“You are with these girls all day. They get an individual interview first and then the show in the evening.

“It is quite hard work but is such a unique thing to do. I am judging the semi-final for the Miss Great Britain and have to decide who goes through.”

A lot of the contests are held up north in places like Blackpool, Wales and Scarborough.

As mentioned, the second volume of Misdemeanours is currently being written but Sally-Ann is also looking to work on a fact fiction story.

“I am wanting to do a Beauty Queen Babylon, sort of a Hotel Babylon thing,” she said.

“It will contain real events that I could get sued for if they were published as fact and that is why I am writing it as a factional book but with fiction.

“It is going to take a lot longer though as I need more gossip.”

When doing her research, the language that was used during the 60s and 70s was quite shocking for Sally-Ann.

“It was language that they wouldn’t use today and that’s what shocked me more but what was shocking to the public was what the beauty queens were doing.

“One was reported when she kicked a police officer and this shocked the public as they were not supposed to act like that.”

Scandals and controversies tend to make the headlines in the media and it is still the same today.

Sally-Ann said: “The contests don’t get much coverage in the media these days, but if another scandal came up tomorrow it would be publicised.

“If it wasn’t for the scandals, no one would hear of them at all.

“There needs to be a documentary series following the contest behind the scenes, I think that would be great. Plus the mums are a breed themselves and are living their lives through their daughters.”

In recent years, she has been invited to judge contests and in September, she will be the head judge at the finals of the Miss Great Britain contest.

“The Miss Great Britain organisation has invited me back this year, as Head Judge, for the 70th anniversary celebrations, which takes place in September and will feature a host of former winners,” Sally-Ann said.

Misdemeanours is now available on Amazon:


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