15 Thoughts I Had While Watching "Miss England: A Serious Business"

16 May 2016

Miss England A Serious Business

At the start of the month, I was kindly invited down to the première of the documentary Miss England: A Serious Business at The Curve theatre in the cultural quarter of Leicester. The event played host to 200 guests, with welcome drinks, a performance from Leicester's Got Talent winner Lydia Unsudimi and beauty queens on the red carpet. It was a very weird experience being "papped", that's for sure!

We were treated to the début screening of the documentary, plus an interactive Q&A session with an expert panel featuring current winner Natasha Hemmings, producer Romail Gulzar, Miss England director Angie Beasley and Dr Jacqueline Sanchez-Taylor, sociologist at the University of Leicester. This was all mediated by Sameena Ali-Khan, of ITV News, who did her best to stop all hell breaking loose!

The documentary was filmed during the 2015 Miss England competition, and produced by Leicester-based news agency, Pukaar News. It follows the journey of five of the contestants, speaking about the highs and lows of the competition, as well as interviews with critics. Romail Gulzar's said, “Around 15 to 20 years ago Miss England was a huge deal – it was even televised, but suddenly it disappeared overnight. While there are both support and opposition to beauty contests like Miss England, it is our job as documentary makers to present the facts in a clear and non-biased manner, which is exactly what we have tried to do.”

Miss England A Serious Business Premiere Pukaar News
The current Mr and Miss England celebrating Leicester's victory
Credit: Pukaar News

I was fully ready to write a post geared towards body image, but after watching the documentary, my views are a bit more unbalanced. I know some people can be passionately against the competition, for some reason or another but I'm still pretty indifferent to it. I wanted to throw some of my thoughts out there, and keep it quite light-hearted.


1) The girls in the finals were exactly as expected. Skinny, tall and drop dead gorgeous.

2) When questioned, we were told that plus size women do very well in the competition. Great! They don't exclude certain body shapes!

3) Almost all the plus size entrants/almost winners are models. The emphasis here is the word 'model'. Yes they might be plus size, but the average English girl isn't a model! What about a normal plus size woman?

4) Do normal women (i.e. non models) just not enter?

5) The current winner and organisers were so insistent that image has nothing to do with anything. So why do you have to submit both a portrait and full length body photo?

6) How did they get selected for the competition in the first place? Judges opinion.

7) The catwalk bikini beauty round has been axed. Great!

8) So why do they still do a bikini photoshoot? Why does it even matter what the girls look like in a bathing suit?

9) "It's not just about looking good in a swimsuit"  - Miss England website
Yeah but you have to at least look half decent in a bikini though, right?

10) "It isn't just a beauty contest" - Miss England website.
Meaning it definitely is a beauty contest in some way, shape or form.

11) "You have to be far more than a pretty face..." - Miss England website
You do need a pretty face, you just need to be more than that. Shrek lookalikes still need not apply...

12) I'm all for adding in a no-make-up round. For us muggles, the only times in our lives that we'd have our makeup done properly is our wedding day, or prom.

13) Some of the girls have raised thousands of pounds for charity, but girls in heels and tight dresses 
overshadows that. That's a sad fact.

14)“The opportunities that have come through the Miss England experience has been incredible… It promotes you to be the best version of yourself.” - Stephanie Hill, Miss England contestant. This is such a lovely quote. It promotes positivity and proves it's not all bad.

15) Let's face it, the whole diamanté dresses and tiaras thing is a bit outdated isn't it. I wouldn't be caught dead in a diamanté dress...

Miss England A Serious Business Premiere Pukaar News
With the babes, Lianne, Radhika and Emma (let's ignore the fact that I am the world's least photogenic person).
Credit: Pukaar News

I'm a size 8 (6 if I'm having a good day/the sizes are generous), but do I feel like I fit into the Miss England category based on looks? God no! I'm relatively comfortable with my body shape, and don't overly compare myself to other people. However seeing these tall, thin, perfectly proportioned girls did make me think "I do not look like that". In everyday life, I couldn't give a monkeys whether I looked like a potential Miss England, and I'm sure other people don't care either. I feel like things have progressed in terms of western beauty ideals. No one really gives a hoot whether you've got blonde, straight hair and blue eyes any more.

I think part of the problem with these beauty pageants is that a lot of the entrants already conform to the beautiful stereotype. If 90% of women that enter in the first place are white, tall and slim, it will inevitably mean that a similar proportion of the finalists would have those characteristics, which isn't necessarily the fault of the organisers. Natasha Hemmings, current Miss England, said of the competition, “Miss England celebrates all types of beauty – from darker skinned girls to plus size girls. I’d like to encourage more of these girls to enter."

I think that the organisers have made an attempt to make the competition more diverse, but it would be wrong to say that it is completely free of bias. For me, the competition still doesn't represent the everyday woman. Miss England is evolving but it is far from perfect. I think the competition is always going to be subject to controversy. It's brilliant that Pukaar News' documentary touches on a variety of viewpoints, and has sparked a healthy debate, with issues that I'm sure the Miss England organisers will take into consideration for the future.

I am still undecided about Miss England, and I would love to know your thoughts!

We were kindly invited to this screening with complementary tickets via Media TwentyFour

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