Miss World has had its share of controversy, but never more so than in 1970. This was the year that ‘Women’s Lib’ feminist activism burst on to the scene, and the global beauty pageant was firmly in the Libbers’ firing line. The contest was temporarily halted as protestors stormed the stage with flour bombs and water pistols.
All of which took some of the attention away from another notable aspect of the 1970 pageant: the crowning of the first black Miss World. At a time when few black faces were to be seen in fashion, advertising or on television, Jennifer Hosten’s success showed there was an alternative to the predictable parades of blondes across the Miss World stage. Just as remarkably, the runner-up was a black South African – though she was forced to compete as Miss Africa South, because SA’s apartheid regime refused to accept a black woman representing the country. The Women’s Liberation Movement made the headlines with their protest against sexism, but Hosten was able to land a symbolic blow against racism in beauty pageants, the media and society.
Hosten, from Grenada, had studied in London, worked for the BBC’s Caribbean radio service and became a flight attendant. After her controversial win, she went on to become her country’s High Commissioner to Canada, authored an academic study and currently works as a registered psychotherapist in Canada.
Her remarkable story has been turned into a film, Misbehaviour, which premiered on 7 March in London. The timing was unfortunate and the film closed just four days after release. In light of the Covid-19 lockdown, Pathe Film Studios confirmed that the film will be made available to watch at home three months ahead of schedule.
For anyone looking for some light entertainment at the moment – probably most of us – the film is available from Amazon.
Search for ‘Miss World Grenada’ on the Soca News website to read our November 2007 article about Jennifer Hosten.