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What really happened at the 1970 Miss World Beauty Pageant?

The event is the focus of a BBC documentary this week

Francesca Shillcock

It's been over fifty years since protestors stormed the stage at the Royal Albert Hall to kick start a "feminist revolution".

And the events of the Miss World pageant in 1970 are now the subject of a BBC documentary, which is airing, fittingly, on International Women's Day tonight.

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The story made headlines all over the world and has gone down in history as a moment that challenged the beauty contest and the industry as a whole. Ahead of the documentary airing on Monday evening, find out about the historic night here…

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Jennifer Hosten was the Black Miss World

What happened at Miss World 1970?

In 1970, one the biggest events in the annual calendar was taking place at the Royal Albert Hall in front of a seated audience and 100 million watching on TV all over the globe.

But the event was somewhat interrupted by a group of activists from the Britain's Women's Liberation Movement, consisting of around 60 in total, who were keen to get their powerful message across to all observing.

The protestors, along with their basic tools and relatively harmless arsenal such as rotten veg, flour bombs and water pistols, stormed into the hall as well as being joined by those in the audience – causing commotion among those seated, shouting the words: "We're not ugly! We're not beautiful! We're angry!"

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The protesters interrupted the pageant at the Royal Albert Hall

Soon after it became obvious that a protest was taking place, the broadcaster pulled the transmission and many of the protestors were escorted out by authorities. But the message lived on and arguably did its job of bring women's rights to the forefront – making headlines in the process.

Jennifer Hosten, who was crowned Miss World at the event and the first Black woman to walk away with the title, retold her experience of the event to the Observer last year. "I didn't realise it fully at the time but we were all using that contest as a way to get a message across. For me it was about race and inclusion – for them, it was about female exploitation."

One of the protestors taking part was Jenny Fortune, who was just 20-years-old at the time. She told the Independent in 2020: "I was still trying to get a little toy smoke bomb lit when there was this heavy hand on my shoulder. Adding further: "It was fantastic."

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The documentary is airing on Monday night

What features in the Miss World 1970 documentary?

In the documentary, which is by filmmaker Hannah Berryman, sees a number of the protestors come together to look back on the infamous night, along with archive footage and animation to tell their story.

Other key contributors will be heard from including the winner, Jennifer Hosten, and Michael Aspen who acted as host on the evening – offering their memories and anecdotes of what happened.

When is the Miss World 1970 documentary on TV?

The film, created by Hannah, appears on BBC Two on Monday night at 9pm and will be available to catch up on the iPlayer. 

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