Diversity, inclusivity, and fluidity are now central tenets within the art world and beyond. But the artist-impresario Andrew Logan was always way ahead of the curve. For the last half century his all-embracing, boundary-blurring Alternative Miss World (AMW) extravaganzas have popped up intermittently in London venues ranging from a circus tent in Battersea Park to the Roundhouse performance venue in Chalk Farm.
The format and costume categories of daywear, swimwear and eveningwear may be taken from mainstream Miss World competitions, but any conventional notions of beauty and taste have never had any place in a contest which has no limits or boundaries, whether sexual, sartorial or chronological. The polymorphous parade of AMW presenters, participants and audiences have always encompassed and blended every imaginable permutation of gender, sexuality, ethnicity and social status, all united by a love of fun and a dedication to glamour.
Previous participants in these now legendary spectacles have included the late, great Derek Jarman who took the crown as Miss Crepe Suzette in 1975; Leigh Bowery who entered as Miss Fuckit in 1986 and Grayson Perry who responded to the 1986 Water theme as a fetishistic fisherman, dangling his trussed then-girlfriend Jennifer Binnie on a sturdy rod. In 1985 the winner was Miss Rosa Bosom, a robot built by the late artist-inventor Bruce Lacey and no one present (including this writer) can ever forget the sight of Norman Rosenthal, the then-exhibitions secretary of the Royal Academy of Arts, sashaying across the 2004 stage as Miss Jarman Blue, resplendent in skin-tight lycra embellished with costumes by his YBA friends Sarah Lucas, Abigail Lane and Sam Taylor-Wood.
Last Friday’s spectacular took place at Shakespeare’s Globe and marked both the 15th Alternative Miss World, as well as 50 years since Logan first staged what was then a party for a few of his friends at his Hackney studio in 1972. This golden anniversary was reflected by an all-gold theme and dress code. And as always, the proceedings were presided over by Logan himself, in his customary dual-gender Master/Mistress of Ceremonies costume, with the female half designed by his friend the fashion designer Zandra Rhodes. Co-hosting was Rhodes, the musician Jarvis Cocker, with New Romantic icon Scarlett Cannon back, as in previous years, as The Scintillating Secretary. Among the judges were former contestant Grayson Perry, musician Roy Brown, fashion designers Pam Hogg, Celia Birtwell and the film director Tim Yip, accompanied by his silent companion the mannequin Lili.
Notable among the 16-contestant line-up were the AMW stalwarts the Neo Naturists. As Miss Golden Thread Bare they adopted a Blakean theme while leaving a light environmental footprint with body paint costumes and evening wear of recycled bent willow “bows of burning gold” and “arrows of desire”.
True to form, their elaborately painted bodies also adhered to Blake’s statement that "art can never exist without naked beauty displayed". More maximal was the magnificent artist Edwina Orr as Miss Alchemy and her Stoned Philosopher whose eveningwear consisted of a vast, all- encompassing mechanical orb that opened petal-like sections to reveal the tightly gold-sheathed contestant within. Once she had peeled off her golden gimp-mask Orr then attracted rounds of applause by vociferously condemning the UK government’s new Public Order Bill.
Although the field was very strong, the choice of winner was universally popular. The 2020 Alternative Miss World 15th anniversary crown went to Miss Golden Girl, AKA Andrew Logan’s sister Janet Slee, who has entered every contest since 1972 but has never in 50 years been placed. This time she made her desire to win very clear with three consecutive sashes which stated, "Never Won", "Last Shot" and, as an eveningwear finale ,"If I don’t win this time, Fuck Off", the last accessorised with her own crown. But Slee's wishes came true and the custom-created AMW regalia of golden crown, orb, ring and sceptre—all fashioned in Logan’s distinctive shattered mirror style—were to be hers.
After being crowned by her brother and to rapturous cheers from all present, Janet, Alternative Miss World 2020, settled into a glittering gilded throne and weighed down with regalia, was borne down from the stage and out through the Globe’s mosh pit by a crew of gold-clad, gender-fluid acolytes, one of whom was sporting a giant golden strap-on phallus. Here’s to many more golden years of an amiably anarchic, inspirational and utterly affirming event that makes superstars of us all.