By Clayton Goodwin
Beverley Heath, the foremost name in West Indian / African beauty contests in the United Kingdom, has been appointed Patron of the Miss Caribbean & Commonwealth, the 26th final of which will be contested at the Rock Tower, 49 Tufnell Park Road, London N17 OPS on Saturday 9th December 2023. Ms Heath was greatly impressed by the presentation of the contest last year, which was the first by the present promoters, former holder of the title Shirley de Lawrence, and her team. The appointment links Miss Caribbean & Commonwealth with some of the great moments in the history of beauty contests in this country, on which Beverley’s record of achievement has been impeccable.
Beverley, who was born in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and grew up in North London, became an overnight teenage sensation when a photo spread in the Gleaner newspaper showed her dressed in her school uniform next to another photograph of her as a sultry young model. I remember meeting her, for the first time, when, dressed in the school uniform, she was in the waiting-room of a London West End modelling agency. After stamping her promise by winning beauty titles such as Miss Black Britain (1971), Miss Caribbean Queen (1974) and Miss Variety Club of Great Britain (1975), Ms Heath ushered in the modern age of UK West Indian /African beauty contests by winning Miss Westindian at London’s celebrated Lyceum Ballroom in 1975.
The promoter, Sammy Jay, allegedly set out put to re-capture the golden age of the Miss JOFFA (Jamaica Overseas Families and Friends Association), the paramount beauty contest promotion of the 1960s and early-1970s, He not only achieved that ambition but succeeded in re-writing social history. The winners of Miss JOFFA, and several other prominent earlier UK Caribbean titles, were inevitably of light complexion. Beverley showed beyond doubt that a contestant of dark complexion could win the highest honours, a feat which has never been subsequently disputed. She is also one of the few black beauty queens to have crossed the national barrier successfully and achieved victories in titles that were hitherto the preserve of white contestants. Beverley Heath has backed up beauty contest triumphs with a lengthy career in modelling, here and overseas.
The more relevant factor in her recent appointment, however, has been Beverley’s long association with and support for the Miss Caribbean & Commonwealth competition. Promoter Shirley de Lawrence is not the only former title-holder to have expressed how Beverley has been an inspiration by her participation as a special guest at the contests and by the record of her achievements. The move is seen also as being indicative of Shirley’s intention of introducing her own interpretation of the title using modern methods of communication and presentation – but set in the framework of Miss Caribbean & Commonwealth’s record of tradition, reputation, and quality. It is a concept that is best summed up in the two words …. Beverley Heath.