Beverley Heath continues to amaze. It is half-a-century that I first encountered the then teenager, still in her school-uniform, for whom a great future in modelling and beauty contests was prophesied. She has achieved all of that, and more, and still retains her youthful looks to such extent that Beverley could got out re-enter all those contests again today and still win. But she is not content to rest on her laurels and mountains of laudatory press-clippings. These days Ms Heath-Hoyland has achieved similar renown in administering the works/legacy of her late husband, the celebrated painter John Hoyland, and keeps active by playing tennis on three days a week. Her memory, and sense of humour, are keen as she remembers many of the colleagues she has known from a very varied life.
Beverley Heath dominated (UK) West Indian beauty contests in the late-1970s, re-setting the cultural landscape by winning the first Miss (Afro-) Westindian, the blue-ribbon title of the genre, and in doing becoming the first black contestant to win the major contest in the community after preceding promotions had become the preserve of girls on lighter complexion. Her promoter, Sammy Jay (Holder), with whom Beverley is still in touch, set standards for African / West Indian beauty pageants which have not been matched either before or since. During this time she also won several prominent national (British) titles and pursued a successful modelling career in both this country and in Germany. Ms Heath is one of the few beauty title-holders to define an age.
With our rise to prominence coming at around the same time Beverley and myself found our names linked in community parlance. One rival promoter quipped snidely: “Beverley gets a lot of her bookings and attention on the back of Clayton’s reports about her, while Clayton pays off his mortgage from the lineage of his reports about Beverley”. Really? It would take more than one mere journalist to account for the paeons of praise she has acquired. Former amateur international body-building champion Ian Dowe, who has known Beverley from her schooldays, has required to her as being then “as pretty as a picture”. That description holds true today.
Beverley recalled the friendships she has established in her career, particularly that with fellow-model Rema Nelson, the first black Bunny-girl at London’s Playboy club, who passed away prematurely a few years ago. Beverley, who born at Montego Bay (Jamaica) and raised in North London, and since his passing has maintained her husband’s charitable initiatives in her homeland. Commentators and agents across the board have found Beverley to be especially easy to work with and in her approach to PR. With all of that – plus, her regular tennis – Ms Heath-Hoyland should have enough to fill her waking hours, but, no, she an enthusiastic member of the Reggae Choir. As our meeting come to a close she gave me a leaflet for their “We are Windrush” concert at Catford Broadway Theatre, Rushey Green, on Saturday 21st October.
That schoolgirl has come a long way and justified all the predictions.