In conversation with Jennifer Hosten

IN CONVERSATION WITH

MISS WORLD 1970, JENNIFER HOSTEN

A native of Grenada, Jennifer Hosten trained with the BBC and worked as a broadcaster and airline hostess before winning the 1970 Miss World competition. 

After her crowning, she enjoyed a career in diplomacy, trade negotiation, and international development. She also founded and ran a successful inn in Grenada.

A mother of two children, she lives in Oakville, Ontario.

Courtesy of Sutherland House Books

I recently read Jennifer's engaging new memoir, Miss World 1970, and was blown away by her story. Hosten shows tenacity, strength, grace and courage, like a true beauty queen, throughout the entire book. It's a well written account of her time at Miss World 1970, and the book manages to capture well the essence of pageant lifestyle, especially that leading up to the one of the world’s most regarded events. 

I was absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to catch up with Jennifer to discuss the book, the subsequent movie, and life after the pageant. 

Courtesy of BBC

I adored Miss World 1970. Reading it, it feels as though you've lived nine lives, one minute you're working at the BBC in London then you're travelling the world as a flight attendant before entering the world's biggest beauty pageant. Have you always had a passion for adventure?

I think that being born on an island, a small place, contributed to my wander lust. I also valued education and knew I would have to travel abroad to further my education and training. And yes, I’ve always been ‘open’ to having new experiences, especially those involving travel. I still believe that travel is one of the best forms of education.

What was it like recounting all those memories while writing the book?

A journalist friend advised me to keep a diary of my experiences as Miss World. I took his advice and later that diary became the basis of my book. To see some part of the stories translated into a movie was quite remarkable.

Courtesy of Sutherland House Books

You must have worked closely with Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who plays you in the movie, what was that like?

Well, Gugu reached out to me in 2019 and suggested we meet in Grenada. I was very impressed that she would make this kind of effort, as part of her research in playing my part. She wanted to understand and experience what it was like for me back in 1970, growing up on the island. I travelled with my daughter, Sophia, from Ontario, Canada, where I live. Gugu brought her mother from the UK, and we spent the better part of a week together. It was wonderful getting to know each other. She recorded my voice and came with me to see where I had lived as a child. Her research and talent paid off. When I saw her behind the cameras and on film, I could not have been more impressed. I told her that the only person that could have played me better was me. She even wore my actual dress in one of the scenes.

We’ve kept in touch. I just visited my son, Beau, and his family in BC, where she is currently filming. She joined us for dinner. It was great to see her again.

Miss World 1970 Book, published by Sutherland

How do you feel pageantry has changed since Miss World 1970? 

I’m happy that pageants now seem less focused on the physical form and more on personality, representation and providing opportunities for young women. But women have many more options today than we had in 1970. Pageants don’t have the same appeal. I’m happy that women are pursuing opportunities from a much wider array of professions open to them today.  

I worked for a few years on the Miss Northern Ireland contest, running part of the event from behind the scenes, so I know the kind of chaos that runs rampant backstage. What was the atmosphere like before they announced your name? 

As I recall, the atmosphere backstage was electric. I describe it in my book. The pandemonium caused by the Women Libbers had resulted in a break in the television production, so the program was running over time, as a result, the announcement of the four finalists was made rather quickly. We were all anxiously awaiting the final result. When it was announced that I had won, I was surprised and honoured. It was a surreal feeling. 

Courtesy of BBC

Do you feel like the pageant changed your life and gave you a platform and a voice you otherwise might not have had? 

Yes, the pageant did change my life. It presented me with a whole different set of opportunities that never would have normally presented themselves. Miss World was much bigger in 1970 than it is today, and I was able to help put Grenada on the map, so to speak. When I realized the significance of being the first obvious woman of colour to have won Miss World, I felt more responsibility to be a good role model. Suddenly little children and other people of colour could see themselves doing similar things. What surprises me is that I’ve done so many other things in my life yet the Miss World experience keeps coming back. I talk about many of them in my book. And now, of course, it’s truly immortalized in the movie, Misbehaviour.

I always love to hear what my interviewees are reading. Are you working your way through any books right now? 

Well, I’m currently reading: Black Cross by Greg Iles. It’s about World War II. It’s a fiction novel set during World War II. I’m also doing some more writing. We’ll see where that goes. In addition, I enjoy my time with the family and look forward to more special times with them. The COVID experience has certainly shown us how important family is and how to enjoy small pleasures.

Courtesy of Sutherland House Books

Miss World 1970 is available to purchase at Sutherland House BooksIndigo or on Kobo. Check GoodReads for additional retailers. 

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