Victoria Nixon – Steel Strong

This Barnsley lass is honoured to be part of the Cannon Hall fashion exhibition. I grew up in Woodstock Road in 1950s and now after 878,400,000 blinks, 90,200 camera smiles, 39,650 glasses of wine and 680 haircuts – I’m home again!

Photo of Victoria Nixon

My first school was Wilthorpe Primary and later Barnsley Girls’ High School where the teaching was excellent. Our family back garden overlooked the High School’s playing field, tennis and netball courts, so I wasn’t often late for school.

My father ran the family-owned Booker vehicle company which had introduced transport to Barnsley by obtaining the first tender to carry the Royal Mail using a liveried horse and cart. Horse-drawn people carriages followed, progressing to Barnsley’s first motorised bus service in 1907. By the time I came along it stocked Jaguars and Minis.

A Royal Mail Horse and cart
Royal Mail deliveries by horse and cart
A charabanc filled with people. The building behind says 19 G Booker
Charabancs were a common scene from 1907 onwards in Barnsley

Many years later my mother became the bursar of Bretton Hall College.

Photographs of my mother and father

Nicholas, my older brother, and I loved our pets which included a tiny alligator – bought by my father in a Manchester pet shop – which got on well with our Yorkshire terrier, cat and mouse.

Photographs of myself and older brother Nicholas as children

A family photo in a pub setting

Cheers! A family photo

At the age of seventeen I was spotted by fashion photographer Helmut Newton whilst shopping in London and modelled for numerous international advertising campaigns and magazines, including English, French, Italian and American Vogue. It was a lucky way to travel the world.

A Castrol GTX  advertisement - Victoria is in a white dress posing on a red vehicle.
A Castrol GTX advertisement

Two unexpected family tragedies made it tough to constantly beam into cameras. I was chosen to promote Yves Saint Laurent’s breakthrough new look when he invented the first trouser suit for women, allowing us to feel strong, liberated and resilient.

Victoria and another person on a motocycle
Victoria is wearing a orange head scarf and is smoking a cigarette

In BBC TV’s live coverage of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, presented by Cliff Michelmore, I wore a space-age outfit with a green wig! And featured in BBC’s first Top Of The Pops’ videos in 1970 when singers/bands were unable to appear live on the programme to promote their latest hits, producer Mel Cornish would pre-film me in the relevant set-up.

A telegram from the BBC
A birthday telegram from T.O.T.P

After ten years of photographic fashion modelling I became an advertising copywriter in Melbourne, and wrote a TV commercial featuring John McEnroe in 1977. I won a prestigious Australian award for another ad campaign. Cheers to Barnsley High School for those good English lessons!

Victoria posing for a photograph with John McEnroe
Me and John McEnroe!

It was a true privilege to then become the Melbourne Editor of POL Magazine, an avant-garde fashion and life-style glossy, as POL was considered to have played an important role in raising female status awareness in 1980’s Australia. Guest editors included Germain Greer.

front cover of POL magazine a single leg is raised in the air in what appears to be a beach in the background
POL Magazine

Back in London in the early 90’s I opened a deli in Fulham which specialised in healthy take-away food. It was the first food shop in the UK to use 100% eco-friendly packaging.

'Model behaviour' was the headline from this magazine cutting
‘Model behaviour’ was the headline from this magazine cutting

In 2002 my first book, ‘Supermodels Beauty Secrets’ was published with contributions from Jerry Hall, Kate Moss and other leading models of that era, followed by ‘Supermodels Diet Secrets’ in 2004.

A selection of Victoria's Supermodels books in various languages

In 2006 my husband Michael and I founded a company which designed and manufactured this unique humanitarian aid equipment – inflatable tents and hospitals – for aid agencies and medical charities in the UK, South America and Norway.

Fifty five years ago a bespoke metal dress was manufactured by Sheffield’s foundry workers, which I wore in this British Steel advertising campaign. I always wondered what happened to that dress, and in 2016 journalist Graham Walker featured my search for the original at the time of the Steelworks take-over. Honouring a proud British Steel Campaign from over half a century ago, was, and still, is very poignant.

Victoria wearing the steel dress the photo is from a magazine article and the headline reads: British Steel shaped to the customers requirements

The dress was never located, and a copy has now been made to salute the stoic women and men of South Yorkshire who spent their lives working in the steel industry. This dress will be first displayed at the Cannon Hall Museum exhibition, and later at a South Yorkshire permanent setting to remember and honour those who worked in the steel industry during the two world wars, and to respect those who do now.

With the steel dress at the exhibition will be a selection of my original 1960s/1970s memorabilia, and original vintage fashion photos. You can see the exhibition Catwalking: Fashion Through The Lens of Chris Moore at Cannon Hall Museum until 10 September 2023

And you can grab a copy of ‘Head Shot’ I’m still that Barnsley lass – living and loving her life.

The back cover of Victoria's auto biography

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