Four British pensioners have revealed why they would rather strut their stuff on stage in glamorous dresses and high heels than sit at home in cardigans and slippers in their twilight years.
The retired women, two of whom are in their eighties, feature in Channel 5’s Bus Pass Beauty Queens which filmed them as they took part in the 35th Ms Senior pageant in the US.
The event in Atlantic City is for women aged 60 and over and Pat Watts, from Hove in Brighton, was one of the oldest contestants at the age of 85.
Miss Chelmsford Rita Wood, right, makes friends with fellow contestant Ms. Missouri at the Ms Senior beauty pageant in Atlantic City, USA, in Channel 5’s Bus Pass Beauty Queens
Rita used to compete in ballroom dancing with her late husband John but gave it up when he died 20 years ago. She is now taking to the stage again in the beauty pageant and loves wearing glam gowns
Brits Pat Watts, 85, third from left, Lynne Bennett, 67, fourth from left, and Rita Wood, 81, fifth from left, join contestants from the US to compete in the Ms Senior beauty pageant in Atlantic City
The pensioners have to prove they are worthy of the Ms Senior United Kingdom title by giving a speech, performing a dance routine and showing their grace and elegance by walking the catwalk in evening wear.
Pat admitted she wasn’t phased by the competition, saying: ‘I am winning by staying alive for one thing. Outliving the competition and outwitting those left!’
She said she usually ‘doesn’t have anything to do with old people’ as her best friend at home in Hove is gay 17-year-old Archie who helps her choose her glitzy pageant outfits.
She added that she doesn’t see herself as old as, ‘to me it means O.L.D – to Over Load your life with Depression.’
Rita, centre in a Miss Chelmsford sash, takes her seat to represent the UK in the Ms Senior pageant
Pat Watts is one of the oldest in the competition at the age of 85 but she said: ‘I am winning by staying alive for one thing. Outliving the competition and outwitting those left!’
Also competing in the transatlantic pageant is Lynne Bennett, 67, who describes herself as ‘the Naomi Campbell of Milton Keynes’.
She has been winning beauty pageants for 40 years and has no intention of stopping now.
‘I am a pageant junkie. I just love pageants. I love the competitions because of the glamour,’ she said.
She hoped to woo the judges in America with a Beyoncé inspired dance routine choreographed by her husband of 47 years, George, 77.
With flexibility and energy to defy her 67 years, Lynne has no trouble with the body popping parts of the routine or dropping to the floor to thrust her hips, saying: ‘I don’t associate old with me, it is not in my vocabulary at all.’
His youthful lust for life is shared by her fellow competitor Rita Wood, 81, from Essex.
Marilyn, left, says she looks good for her 70 years as she looked after herself in her youth while Lynne, right says she is the ‘Naomi Campbell of Milton Keynes’
Her granddaughters say she is ‘more athletic than other grandmas’ as she loves to go ballroom dancing.
She admits she gets plenty of male attention when she takes to the floor and has been dating Keith, who is 20 years her junior, for two years.
‘All the men are at the back looking at my a**e! I can certainly shake it about I can tell you!’ she said.
Rita used to compete in ballroom dancing competitions with her husband John but stopped after he died 20 years ago.
‘He was a wonderful man,’ she said. ‘When you lose a loved one it is dreadful and a matter of picking yourself up and going ahead. You think, what would he want me to do?’
Lynne takes to the stage in her glitzy evening gown and later performs an energetic dance routine
Lynne said she has been winning beauty pageants for 40 years and won’t stop now she’s approaching 70
It was thinking of him that inspired her to take up ballroom dancing again and to showcase her moves in the Miss Senior pageant.
‘She is now going out and living life to the full,’ said her son, Chris, 44.
This attitude is shared by Oxford graduate Marilyn, 70, from London, who is exasperated by many of the women of her generation who she feels have given up on life and looking good.
‘We were the Sixties generation who wore the miniskirts and the false eyelashes, we were having a whale of a time then, what happened to those women? I will tell you what, they are all walking about wearing beige outfits,’ she said.
Other then beige, Marilyn also dislikes women her age who hide their figures in baggy, unflattering clothes in dark colours.
‘Black on an older woman? It looks like you are dead!’ she said.
Marilyn shows off a trophy, left, she won in the eighties, right, when she was a bodybuilder
Marilyn refuses to dress in black and beige like other women of her generation, preferring bright colours
Marilyn said she felt it was a compliment when she was recently stopped in the street and called a ‘whore’ by a younger woman.
She recalled: ‘She said you “old whore, who do you think you are in your hat and tights?” I thought, “well she obviously thinks I can still attract men to call me a whore, which is quite a compliment at my age!’
She credits her figure with getting plenty of exercise in her youth when she was a pioneer of the women’s bodybuilding movement in the Eighties and won a number of trophies.
‘My father was shocked when I did the bodybuilding, he thought it was unladylike but I thought to hell with it,’ she said.
Rita, right, and Lynne, left, show off their glamorous gowns for the eveningwear round of Ms Senior
Marilyn is looking forward to flexing her muscles again in the pageant
She said her youthful appearance is ‘what you look like at 70 if you have looked after yourself’ as she prepared to flex her muscles once again in the Miss Senior pageant.
Despite her nerves about taking to the stage, she said she was prepared to give it her all.
‘You have to feel the fear, I want to look back and think I tried that and it was a great success or I tried that and it didn’t work but at least I tried,’ she said.
‘I am excited about the competition, Miss UK at 70, what a way to go out!’
The organisers of the Ms Senior America Pageant say the competition is ‘the world’s first and foremost pageant to emphasise and give honor to women who have reached the “Age of Elegance”.
They award titles annually to a Ms Senior United Kingdom, Ms Senior America and Ms Senior Transatlantic Talent.
It proved compelling viewing for people who took to Twitter to enthuse about the show.
Gigolo Gaz Maybury wrote: ‘#buspassbeautyqueens is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen,’ while Rebecca agreed, saying: ‘Can’t switch off #buspassbeautyqueens.’
Carol Goddard-Moran added: ‘Need to sleep!.. But can’t stop watching #buspassbeautyqueens.’
Meanwhile, ʂweet Ⓥ joked that there were ‘More turkey necks than Bernard Matthews factory!’
Others praised their youthful attitude to life, with Lucy Foden saying that the women were ‘refreshing to watch’ and Bagel adding: ‘age is nothing but a number!’
Sally Esposito said: ‘Go for it ladies! you’re all brilliant.’