Wednesday, 14 August 2019

New Release Spotlight and Extract: Head Shot by Victoria Nixon

From the epicentre of Sixties glamour to a double family suicide: how a Vogue model persevered and rebuilt her life in the face of tragedy.

A girl from a Yorkshire mining town is barely thirteen when her father kills himself – her brother
finds him dying. At sixteen she’s spotted by a rock star and becomes an international Vogue
model. Seven years later her brother kills himself in her New York apartment and her mother
dies too. With no family left, her life is now one of extreme choices.
Fifty years later, Victoria confronts her past and takes her readers on an unflinching voyage
through her experiences as a model and beyond. Speaking frankly about loss, love, friendship
and ambition, Head Shot is a book of inspiration and purpose.
Packed with astonishing images by the photographers Victoria worked with, and the defiant
fashions she wore throughout her career, it also bears witness to a time of unparalleled cultural
energy and invention; it’s a story in which bags and shoes can, and do, sit right next to life and


June 1964. Huddersfield Road.
The red MG, hood down, cuts cleanly across the kerb and stops with a jolt beside the school gates. I recognise the local driver’s face. Everyone does. He’s dating a sixth-form prefect
– the car a seventeenth-birthday gift from his father. We all envy the lucky girl whisked away from school each day. And then he looks my way and smiles.
‘Would you like a lift home?’
‘No thanks, I only live twenty yards away, and besides . . .’ ‘Can I take you out for a drink then?’
‘No, I’m only just sixteen, and what about your . . .’ ‘Well, what if I take you to the Spencer Arms in Cawthorne
and we order a Babycham for you, and if the barman serves you I’ll take you to a club to hear some cool music?’
But what about his prefect girlfriend? She isn’t his girlfriend any more.
He said.
My first ever date is the following evening.
The construction of the big date hair-do takes two hours. It’s more a hair-don’t, part beehive, part bagel and uses enough Silvikrin hairspray to massacre an ant colony. I shimmy into a dove-grey sleeveless frock from Sheffield’s Marshall & Snelgrove and perform the perfect three-point turn for my mother. Boy, oh boy . . . Dusty Springfield has nothing on me!

First date hair-don’t, 1964
‘Well, have a lovely time, darling, and be a good girl.’ Make your mind up, Mum!
The date’s a success despite the dodgy barnet; probably
because of it. He can’t stop laughing and even takes a photo. The jilted prefect pretends she’s given him the elbow, and I’ve acquired my first ever boyfriend. He’s bright, handsome, kind – and keen. His parents are charming, his sister an elegant dental surgeon married to a naval surgeon, and all is pinch-myself perfection. My life has changed in a heartbeat. Dreamboat and I waste no time experimenting with exciting grown-up things throughout the next year – most of them at week-ends, down quiet country lanes in his red MG.
‘Don’t kiss me like that!’
‘Sorry, it was just a slip of the tongue.’ ‘Actually, I quite like it. Do it again!’
The more he teaches me how to kiss with an open mouth, the more I almost vanish down his throat. We’re on a teenage high in its purest form, recreational drugs unheard-of and drinking habits tame. The real buzz is an all-encompassing belief in the power of rhythm and blues.
Just off the Barnsley Road to Sheffield, a local self-assured young man named Peter Stringfellow has opened a new club, the Mojo. Formerly a school of dancing, its bouncy sprung floor is excellent for leaping around once you’ve paid your two and six at the door. The inside space, one huge room, has matt black walls streaked with pop-art murals but has no licence to offer alcoholic drinks, just coffee. Peter’s unique knack of booking outstanding groups before their first big hit means the Mojo has live gigs that other UK clubs can only dream of.

Soon he’s booking the world’s major blues stars – but persuading the talent to perform in an alcohol-free zone is
not an easy task. We’re waiting for Sonny Boy Williamson to blow us away but when he arrives he’s tetchy and confronts Peter.
‘Where’s the booze, man?’ ‘We don’t have any, SB.’
‘Man, I don’t go on stage without no booze!’
Peter looks a tad uneasy. Gossip has it that Sonny Boy recently set his hotel room on fire while trying to cook a rabbit in a percolator. The off-licence across the road produces an acceptable bottle of whisky which Sonny Boy knocks back before his performance guaranteeing no-hands harmonica playing that tears our teenage souls apart.
Hours later normality is tardily restored with the upstairs- tiptoe past my mother’s bedroom door and her inevitable . . . ‘Is that you, darling? Make sure you double-lock the
front door.’

Five years earlier, to everyone’s surprise including my own, I’d sailed through the 11-plus exam, insisting on attending the local all-girls grammar school rather than being pushed off to board – the only member of my family for generations to turn down a fee-paying education. I wanted to stay close to my pals. We were rebels, not play-safers and to risk losing them was a step too far.
My fate as a non-privately educated Fifties child was sealed by that 11-plus exam, which had one purpose only for the grammar schools’ ‘pick of the bunch’ – to channel us, via intense study, to careers with realistic prospects of academic success. Barnsley Girls’ High School’s excellent teaching assured us we could be whatever we wanted to be – except perhaps housewives – and we were just as likely to achieve our goals as the boys at the grammar school across town.

Victoria Nixon was eighteen when she was discovered by Helmut Newton, who photographed her for Vogue . This launched her international modelling career, which led to her being named the Daily Mail’s ‘Face of 1968’. After modelling, she went on to become an award-winning advertising copywriter, television producer and magazine editor. In the 1990s she opened the first deli in the UK to ban plastic packaging, and in 2002 her first book, Supermodels’ Beauty Secrets , was published, followed by Supermodels’ Diet Secrets in 2004. She is cofounder and managing director of a company which designs and manufactures humanitarian aid products used worldwide.