Tricia Stewart is one of the original ladies of the W.I (Women’s Institute) calendar. When her best friend’s husband lost his battle with Leukemia, Tricia had the idea for her entire W.I group to pose nude for a calendar to raise money for Leukemia and Lymphoma Research (LLR). At the age of 63, we catch up with Tricia to hear how her life suddenly changed from baking cakes in the Yorkshire Dales to A list actresses, naked modelling and rubbing shoulders with royalty.
How did the calendar come about?
When I had the idea to do an alternative WI calendar, it was a joke. I wanted to do it differently to the traditional WI calendar of hills, sheep and letterboxes. When John became ill, we decided to go ahead and do it to make him laugh. He was only ill for 5 months and although we had told him about it, we hadn’t started anything. After he died I was determined to make it happen, raise funds for Leukemia and Lymphoma Research and dedicate the calendar to John. We’d joked about taking our clothes off for so long, when it came to the day of shooting, it no longer seemed like a big deal! I didn’t feel exposed (the photographs were taken by Terry Logan – Miss July’s husband!) I felt invigorated. There I was, 50 years old, posing nude for a calendar!
Why do you think it became such an over night success?
I think it was the humour and the reasons behind the calendar that made it such a success. After all, we were just middle aged woman form the WI in a little village in Yorkshire! I was 50 when we launched in April 1999, didn’t think it would last this long but I knew it would cause a stir. Apparently we altered the perception of the older woman. I never even thought that would be one of the results, but I’m so thrilled it was. The calendar raised over 3.5 million pounds for Leukemia and Lymphoma Research.
There’s now a film and a stage show created to tell your story. How does it feel to see Helen Mirren playing you?
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine there would be a movie film, based on the story of the calendar. The whole film experience was incredible. Reading scripts, meeting the cast, playing a cameo role and being played by Helen Mirren. (she then went on to play the Queen!) We were involved in promoting the film alongside the actresses and travelled all over the world, doing interviews and PR. A journalist in LA asked me if my relationship with my breasts had changed since the calendar… some people never see beyond the nudity!
Your current life?
I teach Pilates in the Dales 3 days a week – keeping the Dales flexible is my main job! I’m still fundraising for LLR and I’m also an after dinner speaker with thespeakersagency.co.uk. I would like to expand my public speaking to Canada. We recently saw the stage show of Calendar Girls in Vancouver & everyone was fascinated by the ‘real’ story- would love to tell it further afield. I will definitely continue to teach Pilates for years to come.
Your favourite image?
I still love the original photographs that Terry Logan took for the first alternative W.I calendar, which was launched in 1999. He took wonderful photographs of us & made the calendar a work of art, which contributed greatly to it’s success. I love sunflowers, they always look happy and they feature heavily in everything I do.
Your favourite Illamasqua product?
I love Illamasqua Lipstick in Box. A statement red lip is always good when I’m speaking in front of hundreds of women!
What does red lipstick mean to you?
Red lipstick to me, oozes sophistication & beauty.
Your personal achievements?
I am proud that I had the idea to do the Alternative WI calendar and initially drove it. I have written a book called ‘Calendar Girl’ by Pan Macmillan which was published in 2001. Thrilled to be portrayed by Helen Mirren in the Calendar Girl film as and many great actresses in the stage show. I’ve met some great people including, Julie Walters and Helen Mirren on set and Prince Charles at Clarence House.
Illamasqua have used a diverse collection of models in their latest collection, Human Fundamentalism, celebrating different cultures, ages and genders. One of our models, Pam is 63. Would you consider a career in modelling?
Yes, I would love a career in modelling. In 1999 I modelled at the Savoy for London Fashion Week, for Marks & Spencer and then in 2000 for C & A at Wembley. 63 is a great age – with a bit of good make-up. The concept of age has changed. No one is old at 60/70/80 nowadays with a good haircut, make-up & an active life.
What fictional character would you be?
The fictional character I would like to be is ‘Claire’ in the Outlander series by Diane Gabaldon- purely to get to be with Jamie.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to do something a bit out of the ordinary?
My advice would be – always go for it! It’s a lot harder to regret not having done it than regret doing it! Don’t ask for too much advice because other people”s inhibitions will stop you.