When he relaunched the flagging Sun newspaper in tabloid format on 17 November 1969, Rupert Murdoch began publishing photographs of clothed glamour models on its third page. The first edition featured that month's Penthouse Pet, Ulla Lindstrom, wearing a suggestively unbuttoned shirt. Page Three photographs over the following year were often provocative, but did not feature nudity.
On 17 November 1970, editor Larry Lamb celebrated the tabloid's first anniversary by publishing a photograph of 20-year-old German model Stephanie Rahn in her "birthday suit." Profiled from the side, sitting nude in a field with one of her breasts visible, Rahn was photographed by Beverley Goodway, who went on to work as The Sun's main Page Three photographer until he retired in 2003.
Gradually, the Sun began to feature Page Three girls in more overtly topless poses, with their nipples clearly visible. Although these photographs caused controversy at the time, they are partly credited with the increased circulation that established the Sun as one of the most popular newspapers in the United Kingdom by the mid-1970s. In an effort to compete with the Sun, the Daily Mirror and Daily Star tabloids instituted their own Page Three-like features under different names, although the Daily Mirror stopped featuring topless models on page 3 in the 1980s, deeming the photographs demeaning to women.
The Sun was known for connecting its Page Three photographs to topical events, with an emphasis on sports. For example, a model might pose in a short white skirt with a tennis racquet during the Wimbledon tennis championships, or in jodhpurs with a riding crop during the Cheltenham Festival. From the 1970s until the mid-1990s, captions to Page Three photographs contained titillating puns and sexually suggestive double entendre about the models' lives or interests. Widely considered sexist, these captions were replaced in the late 1990s with a simple listing of models' first names, ages, and hometowns. The Sun reduced its use of sports-related costumes and props at this time, and also instituted a policy of only featuring models with natural breasts. Models with augmented chests, such as Jordan and Melinda Messenger, were thereafter "banned" from appearing on Page Three.
In 1999, the Sun launched its Page Three website. The site features the tabloid's daily Page Three girl in up to four poses, usually including the photograph published in the printed edition. It also hosts an online archive of previous Page Three photographs, a "Gold" section featuring models from earlier eras, multimedia, and various other features.
Although the Sun ordinarily features only one Page Three girl in each edition, it is not unusual for a Page Three photograph to feature two or more women. In a special pictorial to celebrate 40 years of Page Three, 15 Page Three girls were featured together in one pictorial.
Since 2002, the Sun has run an approximately annual contest called "Page 3 Idol" that gives amateur models an opportunity to win Page Three modelling contracts. Women aged 18 or older can submit their topless pictures, which are published on the Page Three website and voted on by the public. The first contest, held in 2002, was won by Nicola Tappenden, modeling under the name Nicola T. The 2003 winner was Krystle Gohel, who modeled simply as Krystle. The 2004 winner, 18-year-old Keeley Hazell, went on to become one of the United Kingdom's top glamour models. The 2005/2006 winner was Freya Haseldine, who often models as simply Freya. The 2006/2007 winner was Sam Cooke. The 2008 winner, 19-year-old university student Jenny Grant, committed suicide in the early hours of 13 September 2008. The 2009 winner was Kelly Hall. In 2010, the contest was won by 18-year-old Lacey Banghard. The 2011 winner was 22-year-old Lucy Collett.
In 2003, Julian Jones made a documentary about Page Three girls, The Curse of Page 3, which examined the negative aspects of some Page Three models' lives, including drug addiction and involvement in abusive relationships.
Read more about this topic: Page Three
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