Kate Gee-Finch reflects on her time as Miss Hertfordshire, creating her own film project and taking on Mission Impossible
For something that seems of another time, the beauty pageant is still very much a part of 21st century life. Not digging too deep, the idea of holding one, to me, doesn’t seem right, which is exactly what Kate Gee-Finch thought when she was approached by the team at Miss Hertfordshire. “I certainly adopted a pre-conceived idea of ladies posing in bikinis and talking about world peace,” she admits, “but then I did my research.”
Having graduated from The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire with first class honours in BA Screen, Radio & Theatre Drama, the aspiring actress noted some of the illustrious names who have competed in Miss/Mr World finals in the past – such as Halle Berry and Gal Gadot – and, unlike me, did dig deep into what the competition is all about. “I learnt that charity work was a big part of the competition, finding sponsors, plus opportunities to meet other young ladies with that hard work ethic. At the audition I didn’t realise how many girls had [such] inspiring stories. They simply wanted to gain confidence, friendship, and be a part of their community after being bullied or struggling with self-esteem. Since at the time I was personally struggling after the ending of a toxic relationship, I thought this opportunity could be something perfect.”
So it proved, with Gee-Finch holding the title of Miss Hertfordshire from 2018-2020. “I did get known as Miss Herts around town,” she laughs. “I’ve made some friends for life and really gained the confidence to embrace every part of my womanhood. Girls of all sizes, from all areas and backgrounds, make up the team of Miss England candidates.” Supporting local Herts-based initiatives, too, was inspiring. “I was invited to judge at the Garden House Hospice Strictly Come Jive event,” she recalls. “The contestants were all raising money for the fantastic charity, and I felt like Len Goodman handing out my first ‘10’! Unfortunately cancer has affected some wonderful people in my life on a variety of levels, so charities like this remain close to my heart. There are so many inspiring businesses, charities and individuals in the area.”
It seems apt that the born and bred Herts local – “I was born in Stevenage, grew up in Baldock, and went to Knights Templar School” – would go on to represent our county with such aplomb, and as the pandemic hit the acting industry, Gee-Finch moved back to Hitchin. “In the space of three days I was emailed several times regarding my freelance bookings that were due to supply me with work for the next six months – all were cancelled,” she looks back to the start of lockdown in 2020. “I have worked self-employed since graduating, so I wasn’t used to not being busy. But I managed to get two online adverts filmed from home, new representation, and set up the voice-over business I have now. The hardest part was not seeing my family, but in comparison to many pandemic stories, I know it could have been a lot worse.”
Gee-Finch has tackled 2021 head on, completing her first TV pilot and now looking to move on to the big screen. “I plan to create a short film next year,” she explains. “I’m writing to a wonderful playwright, whose story I want to use as the base and adapt as a screenplay. It’s an important story to me after watching a previous partner struggle with drug abuse. I have a list of crew and talent I’ve worked with, and now all I need is the funding or an investor interested in supporting the arts, which is always the hard bit.”
Is developing her own work something she sees herself doing in the future? “Ultimately the plan is to work with other like-minded female writers and directors,” she says. “Elizabeth Moss gave a performance in The Handmaid’s Tale that blew me away, and later on started directing the series as well. What an ultimate ‘girl boss’! Writing and directing would simply be an extension of my love for the film and TV industry.”
That’s the long-term plan, but recently Gee-Finch acted out the words of one our most inspiring playwrights when she took to the stage in Shakespeare in the Park. “I travelled back to Stratford-upon-Avon to play Lady Macbeth supporting the opening of outdoor theatre,” she says. “It was brilliant to have a socially distanced audience with picnics, and perform in the open air in Shakespeare’s hometown. It was my second time tackling the role of Lady Macbeth. There’s nothing like playing the role of the villain, who doesn’t think they are villainous.
“My mum took a degree in English Literature as I was growing up, so my love for language, feminist and classic writers and, of course, Shakespeare grew with her,” Gee-Finch continues. “I got to represent my drama school at the Sam Wanamaker Festival at the Globe Theatre in 2015, a stage I long to tread the boards on again. Shakespeare is like a second language to me, and all the great actors certainly are found working closely with the RSC. It still baffles me how he knew the female psyche so well.”
More UK stage work may have to wait, though, as Gee-Finch’s ambitions look to take her off our green and pleasant land. “I want to take my short film to a renowned film festival and visit LA,” she says on her plans for 2022. “I’d love to audition in America. I’ve worked as a film extra on Tom Cruise’s last two Mission Impossible films, and I wouldn’t mind actually working opposite him as his leading lady. Unfortunately, I can’t get hold of his email to tell him that! I am a big believer in reaching out to those who inspire you and you wish to connect with, so I’m sure I’ll figure out how to get his attention somehow.” Mission Impossible? Perhaps not for our former Miss Hertfordshire.