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THEY'RE ALL, ER, MEN; EXCLUSIVE WHAT HAVE THESE BEAUTIES GOT IN COMMON? Gavin is one of the 'girls'.

Byline: By SARAH ARNOLD

AT first glance they look like a typical line-up of girls in a beauty pageant.

The swimsuits, the high heels, the sparkling smiles, the flowing locks...the deep voices.

Yep, none of these "girls" are quite what they appear to be - they're all men.

The one third from left calls herself Leah True. But when back at home in Newcastle she returns to being Gavin Beales, a suit-wearing 41-year-old power tool designer. "My lives as Gavin and Leah are poles apart," says Gavin. "One loves soldering - and the other loves shoes."

Gavin is pictured in Thailand competing for a EUR10,000 first prize and the coveted title Mr Miss World. All the other contestants were born as males. Some have had surgery, others - like Gavin - are simply men in drag.

Gavin, who describes himself as "straight", says he started to realise he was different at the age of seven. He had been leading a double life for years when he met girlfriend Sue Brown, a 49-year-old nurse, at a transvestite club seven years ago.

"My friends said, 'What do you think of this person? Is it a boy or a girl?'," says Sue. "I just thought, 'Wow, who cares? They look great'."

But it wasn't until late last year that Gavin decided to try his luck in Thailand.

First he signed up for deportment lessons to learn how to walk properly in high heels. Then he set about making his national costume - an elaborate creation with twinkling fairy lights and two Union Jacks which opened out like wings. "All we have got is Beefeaters for Christ's sake and that's not going to look very feminine is it?" he says.

He shaved his legs, had a bikini wax, bought fake nails from Superdrug and a strapless bra from Marks and Spencer

Finally there was the finishing touch - the creation of a plunging cleavage.

"I use these things which are like chicken fillets and are permanently sticky," he says.

Although Gavin didn't win the title Mr Miss World - he failed to make the top 10 - taking part gave him the confidence to finally tell his mum Gene, 67, about his crossdressing secret.

When he called in at the neat suburban semi she shares with his stepdad Mike Kirby, 68, the couple thought he was going to tell them he was getting married. Instead he showed them a portfolio of pictures of himself as Leah. His mother's response was simple: "Anybody I know?" A nervous Gavin replied: "They are all me."

Then she hugged him and said: "It doesn't make a damn bit of difference to me."

Mr Miss World ( Ch4, April 17, 10pm)

CAPTION(S):

Engineer Gavin as beauty contestant Leah True; Gavin (right) & girlfriend Sue; Gavin (third from left) takes part in Mr Miss World in Thailand last month; Gavin as a guy
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 8, 2007
Words:476
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