Belfast Telegraph

Veteran actress becomes Dame Joan

Joan Collins has spoken of her amazement at being made a Dame, describing the honour as something she never expected in a "billion years".

After receiving the accolade from the Prince of Wales for services to charity, Dame Joan said all she wanted to be at the start of her career was just a "jobbing actress".

The star is famed for her roles in a string of sexy films like the The Stud and The Bitch and for more recent parts in the ITV comedy Benidorm and the soap The Royals.

The 81-year-old said: "Not in a billion years did I think I would be made a Dame, it never even crossed my mind.

"It wasn't anything I ever aspired to, I just wanted to be jobbing actress, a working actor and somebody who could still perform.

"I do my one woman show a lot, which I love doing," she said, and added, laughing: "But I have a lot of irons in the fire, none of which I can talk about."

Dame Joan has been a regular on stage and screen for more than half a century, but is probably best known for her portrayal of the bitchy Alexis in Dynasty.

The glamorous US soap opera, with its lavish costumes complete with startling shoulder pads and big bouffant hairstyles, ran for most of the 1980s and made her a star all over again.

Speaking about Alexis, Dame Joan said: "She was a fabulous character, even though a lot of people hated her, a lot of people loved her and she was, I thought, a well-rounded character.

"It was nine years of an extraordinary amount of work that I truly enjoyed. I enjoyed creating that character, I enjoyed working on her wardrobe."

Dame Joan was born into a showbusiness family - her mother was a dancer and her father an agent - in London and enjoyed early success in the British film industry before heading to Hollywood.

She has worked steadily for decades with occasional gaps for marriage - she is currently on her fifth husband, Percy Gibson - and bringing up her family.

Mr Gibson joined her at the Buckingham Palace investiture ceremony, as did her two grown-up children, Sasha and Tara Newley, from her second marriage to actor and singer Anthony Newley.

Film appearances include a remake of The Big Sleep starring Robert Mitchum and she has featured in TV shows including Star Trek and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

She also starred alongside Rising Damp actor Leonard Rossiter in a string of successful adverts for Cinzano which invariably ended up with the drink being spilled down her top.

The actress was recognised for her charity work and has used her fame to support a variety of good causes including the NSPCC, Fight for Sight, Barnardo's, Feed the Children and the Elton John Aids Foundation.

Dame Joan, who wore a cream outfit she had designed herself and a hat by royal milliner Philip Treacy, she said: "I've been very involved in many charities from the NSPCC to (the children's charity) Brainbox to my particular favourite charity, of which I'm patron, Shooting Star Chase children's hospice, which helps families and their terminally ill children.

"It's completely reliant on donations and they're making great strides in helping children recover from birth defects, but mostly it helps the families."

Also recognised during the investiture ceremony was Steve Cram, the former world champion, 1984 Olympic silver medallist and world record holder at 1,500 metres, who was made a CBE in recognition of his recent work as chairman of the English Institute of Sport (EIS).

After 13 years Cram stepped down last year from his post with the EIS, which helps elite athletes to improve their performance by giving them access to the best science, medicine, technology and engineering.

He said: "We were looking for the margins, how do we really take us from here to there? We have always had talented people, it was just supporting them really.

"In my day everything concentrated around the individuals - Seb Coe, or me or Daley Thompson - naturally what we tried to do, and have tried to continue that on, is have a bit more of a systemic approach and understand that the important people are actually the coaches, the physiologists, the biomechanists."

Speaking about the future, he said: "I'm now concentrating a little bit more on my own sport than across the sports. As far as athletics, I'm doing a lot more coaching which I'm really enjoying.

"I'm trying to help UK Athletics with building our endurance. We've got this fantastic talisman in Mo Farah, we're trying to use that to regenerate our successes at middle and long distance (events)."

YouTube entrepreneur Jamal Edwards, who founded broadcasting and production company SB.TV as a teenager, was awarded an MBE.

Mr Edwards, 24, got his break when he started making music videos of local grime MCs on his west London estate at the age of 15 after getting a camera as a present.

He has gone on to make videos for household names such as Ed Sheeran and Rita Ora and is now a multimillionaire.

He said: "Self belief, that's the main thing for me, just believe in yourself.

"This isn't just an award for me, it's an award for my audience, they've been supporting me since I was 15."

The daughter of footballer Sir Stanley Matthews, Jean Gough, was awarded an MBE for services to children and sport through her work as patron of a sporting foundation named after her famous father following his death in 2000.

She said: "The foundation is his legacy, he coached all around the world, young people, they were his passion.

"When he died the foundation was formed to help young people, this honour is not for me personally, it is for all those who have helped the foundation and for all the work that our volunteers do, thousands of young people."

She added: "We are keen to get children developing their lives through sport because it's wonderful at developing their characters, social skills, sportsmanship, fair-mindedness, all the things my father was a role model for."

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