The next few months were as difficult as they could be. With the support of just a few close friends, Stephanie Anne Lloyd struggled to survive. The once-affluent marketing director was not only unemployed, but virtually unemployable. Thanks to the Daily Mirror, she was regarded as a freak.
It was during those dark days that Stephanie took stock of her situation. She wasn’t ready for a life on the dole, she needed to occupy her business brain to keep her sanity. And if no one else would employ her, she would have to set up on her own.
At that time there were no businesses in the UK catering openly and exclusively for the needs of the transgendered community. Stephanie knew that there should be – she had experienced the isolation, loneliness and confusion that had almost driven her to suicide. If she could help others along the way to actually enjoying their femininity, rather than fearing it, and at the same time make a living for herself it seemed the perfect solution.
Her enthusiasm for the project was infectious and she soon gained the support of the brother of her beautician, who was looking for a business to invest in. The brother, Raiko Ristic, could also offer sales expertise to complement her marketing skills and together they believed they could make it work. Although Raiko’s financial backing was enough for them to consider opening a retail shop, they needed more investment if they were to realise all of Stephanie’s plan. She wanted transvestites who couldn’t get to the shop to be able to buy what they needed through mail order.
Even more radically, she wanted to open Europe’s very first TV beauty parlour, where we could not only buy wigs and cosmetics, but also be taught how to use them. A Transformation service is now almost taken for granted, but it was revolutionary in its time.
This was were David Booth entered the equation. David, a no-nonsense Northerner with a keen business sense and quick sense of humour, had answered her advert for backers in the Manchester Evening News. He and Stephanie hit it off from the start and have continued to do so – they are now husband and wife.
The opening of Transformation in Manchester gave transvestites the chance to experience everything they had ever dreamed of in a shop. Under one roof they could not only buy the clothes and accessories they had fantasised about wearing, but even try them on first. A shop where a man can pop in and see how he looks in a dress is very rare even nowadays – in the mid-1980s it was totally unheard of.
As well as buying clothes, wigs and shoes, TVs could get advice on make-up and even have lessons on how to apply it. There were full beauty treatments laid on such as manicures, massages and wanting to pamper them in the most feminine way possible.
And did transvestites flock to reap the benefits of this experience? In a word, no.
In fact, the early response from the UK transvestite population was practically non-existent. Perhaps they didn’t know the opportunity was there, or maybe they were just too nervous to use it. Either way, Stephanie’s business dream was crumbling.
“It was very difficult in those early days with so much open prejudice aimed at transvestites and transsexuals,”Stephanie recalled. “Newspapers and magazines wouldn’t take our advertising because transvestism was regarded purely as a sexual perversion. They wouldn’t have anything to do with us.”
This feeling of transvestism being ‘perverted’ was also shared by the transvestites themselves, who were scared to put their heads above the parapet in a society where they were equated with child molesters.