Please upgrade your browser

For the best experience, you should upgrade your browser. Visit our accessibility page to view a list of supported browsers along with links to download the latest version.

Student Showcase Archive
Show RCA 2019

Julia Rank

Show RCA work

  • Off to the USA on New Year's Eve: Miss Gertrude Lawrence

    Off to the USA on New Year's Eve: Miss Gertrude Lawrence, The Sketch 1930

  • Mr Cochran's Young Ladies

    Mr Cochran's Young Ladies, The Sketch 1928

  • Jessie Matthews advertising Bondor Stockings

    Jessie Matthews advertising Bondor Stockings, The Tatler 1935


The Chorus Girl’s Progress: The iconography of female stardom and consumption in interwar British magazine culture

My dissertation explores the imagery of the chorus girl-turned-star in interwar Britain through the case studies of Gertrude Lawrence, Jessie Matthews and Anna Neagle, in which I argue that in order to succeed as a star, a female performer had to cultivate both a distinctive persona and be able to conform to archetypes of idealised femininity. Using society magazines that are rich in photographs and advertisements, I analyse the kind of material that Jacky Bratton observes is often dismissed as ‘background noise’ by researchers in order to explore how celebrity was constructed through visual and commercial mediums. The first chapter looks at the contrast between the ‘Cinderellas’ who succeed and those who do not, and the communication of stardom as a lifestyle. The second chapter explores the actress’s presence in advertising and the way in which it was an opportunity for her to sell her own image as well as the products in question. The third chapter diverges from the society press to explore fan club journals that were produced by non-professionals who nevertheless ran these organisations in a professional manner, negotiating a friendly and mutually beneficial relationship with their chosen star. Ultimately, print culture allows the upper and middle-class reader to engage with the fantasy of theatrical life from the safety of her participation as a consumer to observe the fluidity of the actress’s position in society in which she lives in both the earthly world and the public imagination as a vessel of escapism within an artificial landscape of pleasure.


  • I am a theatre historian and theatre journalist with a particular interest in ephemera, collecting practices and the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in particular popular performance and musical theatre. I am also interested in dress, social, London and women's history.

  • Previous degrees

  • BA English Literature, University of Warwick, 2009; MA Victorian Studies, Birkbeck, University of London, 2015
  • Experiences

  • Volunteer cataloguer, V&A Theatre and Performance department, London, 2018; Volunteer editorial assistant, V&A Fashion, Textiles and Furniture Department, London, 2018–2019; Volunteer Researcher, Islington Museum and Local History Centre, 2019; Freelance theatre critic and journalist, 2010-ongoing
  • Awards

  • Gillian Naylor Essay Award, 2018
Royal College of Art