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pat cleveland -Stephen Burrows, 1970s
pat cleveland -Stephen Burrows, 197                                                                                                   Pat Cleveland was born in New York City on June 23, 1952 to parents of African American, Native American (Cherokee), Swedish and Irish ancestry. Her father, Johnny Johnston, was a saxophonist, and her mother, Ladybird, was a painter. Cleveland’s parents split up when she was very young, after which she was brought up by her mother.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pat Cleveland
Pat Cleveland and Halston
Pat Cleveland and Halston

 

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Pat- Cleveland

Pat- Cleveland
70s American model Pat Cleveland
pat-cleveland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cleveland studied at New York’s High School of Art and Design, where her first love was fashion. By her early teens she was designing and wearing her own creations. Her career as a fashion model began by accident in 1967 when she was spotted on a New York subway by Carrie Donovan, an assistant editor at Vogue.

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The 14-year-old was on her way to classes at LaGuardia Performing Arts School when, “This assistant followed me,” Cleveland recalled. “My girlfriend said, ‘You better run. There’s a dyke chasing you’. I said, ‘What’s a dyke?’”

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Donovan, impressed with Cleveland’s style, invited her to Vogue to show her fashion designs. The magazine published a feature on her as an up-and-coming young designer. From there she was picked up by Ebony magazine to model for their Fashion Fair national runway tour, and soon, designing was out and modelling was in.

Pat Cleveland
 Oscar de la Renta spring 1974. Photo by Sal Traina.
Oscar de la Renta spring 1974. Photo by Sal Traina.

After working with Ebony, Cleveland began to attract the attention of the major fashion designers of the day, working first with famous names such as Jacques Tiffeau and Stephen Burrows.

Antonio Lopez, Pat Cleveland and Karl Lagerfeld in Paris, 1970.
Antonio Lopez, Pat Cleveland and Karl Lagerfeld in Paris, 1970.

Soon she was meeting and working with all of fashion’s top playmakers, including Diana Vreeland, Irving Penn and Andy Warhol.

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But despite her early success Cleveland grew disillusioned with America and its racist attitudes towards black models. One day, fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez invited her to try her luck in Milan and Paris instead. “This rag doll, no tits, was on her way to Europe,” Cleveland recalled in Michael Gross’s fashion biography, Model: The Ugly Business Of Beautiful Women.

 

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Cleveland settled in Paris in 1970, vowing never to return until US Vogue printed its first black cover.

Pat Cleveland for Gianfranco Ferré
Pat Cleveland for Gianfranco Ferré
Pat Cleveland
Pat Cleveland

 

 

 

 

From her new base the young beauty’s career took off. She modelled for designers such as Valentino, Oscar de la Renta, Yves Saint Laurent, Thierry Mugler and Christian Dior.

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Along with Karen Bjornson and Anjelica Huston she became one of Halston’s favoured troupe of models, nicknamed the Halstonettes. She modelled part of the day and partied the rest of the time.

70s American model Pat Cleveland

While in St Tropez with Karl Lagerfeld she went to lunch on the beach in diamond collars, bracelets, rings, high-heeled shoes and a G-string. In London she partied with the gay crowd and dated Mick Jagger.

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Cleveland  showcased  her own theatrical style on the runway , and her appearances were viewed more like performance art pieces. Cleveland could “tell a story in a dress”, remarked fellow model Rene Hunter. “When she moved, she painted the air around her with the clothes,” said Janice Dickinson.

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The pinnacle of her runway ostentation took place on November 28, 1973, when she was chosen as one of 30 black models to participate in a special runway event at the Palace of Versailles in Paris.

Pat Cleveland

Five famous American fashion designers lined up in a face-off with five of France’s best, in front of 800 guests. Fashion had never witnessed black beauty in such concentrated magnitude, all wearing the best designer clothes in the world.

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Cleveland returned to United States in 1974 (the year of US Vogue’s first black cover model), and continued modelling into the 1980s.

pat cleveland by francois lamy for Italian vogue, 1972
pat cleveland by francois lamy for Italian vogue, 1972

She went into semi-retirement after getting married and giving birth to two children, Anna and Noel. Today she still makes intermittent appearances on television and on the runway.

Pat- Cleveland
Pat- Cleveland
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