Pat Cleveland, a New York native of black, Cherokee and Irish descent, was born in 1952 to artistic parents. Her mother was well known American artist, Ladybird Cleveland, and her father was saxophonist, Johnny Johnston. The couple’s relationship didn’t last too long as Ladybird would go on to raise Pat by herself.
Pat’s modeling career started randomly one day as she was getting off the subway on her way to school. Carrie Donovan, the editor of Vogue at the time saw Pat and invited her to Vogue’s studio to do a trail shoot.
From there her career took off. Ebony Magazine’s Eunice Johnson invited a 15-year-old Cleveland to participate in Ebony Fashion Fair. Unlike many models in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, Cleveland enjoyed success as both a print and runway model. Her mother often served as a chaperone for her teenaged daughter, often crafting many of her outfits. In addition to her modeling career, Cleveland also danced on Broadway and incorporated her dancing abilities on the runway. Her unique walk would go on to become one of the most memorable in fashion history. Her walk was not the only thing that stood out about Cleveland. The model and dancer described her bountiful curly hair as a “flying carpet.”
In 1971, Cleveland moved to Europe and worked for some of the biggest names in the business. Her blackness worked to her advantage. She walked in the legendary runway show that would come to be known as the “Battle of Versailles”. In 1973, unknown American designers used all African American models to outshine their French competitors. It was at this point European designers started to embrace black models.
In her personal life, Cleveland was good friends with artist Andy Warhol, fellow model Grace Jones and designer Stephen Burrows.
Eventually Cleveland put her career on hold to have a family with her husband Paul van Ravenstein. She has two children, Noel and Anna. Anna is following in her mother’s footsteps is also working as a model.
Though you doesn’t shut down the runways like she used to, Cleveland is still involved in the business. She appeared on the 14th season of “America’s Next Top Model” and in 2003 she walked the runway with her daughter at a Chanel show.
People have often described Cleveland as having a zest for life as well as her career. In 2002, she told Honey Magazine, “ Fashion gives you that extra something. It helps make the world an interesting place to live in because it is part of life. Thank God for fashion.”
Check out some of Cleveland’s looks throughout her impeccable career.