Pat Cleveland

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Pat Cleveland
Born (1950-06-23) June 23, 1950 (age 72)
New York City, U.S.
Alma materHigh School of Art and Design
Years active1966–present
Martin Snaric
(m. 1978; div. 1982)

Paul van Ravenstein
(m. 1982)
Modeling information
Hair colorDark Brown
Eye colorBrown
AgencyThe Model CoOp (New York)
Next Model Management (Paris) [1]

Patricia Cleveland (born June 23, 1950)[2] is an American fashion model who initially attained success in the 1960s and 1970s and was one of the first African-American models within the fashion industry to achieve prominence as a runway model and print model.

Early life[edit]

Cleveland was born in New York City in 1950 to Johnny Johnston, a jazz saxophonist of Irish and Swedish ancestry, and Lady Bird Cleveland, an artist of African-American, Native-American and Irish-Scottish ancestry.[2] Her parents separated when she was young and she was raised by her mother in Harlem. She studied performing arts at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School and studied design at New York's High School of Art and Design and hoped to become a fashion designer.[3] Some of her earliest photographs as a youngster were taken by Carl Van Vechten, who was among her mother's coterie of artist friends.[4] Cleveland noted in her book Walking with the Muses: A Memoir that her first photographs were taken when she was fourteen by Van Vechten's friend Adelaide Passen,[5] one of the first women employed as a press photographer in the United States.[6]


Modeling career[edit]

Cleveland's career as a model began in 1966 when she was on a subway platform with a friend en route to class and was noticed by the assistant to Carrie Donovan, fashion editor at Vogue. Donovan, impressed by Cleveland's fashionable clothing, invited her to tour the Vogue offices and the magazine subsequently published a feature on her as an up-and-coming young designer.[3] The article led to her being approached by Ebony which asked Cleveland if she would perform as model for its Fashion Fair national runway tour. Cleveland agreed and decided she would place her aspirations to be a designer on hold and try her luck as a fashion model.[7]

Following her tour with Ebony, in which she experienced acts of violent racism in the Southern United States,[3] Cleveland caught the attention of designers such as Jacques Tiffeau and Stephen Burrows. At age 18, she was signed to Wilhelmina Models after designer Oleg Cassini initially recommended her to Eileen Ford. Cleveland has stated that Ford had rejected her based on her race.[7]

Soon she was meeting and working with many of the fashion industry's top enterprising people of the era, including Diana Vreeland and being photographed by Irving Penn, Steven Meisel, Richard Avedon, Christopher Makos, and Andy Warhol[8][9] and briefly became a muse to Salvador Dalí.[10] She made her first appearance as a fashion model in American Vogue in June 1970, photographed by Berry Berenson[11] and the same year, appeared in the very first issue of Essence magazine. Despite her early success, Cleveland grew disillusioned with America and what she perceived to be its racist attitudes towards black models.[2] She relocated to Paris by suggestion of fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez in 1971 and soon became a house model for Karl Lagerfeld, who was the main designer at Chloé. Cleveland vowed not to return to the United States until a black model appeared on the American cover of Vogue.[3] During the 1970s, she modeled for designers such as Valentino, Oscar de la Renta, Yves Saint Laurent, Thierry Mugler, Diane von Furstenberg and Christian Dior. With Karen Bjornson, Anjelica Huston, Alva Chinn, Elsa Peretti, and Pat Ast, among others, she became one of Halston's favoured troupe of models, nicknamed the Halstonettes.[12][13] In 2019, she was one of many of his former models to be interviewed for the documentary film Halston.

The pinnacle of her success in Europe was her participation in the November 28, 1973 Battle of Versailles Fashion Show; a gala event initially conceived as a publicity stunt and fundraiser held at Théâtre Gabriel for the then-dilapidated Palace of Versailles. The gala, which pitted five French designers: Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro and Christian Dior's Marc Bohan, against five American designers: Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, Anne Klein, Halston and Stephen Burrows in a fashion showdown. The event became an international fashion extravaganza with style writers and society columnists, wealthy socialites, royalty, tycoons and politicians in attendance.[14] Cleveland was one of 36 models to walk the runway for the event. Of the 36 models, ten were black, an unprecedented number for the era.[14] The gala later was chronicled in the 2015 Pulitzer Prize winning The Battle of Versailles: The Night American Fashion Stumbled into the Spotlight and Made History by Robin Givhan.[15]

After Beverly Johnson became the first black model to appear on the cover of American Vogue in August 1974,[16] Cleveland returned to the United States and continued her modeling career. From the early to late 1970s, she appeared on the covers of: Vanity Fair, Interview, Essence, Harper's, Cosmopolitan, Women’s Wear Daily, L'Officiel, The Sunday Times Magazine, GQ,[3] Vogue Paris, W, and Elle.

During the mid to late 1970s, she became a fixture at New York City's exclusive discothèque Studio 54, often in the company of friends Halston, Jerry Hall, Grace Jones, Andy Warhol and Sterling St. Jacques.[17]

Return to modeling[edit]

After raising two children, Cleveland sporadically returned to modeling. In 1995, she started her own modeling agency in Milan. In 2003, Cleveland and her daughter Anna walked for Chanel at Paris Fashion Week. In 2010, she appeared in the documentary Ultrasuede, In Search of Halston and the same year appeared as a guest judge on the reality television series and interactive competition America's Next Top Model. In 2012, she appeared in two more fashion documentaries, Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution and Timothy Greenfield-Sanders' About Face: Supermodels Then and Now.[11] In 2013, she made an appearance on The Face, a modeling-themed reality television show hosted by model Naomi Campbell[11] and in 2013 appeared in an ad campaign for MAC Cosmetics with models Jerry Hall and Marisa Berenson that was launched in dedication of fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez, who died of AIDS in 1987 and who had been close friends with all three models and instrumental in their early careers.[18]

In 2014, she walked the runway for Moschino's Spring Collection in Milan and appeared on the cover of Numéro Russia, shot and styled by Tom Ford.[19] In 2015, she returned to New York Fashion Week to walk the runway for Zac Posen, who also hired her and her daughter Anna to showcase his June 2015 resort collection,[20] appeared in Vogue Japan and appeared in an ad campaign for Barneys New York.[21] Both Cleveland and her daughter Anna were chosen for a 2015 ad campaign for French multinational high fashion house Lanvin.[22] In 2016, she walked the runway for H&M during Paris Fashion Week and appeared on the cover of Vogue Italia with her family.[23] She also appeared in editorials for Harper's Bazaar Japan and Vogue Spain. In February 2019, at age 68, she walked the runway for Hellessy and Naeem Khan at New York Fashion Week[24] and in March of the same year, she walked the runway (along with early peers Beverly Johnson and Grace Jones) at Paris Fashion Week for Tommy Hilfiger and Zendaya.[25]

Personal life[edit]

In 1978, Cleveland married male model Martin Snaric; the two later divorced.[11] In 1982 she married Dutch former model and fashion photographer Paul van Ravenstein,[26] with whom she has two children, Noel van Ravenstein (born in 1984) and Anna Cleveland van Ravenstein (born 1989), who has also become a fashion model.[10] She lives with her husband near Morristown, New Jersey.[27]

In 2016, she wrote Walking with the Muses: A Memoir, covering her early life in Harlem and her career in the fashion industry. The book was published by Atria Publishing Group, 37 Ink, Simon & Schuster. In addition to her writing, running her business, and public appearances, Cleveland is also on a quest to get her mother, Ladybird Cleveland's art accepted into the Smithsonian Institution.[28] Cleveland is a devotee of Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, the current spiritual head of the Siddha Yoga path.[4]

In March 2019, days after walking the runway for Tommy Hilfiger show at Paris Fashion Week, Cleveland was rushed to the American Hospital of Paris after falling ill. She underwent emergency surgery on March 23 after French doctors discovered she had colon cancer.[27] Shortly after her surgery, Cleveland's husband Paul announced that Cleveland did not have enough medical insurance to cover the cost of the surgery. A public donation page was established by van Ravenstein on a crowdfunding platform to help pay for Cleveland's medical expenses. Donations were made from many individuals within the fashion industry, including designers; Anna Sui, Kim Jones, Marc Jacobs, Zac Posen, Thierry Mugler, Kimora Lee Simmons, and Elsa Peretti; models Carla Bruni, Helena Christensen, Marisa Berenson, Marpessa Hennink, and Lineisy Montero; photographers Inez van Lamsweerde, Vinoodh Matadin, Roxanne Lowit and Steven Klein; stylist and fashion journalist Katie Grand; and businesswoman and DJ Marjorie Gubelmann.[29] In September 2019, following further treatment, she returned to the runway, walking for the 2020 Spring Season shows for designers Nicole Miller and Chiara Boni.[30]


As early as 1980, the term "supermodel" was used to describe Cleveland. Former American editor-at-large for Vogue magazine André Leon Talley wrote, "She is the all-time superstar model" in an article for the June 1980 issue of Ebony magazine.[11] Talley referred to Cleveland as "The first black supermodel, the Josephine Baker of the international runways" in his 2003 published memoir A.L.T.: A Memoir.[31] Vogue contributor Tina Isaac-Goizé referred to Cleveland as a "supermodel" in a 2015 article about Cleveland's daughter Anna.[32]


  1. ^ "Pat Cleveland - Model". Retrieved January 16, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c The History Makers August 14, 2014. Retrieved March 26, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e arogundade retrieved March 26, 2016.
  4. ^ a b New York Times Fashion & Style: Pat Cleveland: Early Supermodel and Author With Many Tales. June 15, 2016. Retrieved June 16, 2016.
  5. ^ Cleveland, Pat (2016). Walking with the Muses: A Memoir. New York, New York: Atria Publishing Group. p. 46. ISBN 978-1-5011-0822-8.
  6. ^ Hermann, Marc A.; New York Press Photographers Association (2015). New York Press Photographers. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. p. 8. ISBN 978-1-4396-5340-1.
  7. ^ a b Harper's Bazaar. "How Pat Cleveland Conquered Racism to Become the World's First Black Supermodel." June 15, 2016. Retrieved June 17, 2016.
  8. ^ International Center for Photography retrieved March 26, 2016.
  9. ^ New York Times: Remembering Andy Warhol, the Man With the Camera. September 5, 2013. Retrieved March 26, 2016.
  10. ^ a b Elle: Meet Anna Cleveland, Fashion's New Favorite Girl. February 24, 2015. Retrieved March 27, 2016.
  11. ^ a b c d e Black Girls Rule Online Archived April 7, 2016, at the Wayback Machine retrieved March 27, 2016.
  12. ^ Huston, Anjelica (October 14, 2014). A Story Lately Told: Coming of Age in Ireland, London, and New York. Simon and Schuster. pp. 236–. ISBN 978-1-4516-5630-5.
  13. ^ Nechamkin, Sarah (May 29, 2019). "Pat Cleveland Looks Back on Her Glittery, Jet-Setting Alliance with Halston". Interview. Retrieved June 5, 2019.
  14. ^ a b The Washington Post: 'Battle of Versailles': How African American models reshaped fashion. Retrieved March 26, 2016.
  15. ^ "The Pulitzer Prizes - Citation". Pulitzer Prize. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  16. ^ Coco & Creme Archived October 17, 2010, at Iconic Cover Girls. Retrieved March 26, 2016.
  17. ^ WWD: Behind the Studio 54 Door. Retrieved March 27, 2016.
  18. ^ "MAC's Antonio Lopez Collection Stars Jerry Hall, Marisa Berenson And Pat Cleveland". Huffington Post. July 31, 2013. Retrieved April 18, 2020.
  19. ^ Getty Images: Milan Fashion Week. Retrieved March 27, 2016.
  20. ^ CNN Mom-daughter models: 'Your flaw is your best feature'. Retrieved March 27, 2016.
  21. ^ Trump Models Retrieved March 27, 2016.
  22. ^ Huffington Post: Lanvin Features Legendary Supermodel Pat Cleveland AND Her Daughter for Its New Ad. January 14, 2015. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
  23. ^ New York Times Fashion & Style: H&M Puts Star Models on the Runway. March 3, 2016. Retrieved March 27, 2016.
  24. ^ Kast, Catherine (February 8, 2019). "Iconic model Pat Cleveland kills it on the runway at 68". New York Post. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  25. ^ Leaper, Caroline (March 3, 2019). "Grace Jones, 70, and Pat Cleveland, 68, return to the catwalk for Tommy Hilfiger's Instagram-bait show". The Telegraph. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  26. ^ "Pat Cleveland: the model who partied with Warhol, lived with Lagerfeld – and took on Vogue". the Guardian. August 13, 2020. Retrieved August 14, 2022.
  27. ^ a b Smith, Emily; Greer, Carlos (April 1, 2019). "Supermodel Pat Cleveland diagnosed with colon cancer". Page Six. Retrieved April 2, 2019.
  28. ^ AFRO, Special to the (February 8, 2017). "Pat Cleveland Recounts Her Supermodel Life | Afro". Afro. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  29. ^ Trebay, Guy (April 4, 2019). "Pat Cleveland's Fashion Family Came Through". The New York Times. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  30. ^ "6 Months After Colon Cancer Surgery, Super Model Pat Cleveland, 69, Walks The Runway Again". Survivornet. September 12, 2019. Retrieved December 19, 2019.
  31. ^ Talley, André Leon. A.L.T.: A Memoir. Villard. 2003. ISBN 978-0375508288
  32. ^ Model Anna Cleveland on Beauty Advice from Her Supermodel Mother and the One Product That’s in Her Makeup Bag This Week Vogue. March 8, 2015. Retrieved March 27, 2016.