Text by Tony Ward, Copyright 2022
Pat Cleveland: Legend of Fashion Modeling
I first came to know about Pat Cleveland in the mid 1970’s when I was a graduate student at the Rochester Institute of Technology. I saw some of her earliest published photos in fashion magazines and noticed right away something unusual about her pictures. Pat was one of the earliest models of color to be published prominently in a major fashion magazine. Pat, Grace Jones and Beverly Johnson broke the glass ceiling for being the first women of color to be recognized for their natural beauty. Needless to say, Pat was more curvaceous than the standard white female model because of her exotic mix of both Irish and African American blood. She opened the door for lots of other women to explore the world of fashion and runway modeling. Iman and Naomi Campbell owe a debt of gratitude to the legend of Pat Cleveland.
I could relate to her upbringing when I read her memoir Waling With the Muses. I am also of mixed heritage, my mother was Italian and my father was African American. Pat and I had other similarities as well in that both of our parents, were artists. Pat’s mother was a painter as well as my dad. There was also the connection to Harlem, Pat was born there, my parents lived there when they got married and stayed for a time until my parent’s moved to Philadelphia in the 1940’s. Pat and I first met at a mutual friends home in Elkins Park, just a few minutes drive to where I was born and raised. In this picture we were reunited again by our friend Sandra Blumberg, an artist and humanitarian who recently had a reception of her most recent works of art at Beaumont in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.
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