Words of Wisdom by
Studio 54 Party Girl Pat Cleveland  

Pat Cleveland Quotes

Pat Cleveland released her autobiography earlier this year called Walking With The Muses, a highly entertaining and revelatory look back at her whirlwind career as a model in the 1960s and 70s. Her trajectory from mixed raced Harlem girl to international model is one of pure tenacity and grit, one that was often stunted by racial discrimination and sexism. A favourite muse of designer Halston and a fixture at Studio 54, Pat was as well known for her vivacious spirit as she was for her ‘exotic’ looks, at a time when black models were barely represented in fashion. She was photographed by the great and glorious of her generation including Guy Bourdin and Irving Penn, and counted the late fashion illustrator and photographer Antonio Lopez as one of her closest friends (he famously shot the model naked in a bubble bath, below). She dated Mick Jagger and Muhammad Ali and danced with Andy Warhol, but she was also chased from a modelling show by the Ku Klux Klan and was told by Ford Models that she wasn’t black enough. Here the ever-enigmatic and larger-than-life model and mother shares some of her wisdom:

Pat Cleveland Quotes


Pat Cleveland quotes

On friendship  

We are here to pull each other up into a better existence. The people I was around when I was young were not famous yet. We were all growing up together, just hanging around like fruit on a tree, ready to be picked and waiting to blossom.

On finding her way

I was just a seed in the wind, looking for where I could root myself. It just seems that fashion gave me the soil I needed to be nourished.

On the shifting times of the 60s

Sexy in the Sixties was all about androgyny. One sex fits all. Then suddenly in the early 70s it was like ‘boom’! Everyone wanted to be like Ginger Rogers and Rita Hayworth!

On feminism

If you want to tell girls how to be strong, you have to be strong too. My mum, a single woman and artist showed me and my grandmother, who was a slave, continues to inspire me. Plus, I have a little American Indian running through my blood, `which gives me a tribal matriarchal feeling. We are the blood, the earth and the nourishers. We just need men to row the boat, man!”

On hitting the big time

In 1969 I remember meeting Stephen Burrows and we had a little group of people that we could party with on Fire Island – just living a limo life was amazing. We worked hard and partied hard. When you are young, you can do that 24 hours a day! So I had that wonderful time when I could dance the night away, go to bed, go to work with the fabulous people of the design world, then go in the limo and party some more!

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On being one of the first mixed race model

At that time America was divided into black and white. There was nowhere in between. I was kind of the odd ball. I am half American, half Swedish with a mixed heritage. They didn’t know what to do with me! Then came the rainbow, a time when it just didn’t matter anymore. It came sometime when Diana Vreeland decided that it was okay to be anything as long as your energy and spirit projected an image of divine beauty. Because of people like her, Antonio Lopez, Stephen Burrows and Joel Schumacher I was lifted up.

On mothering 

Always wear bright colours so your kids can find you!