Embracing Your Freedom: Pat Cleveland

7 years ago by

In Partnership With The Outnet

Just saying the name Pat Cleveland is like opening a box of New York dreams to me. New York, Studio 54, Antonio Lopez, Diana Vreeland, Warhol, Jagger, it seems like Pat has gone through these eras with her big, gorgeous signature smile. I was so happy when I heard she had written a book, not just because I couldn’t wait to hear what it was really like for her, but also because I wanted to understand what was her secret to go through life with such strength and positivity. Not only was she one of the first black super models, but you know, she also strikes me as being a very free, independent thinker. This is why I’m super excited for you to meet her today on Pardon My French!

[podcast_episode episode=”238399″ ]

Embracing Your Freedom: Pat Cleveland

On the past style of New York….
Oh my god, in the 50s! The middle of the last century! It was like – everyone dressed up to go to the Easter Parade, which is when everyone dresses on Sunday and they wear their best hats, their best clothes and they walk on Fifth Avenue. Those were the kinds of things people did as a ritual, in New York. They would dress up to be seen walking along the streets. Much like the drag queens used to do under the bridge here in the West Village! You know, dress up with boas and be out in the night with twinkling high heels.

On how modeling has changed over the years…
She [daughter Anna Cleveland, a working model] has her Instagram, her manager, her agent, her stylist and her this and that. I was pulling all of that together for myself! But if you don’t have a team around you now, it evolves into a different kind of business. It just keeps going on. I can’t say it’s not as good, it’s just different. I just felt so good knowing the designers personally. When I started, the designer would pick you personally. But now you have to go through 25 doors to even get to meet the creators! …But I think everyone serves a purpose because the business is so big now.

On being hard to define…
You have to have a certain attitude. Even though things get very difficult. If you’re in a society where maybe women aren’t allowed to dress a certain way or you’re in a society where the color of your skin is not acceptable, you don’t let those things change your attitude about how you want to live your life. We’re put here to live our lives, to express ourselves. And at the time, growing up in a society where there was black and white, everything was such an opposite divide. I had to come through that to be accepted. And there was the racial problem of ‘oh this person is a black person and this person is a white person’ and well, me being the cultural mix that I am! I’m half Scandinavian, half American with thirty six percent African American and the rest, everything else French, Italian, Greek, Irish and English and whatever else have you. At the time, it was very difficult because people didn’t understand, what is that thing? They couldn’t categorize me…You just take your own dreams and you try to not let people bring you down.

Embracing Your Freedom: Pat Cleveland
pardon my french pat cleveland garance dore photo

On old school travel…
Pat: I’m like the original jetsetter, where travel was so not as easy as it is now. I came along in the time when people just stopped taking boats and just started flying… Jets to Europe and things like that.
Garance: So when you were traveling in those planes, people were smoking?
Pat: Oh absolutely! And the hostess was looking for a husband and she would spend time sitting on his lap! There was champagne and parties on the plane. I’m telling you. And people dressed up to go flying… It’s a party, you get to fly, it’s like going across the ocean in the Queen Mary or something. You’d have your flying outfit, with many layers so you can change a little bit during the flight. Oh they were long flights then. To Paris it must have been nine hours or so.

On the time of growth for female empowerment…
God, I turned into a Viking! I was out there. I turned into a man, I swear to you! Women started to have their own cigarettes. And when the Pill was invented, no stopping these women. I’m one of them. It means sex is part of life and if you can’t feel free when you’re loving somebody, what’s the point? You don’t want to be weighed down with babies without wanting them. It’s hard, women have such a responsibility. We’re the nourishers of the world. There’s a lot of nourishing men too. But we have the responsibility of our bodies and we should have the right to have that birth control and free hospitals. If we want to have an abortion, it’s our right… No one should tell a woman how to make a choice for her own body.

On her approach to beauty and growing older…
My point of view is that – use makeup! Cause if you can just paint in some good areas, it’s like a painting. I love makeup. I was a MAC girl, by the way. I looove makeup. I think makeup is the cure. I think just makeup and hair. Take care of your hair, make sure you wash your face really well, pamper yourself sometimes. I’m not saying go overboard or anything. Don’t do stuff until you really really have to…You have to not let the house fall down around you. Don’t overeat. It’s all in what you eat. Do some juicing.

Life lessons she’s passed on to her children…
I just wanted them to know that they didn’t have to run after things because they have everything inside, anything that they may want to do, they just have to put a little seed in and watch it grow and not get too distracted. Even today I tell them those things because the world has so many temptations and so many offerings and directions, and I say “where did you plant that seed?”

pardon my french pat cleveland garance dore photo

Special thanks to Cafe Gitane @ The Jane Hotel!
Pardon My French wouldn’t be possible without the support of The Outnet.com! In need of some end of summer essentials? Use the code SPICYSUMMER20 for an extra 20% off summer styles from today until Monday, August 8th at midnight! Happy Summer, guys!

You can download Pat Cleveland’s song “Tonight Josephine” on iTunes, and be sure to catch her on her book tour!

August 10 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL / Neiman Marcus (Ft. Lauderdale)
August 11 – Palm Beach, FL / Neiman Marcus (Palm Beach)
August 20 – Boston, MA / Martha’s Vineyard Event
September 9 – Greenespace conversation
September 14 – Phoenix, AZ / Phoenix Art Museum
September 19 – London, GB Selfridges
September 21 / October 5 – Europe tour Milan/Berlin/Amsterdam/Paris
October 12 – Masachussets, Massachusets College of Art
October 19 – New Brunswick, Rutgers University
October 25 – New York,NY / NYU casa Italiana
November 5- New York,NY / Art of Fashion


Add yours
  • Hi Garance,

    I love your top in this video! Can you tell me where it’s from?

  • LEGEND!!!!! Cannot wait to listen. Just finished Robin Givhan’s book “The Battle of Versailles,” which of course Pat was a crucial part of.

  • She is so gorgeous. Of course that’s why she’s a supermodel but still, time has been kind. And certainly her joie de vivre must have contributed. This is a great interview.

  • Unbelievable that this woman is already 66 yrs….and you lookfantastic Garance.

  • This is so great and tremendously inspiring, thank you so much! AND (apologies for changing the subject) you háve to tell me how you can have radiant, smooth and tight skin like yours. I’m 33 and I’m baffled and utterly jealous at how gorgeous you both look!

  • Quelle liberté ! C’est génial qu’elle est gardé cette fraîcheur et cette espièglerie à 66 ans ! J’adore!
    Merci pour cette belle leçon !


  • Marion

    Re: Ms. Cleveland’s book, all I can say is Wow! What a story. Reading it on my Kindle and enjoying every moment of it. I must say that she was surrounded by talented and creative family members as she was growing up.

  • Raphaële August, 5 2016, 6:02 / Reply

    “Je voulais juste qu’ils sachent qu’ils n’ont pas à courir après quoi que ce soit, parce qu’ils ont tout ce qu’il faut en eux”.
    Je trouve cette phrase si belle & vraie, tout comme Pat Cleveland est une belle personne. Merci d’avoir partagé cela avec nous Garance !

  • Aaaah il est génial ce podcast, l’un de mes favoris…quelle femme! Un exemple en ce qui me concerne depuis longtemps… Discussion très bien menèe Garance, bravo!

  • Can I just say, how adorable was it to hear Garance ask “what is a honky tonk?” w/ that lovely French accent!? :)

  • I love that – “where did you plant your seed” – a nice reminder in the struggle to remain focused!

  • Garance,
    Je tiens à te dire que c’est super de donner la parole à des femmes d’un certain âge sur ton site.
    Je suis jeune, mais féministe! Et ces femmes qui sont belles, intelligentes et souvent “invisible”, les écouter ou lire un article à leur propos ( Linda Rodin, DVF, etc…) ça apporte un vrai bol de fraîcheur dans la blogosphère! Félicitations!

  • Marianne August, 6 2016, 11:08 / Reply

    J’ai hate de me trouver un petit moment tranquille pour écouter ce nouveau podcast que j’attends chaque semaine avec impatience! En attendant je suis moi aussi curieuse de savoir d’ou vient ce haut Garance :) xx

  • Hej Garance,

    Just wanted to say that i’ve been listening to your podcasts and I wasn’t sure weather I liked it or not until I listened to the one with Esther Perel. And I’ve now been listening to it for the 3rd time, while biking to work twice and with my best friend. We had to pause several times to think about all the good points she made.
    3 vérités à la seconde.
    This is incredibly good content and I wanted to say thank you for making us discovering inspiring people. And thank you for making podcasts and experimenting with this media.



  • Thank you for the pod cast. Pat Cleveland was one of my idols while growing up. I remember her from the Ebony Fashion Fair and every year going there was a big event.

  • mademoiselle mauve August, 10 2016, 7:47 / Reply

    superbe interview !

  • So much positive energy and inspiration. She seems to look at life with such an ease and trust – I only wish the podcast was longer.

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