pat cleveland writes a letter to her younger self
To celebrate 25 years of BE WHO YOU ARE, i-D is collaborating with Bobbi Brown to bring you six women's letters of advice to their younger selves. Here, Pat reflects on finding love in Paris with the Warhol gang and being celebrated as a pioneer
Dear younger Pat,
You know, there are a lot of things you can't talk about to everyone, so if I were you I'd keep a diary and talk to yourself about the things that you wish for. That will carry you forward and make you a more creative person.
Confidence will come from knowing what you want. Try and understand your own talents so you can express them more fully. It takes time to bloom! Think like a perennial and get deeply rooted, then you can keep going.
Experiment with making yourself look charming. It's your right to be a girl, play with it. It's like having a Christmas tree and putting some baubles on it - you might as well decorate the tree a bit! (For a while as a teenager you'll dress in scruffy, paint-covered clothes and you'll be too busy painting to bother with makeup or anything. Then your mom will suggest you put a little eyeliner on!)
When you're sixteen Eileen Ford will tell you you'll never make it as a model. Just remember that diversity is the feast of life and keep feasting on your own inner beauty and make that apparent. You'll experience unbelievable racism when you and other black models tour the States. It will hurt your heart to see that kind of behavior but don't take that on as your baggage, let it wash past you and keep your heart light. When you remember your family, and everyone who went before, it will allow you to carry that torch with passion. When you turn 21-years-old you're going to take the reins in your hands and go forward with that power of being your true self, into this glorious wonderful springtime of your life.
You'll look at society and think what a terrible shame that America doesn't honor all its different kinds of people. Like a seed, you have to land in fertile ground and find where the love is. You'll find the love in Paris with the Andy Warhol gang. Everything has its time and this will be your time. You'll vow that you won't come back to the U.S. until a black model appears on the cover of Vogue but believe that things will get better and jump on the wave of your faith and surf! Because in 1974 Beverly Johnson will appear on the the cover of Vogue and you'll come back to a more integrated America, and more possibility of open-mindedness. In time, you'll be celebrated as a pioneer.
There's only one thing that exists in this world and that's love. If you let fear cloud your ambition then you've lost the game. You have a choice to go one way or another and you have to ask yourself, 'Am I going to let this scare me?' Be a warrior: put on your armor, walk through it and see how brave you can be.
Pat's memoir Walking with the Muses is published by Simon and Schuster
Images courtesy of Charles Tracy, Gean Paolo Barbieri, Juan Ramos and Pat Cleveland private archive.