By Diana Cavagnaro
Pat Cleveland, now studied in the documentary “The Girl from 7th Avenue,” is one of the first Black super models who received prominence as both a runway and print model. Starting her career in the mid-’60s, she has been photographed by renowned photographers such as Norman Parkinson, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, and Andy Warhol.
Cleveland led the fashion revolution and worked non-stop as a game changer. She is also a multi-talented actress, artist, singer, writer, wife, and mother. In 2016, Simon & Schuster published her memoir, “Walking with the Muses.”
Her first big break came at the Battle of Versailles Fashion Show in 1973 in the Palace of Versailles. Five French designers competed against five American designers at this Gala which included an unprecedented ten Black models. This was the first time vogueing was done on the runway.
It was such an honor for San Diego to have this iconic model in town for the premier of the documentary about her life, “The Girl from 7th Avenue,” at the La Jolla International Fashion Film Festival. She collaborated with Antonio Contreras for this amazing illustrated story of her modeling career. Antonio Contreras is a multi-gifted artist who created 2,000 illustrations to make this animated short film. Contreras is also an award-winning artist who produces dramatic and documentary films such as “EXUBERANCE,” “The Falling Leaves,” and “Ay Jose!” to name a few. He was awarded the International Fashion Film award for Best Actor in 2015.
I met Cleveland and Contreras for an interview at the Grande Colonial Hotel. Cleveland arrived wearing a Missoni ensemble and explained that the designer Ralph Rucci had designed two creations for her but that they had not arrived in time.
I sat down with both of them for a fireside chat overlooking the breathtaking view of the shoreline. You immediately felt that you have known Cleveland your entire life with her warm persona and effervescent style.
My first question was how did they meet for this collaboration. They said they met on Instagram and a conversation ensued going back and forth. The forces of the universe brought them together and “The Girl from 7th Avenue” was born.
Contreras said that there are so many styles of animated films and they wanted to tell a story similar to sci-fi and keep it funny and light. Gehno Aviance was the editor and graphic designer. The music for the film was produced by One A (Gehno Aviance). Some of the music was written and composed by Maurice Lynch and performed by Pat Cleveland. She has such an entrancing voice and you don’t want the song to end.
The night of the red carpet was on July 30. Pat Cleveland arrived looking stylish in a kaftan and turban by the designer Julia Clancey. There was so much anticipation by the crowd awaiting the awards to be handed out. Cleveland and Contreras were delighted to learn that “The Girl from 7th Avenue” was awarded Best Documentary and Best Animated Film.
In her acceptance speech, Cleveland said, “Wear it, love it, live it…that is style and fashion!”
While it is still under wraps, Contreras’ next project will be another collaboration with Cleveland.
— Diana Cavagnaro is an internationally renowned Couture Milliner based in Alpine, California. Learn more about our hat designer, teacher and blogger at www.DianaCavagnaro.com.
St Madeleine Sophie’s presents the 44th Haute With Heart Fashion Show called “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront on Saturday, Aug. 13. Visit: www.Hautewithheart.org.
The Salah M. Hassanein Memorial “Day at the Races” to benefit Children’s Lifeline International on Sunday, Aug. 18. Honorary Chair is Zandra Rhodes. For tickets: bit.ly/3OPSV1w
Bridal Bazaar with fashion shows presented by Gretchen Productions at the San Diego Convention Center. Two shows presented during the day of Sunday, Aug. 21. For more info: 760-334-5500
“Fold, Twist, Tie” is a paper bag hat exhibit by moses at the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park being displayed until Oct. 2. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday-Wednesday and 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday through Friday.