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Anna Cleveland: Portrait of A Muse

The super model who believes in expressive freedom, inside and outside the catwalk, talks exclusively to L'Officiel.
Reading time 7 minutes

Sharp face, hypnotic gaze, and infinite charm: it is unmistakably Anna Cleveland. Her beauty has enchanted many photographers and designers, allowing the young model to enter the Olympus of fashion. Anna Cleveland has inherited from her mother, Pat Cleveland, the sexy androgynous charm that made her a legend in the seventies.

At just 2 years old, she posed for her first fashion editorial, at 4 years old, she was walking on the Moschino catwalk, and, at 13, she worked for Chanel with her mother and brother. The model has worked with designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier and Zac Posen, for whom she became a muse, being just 17 years old. Anna was born in Holland, now lives in New York, but Italy holds a special place in her heart.


How did you approach the modeling career and why?

I grew up in this business, it's part of my blood, almost a pedigree. My mother, Pat Cleveland, and my aunt, Apollonia Van Ravenstein, were both supermodels, and it took me years to understand how special this world was and that I had to put my own in order to accept it. When you accept your destiny, what must be manifests itself.


What are the positive and negative sides of being a supermodel?

It has been challenging to travel so much across the world - from one city to another at such a rapid pace for most of my life. I remember that, for 4 years, I lived in an airplane and went from one set to another. I was more a nomadic creature in transhumance, more than a person. When I started to become successful, I learned about my inner strength and how to take care of myself. As a supermodel, I learned that life means hard work, like being an athlete. I talk to the stylists, I don't just walk the catwalk, my work is a collaboration for me. I am interested in understanding the collection and knowing how to best express it.


You have said that spirituality is very important for you. How to combine the frenzy of glamour with a more mindfulness approach to life?

I learned to discipline myself, to always find time for silence amid the frenetic buzz of everyday life. Create a ritual space inside. Even if your schedule is very busy and you have to wake up at 6.00 to do it! Sacrificing an hour of sleep to meditate gave me peace and much more energy.


Who are your favourite designers? Any special memories?

Zac Posen, Ralph Rucci, Jean Paul Gaultier, Jeremy Scott, Karl Lagerfeld, Rei Kawakubo, Lavinia Biagiotti - these are the names of the designers closest to me. I have so many unforgettable memories created together with these designers, from the moments of draping the clothes to the creation of the collection. And it was an honor to be their muse. I remember working with Zac Posen for 7 years, talking to customers for sales, dancing together at the end of the work. He was the first designer who saw me and called me to go to the atelier. Then I met Ralph Rucci, I called him dad Ralph, his studio transmitted a monastic peace and it was him who brought me to Paris for the first time. I fell in love with everything and I moved to Paris to work with Jean Paul Gaultier, who gave me the opportunity to express myself and interpret his creations, we looked like two children playing in fabrics. Jean Paul also invited me to take part in his first "Fashion Freak Show" at the Folies Bergère, a space with an average of 1,500 people per evening. Karl Lagerfeld brought me and my whole family to do the Chanel fashion show when I was 13 years old. I was the youngest girl who had ever walked a Chanel show. Over the years, I have also worked repeatedly for Comme des Garçons and went to the Met Ball in 2017, when I was invited by Rei Kawakubo. I remember seeing one of my first fashion shows sitting on the Spanish Steps in Rome.


What is your relationship with the environment? Do you support any ethical causes?

I grew up on Lake Maggiore in Italy, for me it was fundamental to establish a deep relationship with the environment around me. I try to lead a sustainable lifestyle that is in harmony with nature. I support an organisation called SpaceforGiants, which takes care of releasing elephants after captivity.


What does it mean to be a woman today? What is a superwoman today?

Everything! Put dedication into everything you do, with respect. Living in a high state of consciousness and freedom of expression.


Are you a feminist? Is there a new definition for this word?

I absolutely am and I consider myself feminist, but in my own way. For me, it means being free to decide for ourselves.


Any female inspiration in your life? Do you have role models?

Yes, my grandmother Lady Bird Cleveland is an African American artist and representative, she played jazz on the piano when she was young, she was a real inspiration for the women of that time. She came from the south with nothing and shared her dream of expressing herself for generations to come. And my mother, of course, for being such an icon on those catwalks.


What is your opinion on the Weinstein case and on the MeToo movement? Did you find yourself in a situation where you feared violence or someone tried to offend you sexually?

Yes, I found myself in that situation. It was a terrifying experience to be bullied. I have always been in the sector and I never expected this to happen to me, considering that I was in a very protected environment. It saddens me because of our lack of empathy for each other. It is important to talk about it and say what has happened or what is not working.


What will change in your life after COVID-19? What did you do during the quarantine?

We do not know where all this will lead us, but one thing is certain: the life that surrounds us will be more calm, there will be awareness of the energies around us, and we must make the conscious effort to choose peace in every action we undertake. It was important for me to understand that we need much less than we have. It's the simple things that make the difference. I would like fashion to become more aware of people's needs.

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