Sixty-year-old Pat Cleveland is a bad-ass. The New York born black model was one of the original "Versailles girls," a group of American models (more than a fourth of them African American) who reigned over the runway in 1973 at the Grand Divertissement a Versailles.
Held in 1973, "The Battle of Versailles" was something of a fashion show-slash-throwdown mash-up between American designers Oscar de la Renta, Anne Klein, Stephen Burrows and Bill Blass and five French couture designers Givenchy, Dior, Ungaro, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Cardin.
“What made our show different was that in Paris no one had ever seen a black model on a runway,” Oscar de la Renta told the New York Times in January.
Some heralded Versailles '73 as American fashion's "coming out party." Whether that's true or not, no one denies the fact that black models like Cleveland, Alva Chinn and Bethann Hardison paved the runway for generations to come, even if the industry still struggles with diversity nearly four decades later.
Discovered by a Vogue at 15, Cleveland didn't get her big break until seven years later at Versailles. She ruled the late 1970s not as a black model but as the model, chilling with fashion titans Karl Lagerfield and Yves Saint Laurent on the regs. "We came to Europe to show off and we did just that," Pat has said of her heyday. "We wanted to shine day and night." And at 60, this chick is still shining.
I don't gush o'er pretty people often -- because in the end, everybody's body succumbs to gravity. But there are some space travelers out there. So if I were hiring a mentor for my face, Pat Cleveland would be the first person I called. So when she told Ebony magazine that one of her secrets is DIY facials I had to try it:
"I love creating my own spa at home. Squeeze an avocado between your fingers, and slap it on your face for a nice masque. Sit with a cup of tea and some beautiful music playing; it's so relaxing," Cleveland told Ebony readers in the May issue. I immediately went grocery shopping.
All Pat said was squeeze and go--no blending, Vita-mixing or whatever--so I choose the softest non-rotten avocado I could find. If I was at my grandmommy's in LA I'd just have to go in the backyard but instead I paid $1.50 for an organic beauty treatment one of the first black super models swears by. We all make sacrifices.
I only used half the avocado because I'm cheap and wanted to put the other half in a salad. That's like the ultimate in going green.
I mashed the fruit (?) "between my fingers" JUST like Pat said for about two minutes and it went from the consistency of dried-out Play Doh to something closer to creamy booger-colored mud. I kept working my thumbs until the green gunk was thin enough to spread on my face without huge chunks falling from my nose. Then I prepped my skin with some cleansing toner and just went for it, spreading the stuff all over. I felt very primal -- naughty, even.
To say that you should try this when no one else is home or planning to come home for a while, basically goes without saying. I read once that it's super rude to go to the bathroom in a Parisian lady's home because she doesn't want you checking out her over-flowing cache of beauty products. I wholeheartedly support a woman's right to her own beauty rituals. Also I think we can all agree that I look like the Swamp Thing's baby sister at this point in the process and that's a face only Miles can love.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I smushed food on my face, but let me tell you avocado feels gooood. It was refreshingly cool, like frozen cucumber but my skin felt enveloped -- for lack of a better word.
With my Pandora station on "bossa nova" (my version of smooth jazz), a glass of red Zinfandel (the only tea I had was "Smooth Move" which is the opposite of "relaxing") and a magazine for mindless skimming, I let myself just sit still for 30 minutes which I think is the real point. Pampering is an end in and of itself.
Sure, avocado is supposed to help kick aging's ass (with vitamins A and C) by fighting fine lines and sun damage, but it's also just fun to play with your food no matter what your mother taught you.
Once my homemade masque started to dry and tighten around my forehead and cheeks, I figured it was time to rinse.
My skin, which can be dry, felt extremely elastic and supple. I don't go around feeling babies' butts but I think it was baby soft. Instead of washing all the avocado goodness off with moisture-sucking facial wash, I rinsed repeatedly and afterward stuck my head in a steamy shower. I followed up with my favorite lotion (Clinque) and TADAO! -- DIY dollar menu pampering. Pat Cleveland, you didn't steer me wrong. Also when do we start filming "Pat and Helena: An Unconventional Love Story" for Bravo?
Delusions of grandeur aside, I know there are more fruit stand spa treatments I've been deprived of. Don't hold out on me guys. Spill it.