The Beautiful Pat Evans….
70s MODEL Pat Evans was born in Sugar Hill, New York City. She is of African American and Native American heritage — a mix of Nanticoke Lenape and Cherokee. She started off as a dancer with Nigerian percussionist Olatunji at the tender age of 16. He persuaded her to cut her long straight hair into a short crop for his energetic live performances.
She was still sporting this look in 1969 when she was spotted in New York’s Washington Square Park — where fellow black fashion model Tyson Beckford was also discovered — and invited to test with a local photographer. She then took the pictures around to the city’s model agents. She was turned down by specialist black agency, Black Beauties, only to be taken on by Stewart Models, a white women’s model agency that represented British supermodel, Twiggy amongst their roster. “I thought there was no way I would get in there,” Evans recalled. “But they took me the same day. Aside from Twiggy, I was the highest paid model at the agency.”
MODEL HEAD TURN
But from the very beginning Evans was troubled by the industry’s preoccupation with straight hair, and the pressure placed on model women of colour to conform to white beauty values. She decided to make the strongest aesthetic protest she could — by adopting a bald-head shave. But with a failed marriage behind her and two small children to support, Evans still had to work, and so she wore a wig to her castings instead.
PAT EVANS HAPPY ACCIDENT
One day, at a go-see for a Stephen Burrows runway show, Evans’ wig accidentally slipped off while trying on a dress, revealing her bald-head shave. But Burrows liked the look so much that he asked the young model to keep it for the show. “I said, ‘My agency would fire me if I take this wig off,’” Evans recalled. “But I did it.”
OHIO PLAYERS ALBUM COVERS
After the show the bald-headed beauty became an instant hit. “I did all the TV shows, all the magazines,” she said. “People were coming from Japan and Germany to photograph me.” She appeared in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and became the face of Astarté, a line of cosmetics for black women. She was also adopted as the muse of R‘n’B band the Ohio Players, who featured her on the covers of their suggestively titled albums “Ecstasy”, “Pleasure”, “Pain”, “Climax” and “Orgasm”.
HEAD MODEL OUT
But suddenly, just as Evans was at the peak of her success, she dramatically self-destructed. In January 1974 she published a scathing article in Essence magazine attacking the industry’s racism and its discrimination against black women and their beauty values, lambasting not only white advertisers, but also black models and black photographers along the way. The piece effectively ended her career, as clients refused to book her after it was published.
She quit modelling, reinventing herself as a stylist. In 1980 she briefly opened her own agency, Pat Evans Models, one of the first to promote Asian and Hispanic beauties amongst its roster.