Penelope Tree was the IT girl of the 60s, and is often considered to be the very first supermodel. Despite a recent Burberry campaign, where she models alongside, Kate Moss – Penelope has shied away from the press for the last thirty-five years, but gave a rare interview to the Observer Woman magazine, yesterday.
Discovered at age 17, at a party held by Truman Capote, Penelope went on to model for Vogue and become the muse of photographer David Bailey. When asked to describe her in three words, John Lennon is said to have replied "Hot, hot, hot, smart smart smart!"
Her kooky, ethereal style and wide-eyed, strong-cheekboned, beauty epitomised the flower child and free love vibe of the period. But, Penelope tells the Observer, she didn't really see it like that at all:
"I felt quite fraudulent because I am not a classic beauty," she says, "not now, not then. Like lots of models I felt insecure about the way I looked. We know too well that it's a lot to do with disguise and how you put yourself together."
Penelope also talks about about running from agency to agency, with her model book, as "being a piece of meat. They would discuss your body as though you were not there. But I was a model and that is what you do."
She is wise and self-depreciating in the interview, and has a self-knowledge which I wonder if any of today's models, will have when they're fifty-eight. On how she feels about losing her youthful looks, she tells the Observer "I feel like it has all gone but you might as well live". Good advice, for all of us, whatever age.