Sunday, July 19, 2009

Beautiful Belles: Penelope Tree

A series focusing on beautiful women throughout history with important contributions to the arts and entertainment industry and charity -- and a fabulous sense of beauty, inside and out!

If anyone could be responsible for inspiring the Swinging 60s movement, it would be model Penelope Tree. The wide-eyed gorgeous beauty, along with fellow model Twiggy, epitomizes what the era was all about. I'm totally in love with the mod era, and after seeing The Model As Muse exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art recently, felt it only fitting to bring you an edition of Beautiful Belles with the lovely Penelope Tree. Discover more -- and see scads of photos -- after the jump.

While Penelope's family initially objected to her being a model -- threatening to sue if the pictures Diane Arbus took of her when she was just 13 were ever published -- they relented when she was sent to Richard Avedon at 17. "She's perfect -- don't touch her," it's claimed he said at the time. Multiple memorable photographs followed until scars from late-onset acne effectively ended Penelope's modeling career in the early 1970s. "I went from being sought after to being shunned because nobody could bear to talk about the way I looked," she once said.

But Penelope's huge doe eyes -- often accented by tons of mascara on both the top and bottom lashes -- and unbelievably fantastic cheekbones catapulted her to the top of the modeling charts for quite some time. Not to mention she had a unique sense of style that both captured the times and really made her stand out from the crowd all at once. She even shaved off her eyebrows at one time. And the Flower Power movement? It's attributed to her. But Penelope remembers the 60s quite differently, as she told to The Observer in August 2008:

"I think of the Sixties as being every man for himself," she said. "There wasn't the therapy culture that there is now and there was a huge amount of abuse of alcohol and drugs. But nobody thought it was terribly odd. It was perfectly fine to be tripping down the King's Road. It was acceptable to behave quite strangely and talk as if you came out of a Beckett play."

Penelope dated photographer David Bailey for some time during the 60s, even living in his London flat for awhile. At one point he described her as an Egyptian Jiminy Cricket. But after years of tumult they eventually split. She was married twice and has two children.

In recent years, Penelope has lent her time to Lotus Outreach, a charity which works to partner with local grassroots women's organizations in Cambodia to provide schooling for girls from poor families. She has also worked for the Khyentse Foundation, which promotes Buddhist scholarship.


  1. Couldn't see it at the time; still can't.

  2. Looks odd to me. Then again, Twiggy always looked plain to me and Cheryl Tiegs was like a 100 girls I have seen only a little bustier.