Tatjana Patitz, one of the original supermodels, has died aged 56 from metastatic breast cancer.
Born in Hamburg and raised in Skanör to a German father and Estonian mother, Patitz travelled around the world as a child thanks to her father’s job as a travel journalist. She came third in the Élite Model Look competition in 1983, and scored her first major cover, for British Vogue, in 1985. Other prominent work followed, including other editions of Vogue, Elle, Cosmopolitan, and in commercial campaigns for Calvin Klein and Revlon. By the end of the decade she had relocated to California to have a more balanced lifestyle.
In 1989, Herb Ritts and Peter Lindbergh photographed her with the other women who would become the iconic supermodels of the 1990s, with Lindbergh’s image winding up on the cover of British Vogue for January 1990. The same month she appeared on the cover of Vogue in the US. Cementing her supermodel status, George Michael cast her in his music video for ‘Freedom! ’90’. She continued to be active through the 1990s and 2000s.
In 1999, Ritts stated, ‘My favourite face is probably Tatjana Patitz. I think I’ve photographed her more than anybody, and to me more than any of the women she has the most unusual face: strong, oval, the almond eyes and those strong lips—and it’s her gaze, her inner self that always comes through so strongly.’
She had been romantically linked to Richard Gere, Johnny Depp, Pierce Brosnan and Seal.
She married businessman Jason Randall Johnson in 2003 and gave birth to their son, Jonah, in 2004.
In the 2010s, Patitz continued appearing in major fashion magazines and on their covers, and she promoted social issues such as inclusivity, LGBTQIA rights, HIV awareness, and ageism.
Having been diagnosed with breast cancer, her final catwalk appearance was in 2019 for Etro.
She passed away on Thursday, January 11, in Santa Barbara, and is survived by her son, Jonah.
In her tribute, fellow supermodel Naomi Campbell said, ‘earth angel, kind, generous, shy, lover of animals sometimes more than people. When I met you at 16 at the Alaïa show, I remember just saying “Wow!!” Your presence and stature. Your eyes and nervous shy smile, goddess energy that we were all drawn to …’
Cindy Crawford wrote on Instagram, ‘So sad to hear of the passing of the beautiful @tatjanapatitz. We were babies together in the fashion industry and I feel like we grew up together. We were in so many shoots together and backstage at shows. I found her soft-spoken, sensitive, kind, inquisitive and, who could ever forget those piercing eyes. Her love of animals and nature was infectious. Sending my condolences to her family—especially the son she adored.’
Amber Valletta wrote, ‘Rest in peace and eternal beauty sweetest Tatjana. Your heart was so kind and gentle to all. The strength in your eyes and light behind them was so enchanting. I remember how you loved your dear boy and animals. My heart goes out to your son and loved ones.’