Penelope Tree: From the Swinging Sixties to Now

Last Updated: June 8, 2024By

Penelope Tree: From the Swinging Sixties to Now



Hey there! Today, we’re diving into the life of the iconic model, Penelope Tree. She’s had quite the journey, from being a 60s fashion muse to living a serene life in Sussex. So, buckle up and let’s get into her incredible story.

A Star is Born

Penelope Tree was born in New York in 1949. Her dad was Ronald Tree, a Conservative MP, and her mom, Marietta Peabody, was a glamorous American socialite. Talk about a high-profile family! When she was just 16, she got discovered at Truman Capote’s super famous Black and White Ball. Can you imagine? One minute you’re at a party, and the next, you’re a rising star in the fashion world.


The Bailey Connection

Penelope’s big break came when she started working with the legendary photographer David Bailey. They met when she was 17, and she was working for a publisher. She got a couple of hours off for the shoot, and boom, her modeling career took off. She described meeting Bailey as a whirlwind of emotions – fear, attraction, and a lot of laughter. Bailey had a way of making you feel all sorts of things, and you can see it in her early photos. She looks a bit defensive, but there’s a spark there too.

Finding Her Path

Before Bailey, Penelope had done some modeling with Richard Avedon in New York. It was chill and easy, so she thought working with Bailey would be the same. Boy, was she wrong! Bailey’s shoots were intense. She felt an electric connection with him, but it was complicated because he was married to Catherine Deneuve at the time. Their relationship blossomed later, but it was never straightforward.


The Ups and Downs of Fame

In the late 60s, Penelope was living the high life in London. The city was buzzing with creativity – artists, musicians, you name it. But despite the glam, she was a teenager dealing with typical teen insecurities. Fame brought her attention, something she craved since her parents were pretty absent. She was raised by nannies and had a complicated relationship with her ambitious mother.

Heartbreak and Hard Times

By 1974, things took a downturn. Penelope’s modeling career crashed due to late-onset acne, and she was arrested for cocaine possession. Her relationship with Bailey ended, and she was left heartbroken and lost. She sank into a deep depression and had to work hard to rebuild her life. Therapy and dancing helped her cope. She wasn’t great at dancing – she jokes about being the clumsiest in class – but it brought her joy and a sense of relief.

Becoming a Mom

Motherhood was another game-changer for Penelope. She was scared of babies before having her daughter, but once her baby arrived, she felt an overwhelming love. She admits she wasn’t a perfect mom – she had no model to follow – but the experience made her feel strong and confident. Even though she struggled with bulimia for years, motherhood gave her a new perspective on life.

Finding Peace in Buddhism

As she grew older, Penelope’s obsession with appearance faded. She found solace in Buddhism during her 40s while living in Australia. Meeting the Dalai Lama was a turning point. She realized that life is about more than just looks and material possessions. Now, she lives a peaceful life in the countryside, far from the glitz and glamour of her modeling days.

Penelope Tree’s life is a testament to resilience and finding inner peace. From the highs of the fashion world to personal struggles, she’s navigated it all with grace and strength. Her journey reminds us that it’s never too late to find what truly makes us happy.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to share in the comments below.

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