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Why I (not so) secretly idolize Pattie Boyd (P.S. It’s not why you think)

When former British model Patricia Anne Boyd, more commonly known as Pattie, obtained the role as a school girl in The Beatles 1964 film A Hard Day’s Night, her life changed forever.  After a chance on set meeting with the quiet, dark-haired lead guitarist George Harrison, her life became a whirlwind.   Boyd is now regularly recognized for inspiring two of the greatest love songs from some of the most prominent musicians, ‘Something’ by Harrison and ‘Wonderful Tonight’ by Eric Clapton.  Boyd married both Harrison and Clapton, a feat alone that has left many women to declare her a winner, but that’s not why she’s my idol.

I never had a role model before reading Boyd’s autobiography Wonderful Tonight. To me, a role model was someone whose life you wanted to imitate and I didn’t want to be another sheep in the herd.  This was, of course, before I realized that role models aren’t people you want to be, but people whose actions or morals you admire.  Claiming your own personal idol doesn’t mean you wanted to skin them and wear them like last year’s Versace (Real Housewives of New Jersey shout-out!), but that you look up to their ideals.  Role models can lead you down the path to being a better you, they can help individualize you, not turn you into a clone.  Nonetheless, the idea of a celebrity as my role model, that was ludicrous, right?  Wrong.

I remember when I first began learning about the life of Boyd.  It was in 2008, while I was flying on an airplane to visit my sister in Belgium.  During that nine hour flight, I consumed her book and immediately felt drawn to Boyd and everything she represented.  This woman, who I knew virtually nothing about, left me feverishly flipping through her pages and proclaiming her as my hero (as I have subsequently continued to do during multiple re-reads).  The reason for my declaration is simple, she is authentic.

Boyd was, and is, more than a muse.  She’s as human as you and me, and that’s what makes her so wonderful.  Boyd grew up in a broken home with three siblings, one brother and two sisters.  In England, her parents married young and after ten years together, they divorced when Boyd was eight.  Thereafter Boyd’s father left and became an absent figure in her life.  After a stint in Kenya, her mother and siblings moved back to England during the 1960s where her mother remarried and Boyd gained two more brothers in the process.

It was in England that Boyd became a well-known model, having even posed alongside the epitome of the swinging sixties, Twiggy.  Like Twiggy and her cropped men’s-style haircut, Boyd brought a unique look to the pages of Britain’s fashion magazines; she had a gap in between her two front teeth.  In an industry where looks are everything, Boyd embraced her unconventional look and carved out a triumphant career for herself.  That sends an empowering message to women everywhere.  What some may see as imperfection, others will love – remember, that gap landed her the legendary Clapton and Harrison.

What can’t be denied is Boyd’s evident sense of style. Her everyday life was just as fashionable as her model persona.  Boyd’s ensembles captured the eras of each decade she lived through.  In the sixties, she wore simple silhouettes with black and white lines, her blonde hair often cascading into curls.  As time evolved, so did her look.  She began dressing in colorful patterned dresses that flowed with tinted blue sunglasses or large, floppy hats.  Her style then was something that can still be emulated today; it is effortlessly and timelessly chic.

However, what I continually admire about Boyd is her sense of wonder.  In her book, Boyd wrote about her interests in photography, gardening, even cooking.  Being someone whose interests run wide but practice stops shallow, I admire her ability to not only follow through with those hobbies, but achieve recognition with them.  In 2005, Boyd showcased an exhibition of her photography at the San Francisco Art Gallery.  Her exhibit has since run in several countries including England, Australia, and Canada.

Perhaps though, what draws me most to Boyd is that down-to-earth vibe she exudes.  Boyd doesn’t shy away from realism.   In Wonderful Tonight she openly talks about her depression while living and traveling with Harrison in the later years of their marriage.  She takes her portion of the blame and admits to her mistakes.  She acknowledges her regrets about leaving Harrison for Clapton so quickly, wishing she instead had tried to work on their relationship and not let it slip away so easily, especially after realizing life with Clapton and his alcoholism was no cinch either.  Through those tough times, Boyd learned to be strong and independent enough to stand on her own two feet.

As humans, we all have problems – it is part of our nature.  The way we deal with them is the true test to our character.  Boyd’s admissions of her rights and wrongs continue to lead me to come to terms with my own– past, present, and future ones.  She’s taught me to understand that while some regrets may last a lifetime, that doesn’t mean optimism should be discarded.  I can still be spontaneous and at the very least, applaud that I took the jump.  I’ve also tried to continue the pursuit of my various interests and not give up so suddenly when things become difficult, because after all, hobbies are what remain when the men are gone.

You can read more from Emily Dooley on her blog.

Feature image via.

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