Tuesday, March 05, 2024








Vogue cover model, face of the Swinging Sixties, and David Bailey’s muse, Penelope Tree was discovered aged 16 at Truman Capote’s legendary 1966 Black and White Ball and became one of the style icons of the decade, inspiring a generation of future models including Kate Moss.


Now 74, Penelope has written her first novel, Piece Of My Heart, an honest and strikingly moving exploration of what it takes to make it in the fashion industry, and a coming-of-age story peopled with larger than life characters from high society, fashion, music, and film. 


This year’s Hideous Kinky, Penelope Tree’s autobiographical debut novel looks with brutal honesty at issues around eating disorders, drug addiction and unhealthy relationships, as well as the damaging and dizzying impact of sudden fame, and shares the inside scoop on ‘60s fashion and high society for the first time, including an intimate portrait inspired by her relationship with the photographer David Bailey, with whom she remains close to this day.


Fame. Money. Sex. Ari wants them all. And as the face of the 1960s they are hers for the taking. But how much is she willing to sacrifice to get them?


Trapped between the suffocation of English boarding school and a chaotic home dominated by her eccentric, wealthy, and politically powerful mother, Ari longs for a different kind of life – one lived in the glamour of London, with the pop stars and fashion icons she adores. It seems impossible, until she is discovered by Bill Ramsey – the notorious bad boy photographer of the Swinging Sixties.


Suddenly, Ari’s life is transformed into a dizzying whirlwind of drugs, photoshoots, sex, and parties and with Ramsey by her side, the hot young couple are the darlings of the media. But in the fickle world of fashion, nothing lasts forever – and Ari’s addictions, her eating disorder, and her increasingly dysfunctional relationship with Ramsey send her life spinning out of control.


A Vogue cover shoot in Nepal offers Ari a make-or-break chance, not just to revive her ailing career, but to win back Ramsey’s love, – the only thing that matters to her. But in the “land of the gods”, Ari finds herself wondering how much more of herself she must sacrifice to hold onto the things she thought she always wanted.


Daisy Jones and the Six meets Hideous Kinky, Penelope Tree’s debut is an honest and strikingly moving exploration of what we sacrifice for fame and love. It is based on Penelope’s own experiences as part of the swinging 60s set, alongside everyone from the Rolling Stones and The Beatles to Cecil Beaton and Truman Capote.


Penelope Tree says: Piece of My Heart is a novel about the trouble with appearances. Born into a world of great privilege, my protagonist Ari becomes a top model in the 1960’s and the lover of a well-known photographer. Several years later, extreme circumstances compel her to look for a life that doesn’t depend on wealth, image or the man she loves.” 




Credit: Stuart C. WilsonBorn into great privilege in 1949, Penelope Tree was brough up in high society in New York and England as the daughter of Ronald Tree – a wealthy Conservative MP and close friend of Winston Churchill – and the American socialite Marietta Peabody.


Aged 16 Penelope attended Truman Capote’s 1966 Black and White Ball. There she was spotted by Cecil Beaton, Richard Avedon and Diana Vreeland, who all took credit for discovering her. The next day Penelope was commissioned by American Vogue to be photographed by Avedon, who was so taken by Penelope’s appearance he said: ‘Don’t touch her. She is perfect’.


Aged 18 Penelope met and fell in love with photographer David Bailey and moved from New York into his flat in London's Primrose Hill, catapulting her into the heart of ‘60s London. Six years later late-onset acne ended her modelling career and her relationship with Bailey. Penelope moved to LA & then Sydney where she married and raised a family. Now 72, Penelope lives in Sussex and continues to model for brands including Fendi and Burberry and regularly appears in the pages of fashion magazines including Vogue, Elle and Vanity Fair.



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