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Tatjana Patitz Cause of Death at 56 Confirmed by Agent

Tatjana Patitz, whose death at the age of 56 was revealed by Vogue on January 11, died of breast cancer, according to her agent Corinne Nicolas. “Her kid, sister, and parents all survive her. We are all grieved by her death “Nicolas told PEOPLE in a statement. “She had a warm and generous heart and was a strong supporter of animal rights. One of her principal causes was the preservation of wild horses.”

Patitz, one of the original “supermodels” alongside Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, and Christy Turlington, made a significant impact on the modeling industry in the late 1980s and early 1990s, appearing on some of the most iconic magazine covers and music videos of the time before retiring to live a quieter life dedicated to animals and raising her son Jonah Johnson.

After working with well-known photographer Peter Lindbergh, the legendary German supermodel rose to stardom in the late 1980s. But it was the iconic black-and-white British Vogue cover for January 1990 that actually launched her career.

Following the cover shoot, in which she appeared with Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, and Linda Evangelista, George Michael cast her in his classic “Freedom ’90” music video. All five models took the stage to lip-synch to Michael’s song, creating one of the most unforgettable music videos ever made.

Following Tatjana Patitz’s death, the fashion world pays tribute to her. “I was in my own zone,” Patitz said of filming the video for The New York Times in 2016. “For part of the day, I had to slide up and down the wall. The set had a run-down feel to it, with a huge, loft-like ambiance.

Another set had me laying on a chaise sofa wearing a black smoking jacket. I believe I was wearing a bustier. I was even smoking at the time. People smoked in videos and even films at the time.” Patitz walked countless runways and modeled in a lot of glossy magazines in the years that followed, including being on the cover of Vogue six times.

Over the years, she has collaborated with designers like Chanel, Donna Karan, Vivienne Westwood, and many others.   Patitz is remembered for her distinct beauty, as remarked by Anna Wintour, Condé Nast’s chief content officer and global editorial director of Vogue, in her homage to the model.

“Tatjana was always the European emblem of elegance,” Wintour commented after learning of Patitz’s death. “She was much less visible than her peers—more mysterious, more mature, more unattainable—and that had its own allure.”

Following the news of Patitz’s passing, tributes from the fashion world and beyond poured in, including a touching statement from Crawford, who had worked with Patitz from the beginning of her career. Crawford, in addition to sharing a few vintage photographs on her Instagram Stories, also shared a snapshot of just her and Patitz on her grid.

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“In the fashion industry, we were infants together, and I feel like we grew up together,” Crawford wrote. “We were in so many shoots and backstage at gigs together. I found her to be soft-spoken, sensitive, friendly, and curious, not to mention those piercing eyes. Her enthusiasm for animals and nature was contagious. My heartfelt condolences go out to her family, especially her son, whom she cherished.”

Sign up for PEOPLE’s free weekly newsletter to get the week’s top stories sent to your inbox every Friday. On October 5, 2022, Tatjana Patitz and Jonah Patitz attend the Tribute to Bambi 2022 at Hotel Berlin Central District in Berlin, Germany.

Tatjana Patitz and her son Jonah Patitz during a Berlin event in October. Patitz was born in Hamburg, Germany, on March 25, 1966, and reared in Sweden. Jonah, her son, was born in November 2004. According to Vogue, Patitz had a strong love of all animals, especially horses, and was an advocate for the American Wild Horse Sanctuary.

Patitz lived in California for many years, leading a modest life and raising her kid away from the public. Donations in Patitz’s honor can be donated to Return to Freedom, a national wild horse conservation group, to commemorate her life and legacy.

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