Tatjana Patitz, one of the original late 80s/early 90s supermodels, has passed away from metastatic breast cancer at the age of 56. The news was originally reported by Vogue.
In a statement to PEOPLE, Patitz’s agent Corinne Nicolas said, “She is survived by her son, her sister, and her parents. We are all devastated by her passing. She was compassionate soul, kind and generous of heart and an avid advocate of animal rights. One of the major causes she supported was the conservation of wild horses.”
Patitz was born in Germany in 1966 but moved to Sweden at a young age. According to Vogue, it was there that she took third in an Elite Model Contest that ultimately spring-boarded her to her modeling career, though it took some time for her to get her first job.
By the late 80s, she had become part of the original group of supermodels, along with Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, and Christy Turlington. Around this time, she was featured in iconic images like “White Shirts: Six Supermodels, Malibu,” along with music videos like George Michael’s “Freedom!”
After hearing of Patitz’s passing, Crawford took to Instagram for a tribute, writing, “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.”
Patitz and her 18-year-old son Jonah lived with a variety of animals at their ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley in California. She frequently took to her Instagram to share thoughts on animal welfare, along with photos of her horses. She was also an ambassador for American Wild Horse Sanctuary.
In one post, she wrote, “When I look into the eyes of an animal I see a soul, a sentient being that may not speak our language but that feels, has relationships, family, bonds and feels love. My horses and all my animals are and will forever be a family. I see all animals soul. We are all part of this earth inhabitants of this beautiful planet.”
Donations in Patitz’s memory can be sent to Return to Freedom, a wild horse organization she supported.