TOO tall for ballet and not tall enough to complete a 12-week modelling course as a teenager, you would think Patience Bradley's disproportionately long legs might have fallen between two stools so to speak.
But with strokes of good fortune which have followed her throughout a glamorous and varied career, Patience went on to find success in front of the camera when Vogue signed her up at 14 after seeing her face splashed on billboards in London's Oxford Street as part of a Miss Selfridge fashion campaign. This was despite the fact she had so-called bad skin and had stopped growing at 5'4" - two obstacles which resulted in the Co. Down woman being told she wasn't "modelling material" six weeks into a 12-week modelling course with her first tutor.
From then on, the only way was up and Patience - formerly Patti Lawrence - won a place with the Top of the Pops dance troupe, Legs and Co., which earned her national recognition and a huge male fan-base.
"We were very like the Spice Girls - we were all very different looking and each guy had his own favourite and would queue up for autographs," said Patience. "People thought you were on television for three minutes a week, but we worked six days a week and were rehearsing three songs. It was hard work."
Visitors to a forthcoming fund-raising PTA 'Ladies Night' at Portadown College this month will have a chance to hear more of Patience's extraordinary life which has included teaching aerobics, studying for a diploma in psychotherapy - and receiving Honours, despite the fact she has dyslexia - living with Raynaud's and Scleroderma disease and working as an ambassador for Voluntary Service Belfast.
Today, she still fits in a considerable amount of television and commercial work and organises her own tailor-made fashion shows and 'Elegance and Glamour' courses from her home in Holywood.
At the special College event on Thursday, September 18, Patience will takes aspects of her 'Elegance and Glamour' course and give tips on modelling, hair, skin care, make-up, diet and exercise, as well as interview techniques. There will also be audience participation through the generations - a teenager, mum and grandmother will be stage models for the night for various demonstrations.
In addition, there will be a scarf demonstration - "You will be amazed at what I can do with a scarf!" - and as a finale, Patience's pampered pooch, long-haired chihuahua Mary Rose, will make an appearance on the catwalk and show why she became the nation's first celebrity model dog.
"Mary Rose is just the most amazing dog," said Patience. "She is always being booked to open events and one top London hotel, which I won't name, even cordoned off a section of the restaurant to give her breakfast!
"I don't know how Mary Rose became such a famous dog model, apart from the fact she is very, very pretty and has an amazing personality. She is friends with Simon Cowell and has met Paris Hilton. She goes to all the best parties and is never turned away from anywhere.”
Patience and Mary Rose are both set to appear on the new series of Trinney and Susannah when the popular presenters are seen organising a modelling sequence using a number of celebrities and their pet dogs.
The sequence was filmed in June and is due to be aired some time in the autumn. It shows Patience and Mary Rose in co-ordinating outfits - Patience in a multi-coloured, floaty number and the dog in matching ensemble designed by Patience herself. Understandably, she says it was “a lot of fun”.
Meanwhile, the scarf demonstration is a unique part of the Patience Bradley experience, and the local audience at Portadown College will see what way to wear this most versatile of accessories.
“Scarves are great for adding colour and style to an outfit and there just are so many ways to wear them,” adds Patience. “They are also a great way to show off jewellery, so I will be showing dozens of ways you can wear a scarf - you will be amazed at how many ways you can tie them up, either with or without jewellery.”
Today, Patience organises such events to raise money for people suffering from Raynauds and Scleroderma, a condition which affects the immune system, connective tissues and blood vessels and which can be life-threatening depending on its severity and which organs in the body its affects.
She has been a sufferer for several years and its effects can be debilitating - and often worrying for her husband - “The illness has caused me to fall into comas,” she said. “That is a bit frightening. I have a nice little sleep, but apparently I don’t breathe so they told my husband to hold a mirror in front of my face.”
But while living with a veritable time-bomb might have slowed other people down, it seems to have had the opposite effect on Patience and instead has been the spur to get her organising fashion shows again, primarily to bring the work of the Raynauds and Scleroderma Association to wider public attention while raising money for its support work and research.
The Ladies Night begins with a reception in the College Refectory at 7.30pm and tickets costs 5 for students and 8 for adults. They are on sale through the school office from Mrs Amanda Heyburn, the College bursar, telephone 38332439.
The organising committee has thanked the Gilford Road ‘Shop4You’ for its sponsorship of the evening.