#ModelCrushMonday: Bethann Hardison
I hope I can do today’s #ModelCrushMonday justice! It’s Bethann Hardison, a former model and model agency owner who has pushed the frontiers of diversity in fashion and modelling.
Bethann was scouted by a designer in the late 60s, by a young African American designer called Will Smith. Just to give you a little background here, Bethann had already become her high school’s first African American cheerleader and first African American salesperson in a showroom in the fashion industry, so she was used to pushing the boundaries of what was seen as commercial and, it feels weird to say it, but acceptable in society for African Americans to visibly achieve. Bethann has campaigned designers to represent more people of colour and diverse images of beauty in magazines, advertising and fashion shows. We still need to be doing this today. When I think of my fellow models such as Rudie McCree, all I see is a beautiful face and a wonderful aura, but sadly lots of advertisers still see the colour of skin as a barrier to sales.
Photographed by Bruce Weber
Not content with being in front of the camera, Bethann went on to help develop Click agency. Click represented women that Bethann believed in: models with intelligence who, at the time, were seen as less conventional and ‘exotic.’ She then founded Bethann Management. Her approach is less to sign baby 15 year olds and mould them to her own vision, like so many agencies out there. Rather, she encourages models to look after themselves physically and mentally, as well as, “Learn about finances, learn how to be professional, learn personal public relations. Work hard to get and keep a healthy attitude. It’s important to remember where you come from, so you will always know where you are going.”* Knowledge is power and all models need to be and feel as powerful as they can in an unstable industry.
Even though she has since sold the agency, Hardison’s relevance and pioneering work lives on. Having founded the Black Girls Coalition decades ago in order to help African Americans work int he fashion industry, she sees the need as even greater today. In her catwalk days, black models were celebrated and seen as stars in their own right…
Bethann was greeted with raptuorous applause and a standing ovation at this fashion show, Battle of Versailles, in 1973. Image/Instagram
…But since the focus of shows has moved to the clothes (models in a coathanger role), black models have been “reduced to a category.” She penned an open letter with her Diversity Coalition to the fashion industry addressing the lack of diversity in shows, which sent shockwaves around the industry and really helped bring about change.
Honestly – a brief blog post really can’t do Bethann’s life and achievements justice, and I urge you to read her interviews and admire the fight she continues to fight. I get the sense that Bethann looks outward to those she can help, celebrate and support and in doing so, is celebrated by those that surround her. She’s helped make huge strides to educate others in the industry to what is seen as beautiful (and commercial) and continues to fight that fight whilst holding up other women (and men). A truly inspiring #ModelCrushMonday