Bethann Hardison, who began modeling in the late 1960s, describes herself as the first “Black, Black” model.
In 1984 Hardison formed her own modeling agency, Bethann Management, where she challenged the prevailing notions of beauty. Her company opened its doors with seven models. The agency eventually grew to represent 75 models, including white, Black, Latin, and Asian men and women. A new documentary, Invisible Beauty, looks back on her journey as a pioneering Black model, modeling agent, and activist, shining a light on an untold chapter in the fight for racial diversity.
Hardison has long been a groundbreaker in the world of fashion. She has helped guide the careers of some of the most prominent models in recent times. Through her decades of advocacy work, she has challenged and helped change common notions of beauty by consistently championing diversity in the fashion industry. She is credited with helping launch the careers of models like Naomi Campbell, who calls her mom, Tyson Beckford, whom she discovered, and Iman, who considers Hardison a mentor.
Hardison co-wrote and co-directed Invisible Beauty with Frédéric Tcheng (Halston, Dior and I). Through archival footage and personal interviews taking us back to her Brooklyn roots, the two offer an up-close look at her personal struggles and her decades in fashion, where she continues challenging prevailing notions of beauty. Zendaya, Naomi Campbell, Tracee Ellis Ross, Fran Lebowitz, Tyson Beckford, Pat Cleveland, Whoopi Goldberg, and Stephen Burrows all make an appearance in the film.
Seeing Hardison redefine the fashion industry, and what society considers beautiful, is nothing short of inspiring.