We’re launching the Summer Season of The What’s Underneath Project with the jumpsuit-rockin’ fashion-industry revolutionary that is Bethann Hardison. “I didn’t think about becoming a model. That’s like thinking I’d be a prostitute,” the tell-it-like-it-is super agent told us about herself. Though it was almost unheard to see a black model in the 70s, not only did Bethann become a muse for everyone from Calvin Klein to Willi Smith, she, with no traditional business background, cemented her mission to diversify the industry by building her own modeling agency in the 80s. When shows asked Bethann for one model of color (out of the 32 that they typically used), she’d reply with unshakable patience and persistence, “Let’s start with five.”
Slowly but steadily, Bethann has loosened the industry’s grip on their one-race-for-all policy. As Bethann explained, “I never called anyone in the fashion industry racist. If they’d have said, ‘Get that black shit out of my face,’ I’d leave them alone. But they don’t think that way. They’re worse than racist: they’re ignorant.” Her battle for models of all races got her a CFDA Founder's Award last year. And she’s not done fighting. Sticking to her mantra, “The lighter the load, the freer the journey,” you won’t see Bethann chained to Chanel bags. The anti-materialist nonconformist knows that there is a shit ton of work left to be done, "This isn’t senior-citizen time for me. It ain’t over."
For all of Bethann’s legendary struggles and triumphs within the fashion industry, watch her episode above, then you yourself can spread beauty standards that include all races by sharing this post with your friends and loved ones!
Elisa + Lily
Follow Bethann on Twitter: @bethannhardison
Follow her on Instagram: @bethannhardison
Bethann's video was edited by Andrea Cruz & Paul O'Brochta
The What's Underneath Project is produced by Elisa, Lily, & Mona