This Model-Turned-Activist Redefined Beauty Standards in Fashion and Became An Icon

model walking down a runway
Adé Hennis
November 29, 2023

From coalitions to modeling agencies, Bethann Hardison always made an effort to fight more representation in the modeling industry. But it wasn’t about just making the industry more diverse. It was about how we see ourselves.

"We are trying to remind people of how we see race,” said Bethann Hardison. “It's very important that people see what we see on the streets when we walk around and how the world has changed." Hardison has spent decades helping shift how society sees race, starting with more inclusiveness in a global industry.

After a successful modeling career, Hardison founded her own modeling agency in 1984. She went out of her way to manage and recruit Black models. But that wasn’t enough for the fashion legend.

In 1996 Hardison retired from the modeling industry and moved to Mexico. But after seeing the industry shift more towards non-Black models, she knew her work wasn’t done.

After coming out of retirement, Hardisonn launched the Diversity Coalition, dedicated to bringing awareness around inclusivity concerns in modeling. She furiously wrote multiple letters to the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), calling out designers for not using Black models on runways. Today,  Hardison continues her fight.

Hardison knew that Black beauty is too powerful to be hidden away. When we see ourselves represented, we see the potential we all hold to create a world where we live our boundless potential.

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