Damn. Bethann Hardison is fierce. She was the first black cheerleader at her Brooklyn highschool, the first African-American person working an upscale New York City showroom, and one of only a handful of black runway and fashion models in the early 1970’s.
But Hardison knew she could be more effective behind the camera than in front, and in 1980 joined one of the top modeling agencies as a booker. It was her wheeling and dealing that persuaded top designers to take chances on black models such as Iman, Naomi and Tyson. In 1984, Hardison went in to business for herself creating Bethann Management. Bethann Management’s initial rooster boasted 16 models, with 50% of them being African-American. Her agency’s goal was to increase African-American visibility in the fashion industry. In 1996 Tyson Beckford became the first African-American male to appear in a Ralph Lauren print campaign thanks to the hardwork of Hardison and her agency.
She also founded the Black Girls Coalition, a not-for-profit watchdog and networking group that promoted positive images of black women in fashion and the media.
Currently the editor at large of Italian Vogue, Black Enterprises has an exclusive interview. Watch it over at Madame Noire.