Bethann Hardison

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Bethann Hardison was far from the typical fashion models that grace the runways in the 1950's. Her cropped haircut, and strong features made her stand out from the effervescence of the other African American models at the time, and soon became her calling card. It was her love of the fashion industry that allowed her to become one of the first instances of diversity in fashion modeling as well as a pioneer in American fashion.

After high school, Hardison attended NYU’s art program as well as FIT. With this experience, in the 1960's she became a saleswoman in the garment district of New York City. It was during this time that she was discovered by designer Willi Smith and began her modeling career.

After the runway presentation for Stephen Burrows at the “Battle of Versailles”, Hardison showed that there was more than just one way to be a fashion model. It was the strength of her walk, as well as the fierceness of her glance that ultimately made her a star. As one of the American models, Hardison was able to showcase the fun, effortlessness, and power that the United States models has to offer. It was from this point that the runway changed forever, and Hardison was one of the many that helped push this shift.

With this success, Hardison made it her mission to continue to diversify the fashion industry. In 1980’s she created the Bethann Management Agency, as well as co-founding the Black Girls Coalition with other icon model Iman. Both organizations helping support black models to thrive in the industry.

Since her beginnings, Hardison has become an advocate and activist in fashion and has established a name for herself not just in modeling, but as an equal rights pioneer.

Makers, History. “Biography.” Bethann Hardison | The HistoryMakers, 15 July 2013,

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