On November 8th I had the honor of attending an invite-only screening of the documentary, Invisible Beauty hosted by Dallas based beauty supplier Adwoa Beauty, Indigo 1745 and Colored Noise. The sold-out event was followed by a private dinner at Beatrice in Oak Cliff where the star and subject of the film – Bethann Hardison – mingled with innovators of the Dallas fashion scene and members of FGI Dallas.
After attending the screening of Invisible Beauty I had the opportunity to chat with the legend about the film and the impact it made on the fashion industry.
Bethann explained that the concept of “Invisible Beauty” started over a decade a ago when she was doing an expose of the decline of black and brown faces on the runways. She actually got the inspiration for the title from the book Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. I feel, from a birds-eye view that this movie gives a blueprint on how to live life to the fullest. Like any documentary, it takes you down a path of her upbringing and how that created the woman we see today. But as you dive into the layers of her personal life, Hardison is brilliant at bringing the focus back to the mission which is to build equality within the fashion industry for everyone. She mentions in the film and during our talk that she never intended making a film about her, but the advice from Co-director Frédéric Tcheng confirmed her decision to to tell her story through multiple point of views from family, those that she has supported and worked with throughout her career.
To make a documentary is no easy feat. Often the biggest hardship is the collection and organization of photos and film clips of someone’s life. I asked Bethann Hardison if she had to collaborate or ask for favors to pull all of the multimedia used in Invisible Beauty that beautifully spanned the 81 years of her life thus far. Her friend Julieanna L. Richardson, Founder and President of The HistoryMakers heavily encouraged archiving and digitizing her photos and before you know it (and with the help of her assistants), it became habit.
The climax of the movie happened to be Bethann’s ferocious return to the fashion industry after a short retirement following the closing of her modeling agency, Bethann Management. Her letters to the Council of Fashion could have very well been a letter of death in any other circumstance, but it was met with a serious response to eradicate the lack of color issue on the runways and general high fashion representation. I asked Hardison if she had any fear of retribution from her friends or colleagues and she simply replied “Absolutely not!”
“It was only a matter of weeks. Right away there was boys of color and girls of color on the runway…. I’m just repeating what’s already in the press. If they’re allowed to show it, then I’m allow to talk about it!”
Bethann is tough as nails, but in that motherly kind of way. Invisible Beauty touches on her own techniques of motherhood with her son, actor Kadeem Hardison and also illustrates how that love spilled over to the super models that she brought into her agency in the 90’s like Naomi Campbell and Tyson Beckford.
Bethann Hardison’s stop in Dallas just wasn’t for the screening Invisible Beauty, but also to be celebrated as an honoree for this year’s “Night of the Stars” gala hosted by the Fashion Group International of Dallas on November 10th. FGI Dallas also honored fashion designer Christian Siriano, Elle magazine editor Nina Garcia, and artist Ashley Longshore.
Invisible Beauty takes you on the ebbs and flows of life. Bethann Hardison’s story shows joy, pain, success and sacrifice. The work done by Hardison and Tcheng She boldly stated that activism takes constant work. She is no longer in the fight as an activist but as an advocate. This documentary is a lovely guide to motivate younger generations who want to make significant changes in the world and to recognize the other “Bethanns” they may have in their own life. The best part of my chat with Bethann was to learn that this film sparked her interest and energized her to produce more youth-focused work… which means this is certainly not last that we hear from the legend, and I’m excited about that!