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Bethann Hardison Documentary to Premiere at Tribeca Film Festival
As a steadfast advocate for diversity in the fashion industry and other sectors, Hardison is all about what's ahead.
As a born and bred New Yorker who has championed opportunities for generations of Black creatives well beyond the city limits, it is fitting that the documentary about Bethann Hardison's life and impact will premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Slated for a June 13 unveiling at the School of Visual Arts Theater, “Invisible Beauty” chronicles her evolution from a runway model to an agent, activist, mentor, diversity aficionado and more. Ever the multitasker, Hardison codirected the film with Frédéric Tcheng, whose portfolio includes “Halston” and “Dior and I.” With a personal connection to the TFF that dates back to its inception, Hardison considers next month's New York debut to be a full-circle moment.
Friends and admirers can also catch “Invisible Beauty,” by buying tickets for June 14 or June 17 screenings at the festival. Being the film's subject and co-director heightens the meaning of the endeavor.
“People think it's my life story. In a way, it's not. It's a story about a woman who was very dedicated to making change. You get a chance to see her youthfulness, and a little bit about her background and family. The common thread of the story is really her activism and the advocacy,” Hardison said. “Everyone keeps saying it's been a lifelong commitment. When I look back, I guess so. But I don't look at it that way.”
After decades of calling for and helping to create and enact greater diversity in the fashion industry, Hardison said that helping the industry to understand that “you can have models of color every season on the runway and in advertising” has been one standout. But that evident impact on other industries has always been “her quiet intention,” she said. “Once you start to see women of color, you subliminally wouldn't think anything other than it was normal. That, to me, has been achieved.”
Iman, Naomi Campbell, Zendaya,
Whoopi Goldberg, Tracee Ellis Ross, Tyson Beckford, Aurora James, Kyle Hagler, James Sculley and Liya Kebede are among the industry insiders and friends featured in the film. As for what Hardison hopes people will think of when they hear her name, she said, “'Legend' is what they all say, which cracks me up. But I think it's really ‘damned to the end — just determined.'”
The trailblazer was honored earlier this year by the NAACP with its Vanguard award — the second recipient to receive it. The predecessor Ruth Carter was on hand for the festivities. Hardison considered the award “a reckoning, because we're always trying to get the NAACP to recognize fashion. It's always been something that has not been a need for them in some ways.
But it's now come to pass that they are recognizing it in a way that is very good.”
Having shown “Invisible Beauty” at the Sundance Film Festival, and the Seattle International Film Festival, the film will be shown at the Berkshire International Film Festival later next month. Soon she will be off to London for the film and various other film festivals. Hardison also plans to squeeze in a month in Marrakech. On Sept. 7, the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art in Brooklyn will open an exhibition about Hardison. The curator and museum director first got to know her in their Trace magazine days and were inspired by her.
On another front, Hardison is strengthening the Designers Hub, a network of fashion industry professionals fostering and empowering new generations of Black designers and Black-owned fashion brands. Plans are underway to house the organization, which is a extension of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, to provide commercial space, a place for talks and other events in Brooklyn. Designer Brandon Blackwood has offered the street-level floor and additional space in a Bedford Avenue historic building that he purchased and renovated.
Her marching orders are now to get the second half of her book to the publisher by this fall. It was temporarily sidelined after the film's completion took precedence. Whenever others observe that she keeps getting awards, her response is, “'Well, how many people have been around long enough to have done something that is still pertinent and percolating? Anything to do with diversity, race or even a woman's lifestyle is so important for people to see what one is capable of. That's why the film is very emotional to a lot of people. They laugh through it and they cry. I'm still trying to understand why people cry during it. At Sundance, so many people came out of the premiere with tears in their eyes. I thought, ‘Wow.'”