In the 70’s Bethann Harden was a top BLACK Model. She was one of just a few. From the photo above you can see what a beautiful woman she was. (In the update at the end of this article you will see that she still is a beauty.)  In 1985 she decided to open her own “Indie” Modeling Agency.  In the mid ’80’s, black women, for the first time in history, were being used on the runways, on magazine covers, and all over. It was indeed an unbelievable turn around and one that Bethann celebrated and  used to the benefit of many models of different ethnicities.  As a black woman and model herself she was thrilled that the tide seemed to be turning. The past few years,however, the tide has turned back the other way.

Rarely do you see a black model on the runways, or on magazine covers. Halle Berry isn’t even that prevalent. Bethann explains that Miuccia Prada was the first to get rid of the “black girl” and began to editorialize her shows. She wouldn’t use models who had famous faces. Ultimately, the black model began to disappear and all the models had to look white and alike. That way, you would notice the clothes instead of the girl. Bethann goes on to explain that, ultimately, it caught on and the fashion model was no longer someone with personality like Linda Evangelista, or Naomi Campbell. The model “became somebody you didn’t know, who just walked down the runway straight to the end and back. Once you don’t want anyone to stand out, then you have to take out the people who do stand out.

In 2013 Bethann, along with Naomi Campbell and Iman, launched The Balanced Diversity campaign to end racism on the runway.  In an open letter to the governing bodies of the major fashion cities- New York, London, Milan, and Paris-she blasted the industry for its white-washed model casts, stating that no matter what the intention, the result is “racism”. And she wasn’t afraid to name the Designers who were most guilty. One year later, Bethann has seen some improvements in New York and Milan. Prada and Jill Sander also included several models of color, where they usually don’t use any. She also cautions young models not to take it personally; there’s nothing wrong with you, there’s something wrong with the system. Rumor has it that Oprah doesn’t want to be on the cover of her own Magazine any longer.  Personally, I think it is long overdue that Oprah put other people her cover. How many times do we need to see her photo-shopped when she could possibly help someone else get a break, or pioneer a cause?  I say: Let Oprah start giving back and help out too!! (That’s just my opinion!!). Anyway, good luck to Bethann. She is doing a good thing for everyone alive because every one of us is diverse in some way or another.

Bethann today, third person from left, with Naomi Campbell and Iman


February, 2015 Update:

The diversity movement seems to be picking up steam. Catherine Deneuve, Charlotte Rampling, Helen Mirren, Jessica Lange, and a slew of other Over Fifty women have recently been in the Mainstream of Advertisers and Retailers eyes. Bethann will be in the Barney’s of New York Spring/ Summer Ad Campaign. This is getting so exciting, the diversity of Over Fifty women is definitely on a roll, and let’s hope it continues.