Bethann Hardison doesn’t waver, shift for opinion or sway with general consensus. She’s pretty consistent. And she has no filter when it comes to fashion and politics.
So when approached and asked about Aurora James being a Black CFDA winner at the Brother Vellies presentation on Thursday, she quickly corrected me.
“She’s not a Black CFDA winner,” Hardison replied. “She’s a winner who so happens to be Black. Let’s get that right. She’s a CFDA winner, let’s not put Black in there. That makes it more important.”
Do a simple Google search of Hardison and you’ll find that she was discovered by Willi Smith, was a supermodel, posed for major magazines, ran her own agency, is a dedicated activist and is the mother of A Different World actor, Kadeem Hardison. But accolades aside, she’s a powerful woman to be around. Her presence is inviting and draws everyone around her in. You immediately feel a part of her inner circle, even if it’s the first time you’ve met. And her no-holds-bar opinion reflects this warm honesty.
“It’s very important to be aligned with White counterparts and still come out as a designer. Many people are considered [for a CFDA award] but one is chosen. It’s like the president. He’s not a Black president. I mean.. what the f**k does that mean? He so happens to be of color. The same with her [James]. It very much is because of what she was doing that she was recognized. [It’s about] the sustainability coming out of a region that helps others, those are things that are important. And I think that’s why she won.”
For decades the Brooklyn-bred icon has been fighting for diversity on runways and behind the scenes. She’s spoken on panels, written Op-Eds, sent letters to major fashion organizations and launched her own campaign called Balance Diversity that makes designers accountable for their choice of models. Race is something she’s never shy’d away from and with 79.4 percent of last season’s bookings being white models, it’s a worthy cause.
“I believe all lives do matter, but there’s just a point when people are seeing and feeling persecuted that you gotta pay attention to that.”
“It’s like in a relationship. If you keep feeling bad and abused and keep getting hurt –and the other person is saying, ‘That’s not what I meant.’ It doesn’t matter, it’s how you feel,” she said about the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
“We know that all lives matter, but when it seems one thing keeps happening to certain people… something’s not right. It’s like when I say, ‘If you choose to use no model or one model of color consistently, then no matter what their intention is, there is fault.’ It’s about equality.”
If fashion is a reflection of society and society naturally bleeds into politics, then we had to know her thoughts on the current presidential campaign. Per usual, she kept it straight, no chaser.
“I’m voting for Hillary [Clinton]. Because I’m a grown up,” Hardison said. “She was Secretary of State, so she already has a clue. And I’m happy for Bernie and I’m happy about the young people believing in him. But I know what he’s talking about and that’s not policy, that’s a desire. And when you get in there you’ll see how that House of Representatives and that Congress will not let these things happen. Then you gotta play ball.”
Fight for what you believe in. But be realistic. Apparently, thus is life in fashion and politics, according to Bethann.