Writing Black

Iconic Model Bethann Hardison Single-handedly Changed The Model Industry

Episode 36
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Maiysha Kai sits down with iconic model and activist Bethann Hardison to talk about her new documentary. Discover the transformative power of Hardison’s documentary, “Invisible Beauty,” and hear firsthand accounts of her journey through the fashion and model industry as a Black woman. The two discuss reshaping beauty standards, the importance of fostering diversity, and the road ahead for the modeling and fashion industry.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JUNE 13: Bethann Hardison attends the “Invisible Beauty” premiere during the 2023 Tribeca Festival at SVA Theatre on June 13, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Jason Mendez/Getty Images for Tribeca Festival)

Full transcript below.

Announcer [00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network. Black Culture Amplified. 

Maiysha Kai [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to another episode of Writing Black. I’m your host, Maisha Kai. And as always, we are here to talk about Black thought Black writers, Black thinkers and Black leaders. And we have an incredible one here today. Bethann Hardison is a legend in the fashion world and beyond. She has broken barriers at pretty much every level you can think of and is continuing to do so five decades into her career, because she’s still modeling, ya’ll. In addition to everything else. And she has an incredible new documentary out. It’s it’s a visual memoir. It is such a special film. It’s called Invisible Beauty. 

Invisible Beauty [00:00:47] I always know you can change things. I’ve done it before. Everyone’s talking about diversity and inclusion. That directly stems from the work that Bethann did. Without her the opportunities wouldn’t exist for me to do what I love. She’s like a second mother to me. That one Shining light of kindness. We’re all students of Bethann Hardison. And I always say, just, you know, hand me another tequila and I’m good. You heard it first. 

Maiysha Kai [00:01:17] Not only does this film chronicle Bethany’s incredible life, but she co-wrote and co-directed it. And that’s why she’s here with us today. Hello, Bethann Hardison, you were a personal hero of mine, so I cannot tell you how special it is to me that you were with us on Writing Black today. How are you? 

Bethann Hardison [00:01:33] Thank you so much. I’m really well. I’m happy to be alive and very happy that, you know, people are enjoying the film. Really. Very much so. 

Maiysha Kai [00:01:42] You know, seeing a screener of this film, I did not expect I you know, I’ve always I’ve always followed your career. You know, for me, it was extremely personal. I’ve modeled for 20 years myself. I started the year after you closed Bethann Management, and I remember it being one of my big regrets is that I didn’t get to work with Bethann. But but what was so amazing to me about this film is that, you know, so many of us, particularly those of us who worked in fashion on both sides of the camera, you know, we owe you such a deep debt, such a gratitude. You know, those of us who are Black in this industry, that’s not an easy industry for anybody, but particularly for people of color and particularly for Black people. And you know what you have managed to do is just kind of stratospheric. And to see, you know, we’re seeing Zendaya and Tracee Ellis Ross and Naomi Campbell and Iman and Tyson and all these people saying, you were so instrumental in getting them off the ground. How does it feel to, you know, having this this two hour piece of work kind of, you talk about people getting their flowers, but how is this feel to produce this and see the way that people are showing up for you? 

Bethann Hardison [00:02:55] Yeah, you know, I look, I really, truly look forward to it going into theaters. It meant a lot to me as we were developing the film. For it to be on a silver screen. That was my ultimate. It has to be in a theater. And for me, it’s been really great because for me, I’ve said. In an often it Q&As that I never thought I had a story. I just didn’t even imagine. We finished a film and when Fredric, my co-director, Fredric Tcheng, sent me the 4 hours of what he had gotten it down from 7 hours that he loved. I mean, that’s when I became a believer. So, I mean, I. I just had to say to him, Well, okay, now I get it, because I was doing the work, letting being the subject, co-directing, you know, working with him has been extraordinary. But I’m very excited that people are going to see it, and I want so many more people to see it than even know that they should see it, because they won’t know about it until we start telling them about it. But I’m very, very happy and very excited about it. And I think it’s very, it’s a like a game changer within myself. It is like I, too, learned a lot about me watching the film. 

Maiysha Kai [00:04:14] And we will be right back with more Writing Black. 

Star Stories Podcast [00:04:20] I’m Touré. Join us for crazy true stories about stars who I really hung out with like Snoop, Jay-Z, Prince, Kanye, and the time I got kidnapped by Suge Knight. Don’t miss my animated series Star Stories with Touré from theGrio Black Podcast Network. 

Maiysha Kai [00:04:45] All right. Welcome back to Writing Black. It’s incredible to me that you would think that you didn’t have a story because I know I’m sitting there thinking there’s so many stories. And now in this one piece of work, I don’t know how you managed to convince that down to 2 hours and it is every single minute of it I think is so inspiring and affirming. But it’s also really deeply interesting. Like you are a deeply interesting person. The way that you talk about your upbringing and, you know, these two very unique parents. I mean, you know, your father was a Imam like that, like all of these elements who made you into this person that so many of us now revere and  this is also an interesting film because, you know, it’s a story within a story. You are writing your memoirs as a documentary is being made about you. I’ve never seen anything quite like that. So let’s talk about this, this act of storytelling and kind of doing these two things in tandem. What was that experience like trying to flesh out this book, but I can’t I also can’t wait to read, and fleshing out this this on screen story at the same time? 

Bethann Hardison [00:06:03] Yeah, that that was a challenge in itself. You didn’t know it was a challenge until we got to a place where I got to a place where all of a sudden I was– the film started to take precedent. I was working on a film and writing and trying to write the book at the same time, and it’s my first book and the first time I’m writing something like this. I’m good on, you know, Instagram and leaving great posts and writing nice letters and, you know, even writing paragraphs that could change the world, which it did, you know, in my letters. But it was really kind of a bit of a challenge to do it. But the idea that I still have to finish it, that’s where the greatest challenge comes. For me, it’s really like, you know, I’m doing it. In the book is going to be a different story because it’s it’s many people stories. I talk about a lot of people I knew that tells my stories. You hear what I say in the film. I learned that. And it’s not like the book. I mean, like not like this film, because the film is has this common thread. The common thread is, you know, through it all, it talks about the activism, the advocacy, even though it’s not a fashion film, it’s fashion-related. There’s so many layers of this film, like you said. So it really has its own, you know, storyline Where the book it’s everything. Anything. Everything. You know. People I knew, people that you would know in my personal relationships with them. Anywhere from, you know, Jean-Michel Basquiat to do a Carolyn Bessette that was married to John John Kennedy. These are people that I experience. So when I talk about them, I’m talking about myself. So it’ll be interesting to see what I come up with or what they allow me to have. Because the editing is going to be interesting too, but hopefully I’ll get the book out. You know, hopefully they’re hoping that it can be out by the end of 2024 or the beginning of 2025. I’ve been finishing this. 

Maiysha Kai [00:08:08] Fantastic. Well, we also have to shout out Kierna Mayo because she makes an appearance in the film and I know that she’s where you’re working with her on this. You know, we we all owe her a great debt as well. 

Bethann Hardison [00:08:19] Thank you. 

Maiysha Kai [00:08:20] Yeah. And, you know, I want to talk about something that comes up in the film. You talk about this is so interesting for me to hear it from you, because I think that those of us looking from the outside in at this incredible trajectory that you’ve had, you know, you seem so fearless. You seem so like you’re just going to do the next thing and the next thing and the next thing, and you’re just going to, you know, give it all you got. And to hear you admit that you were scared to death, to approach this book and tell these stories and and kind of dig into this new medium I thought was so vulnerable and I think is also as a writer, you know, was so powerful to me because that was that was super honest. Tell me how you use fear. You know, you’ve done so much and you’re continuing to tackle things day by day and explore all these new things. How do you tackle that fear that comes up for all of us when we’re trying to do something new? 

Bethann Hardison [00:09:21] I don’t like it. I really, honestly don’t like fear. I don’t like the idea of being in fear. That’s why I don’t even go to crazy movies that, you know, they just want to scare you to death. Why do I want to sit and pay for that? I did when I was a kid. But yeah, I mean, there are some things you’re fearful about and it’s something that’s out of your control. But there are some things that just that brings fear that’s within your control. And I think starting my modeling agency, there was a lot of fear to that, I think. Well, surely writing a book, there’s great fear to that. You know, because you got to write it. And, you know, if you’re not a practice writer. I’m sure that many writers think that they’re not– they don’t enjoy the process. You know, for many people who are professional writers, it’s a lonely ride, I think. But for people who are like myself, I’ve just got to deliver and hope that people enjoy or care about what I’m writing about. I think it’s so fear, in that case, you don’t want to fail. I don’t like fail. So I stay in my lane, sort of kinda, you know, I don’t try and go out, try and do things I can’t. I’ve always wanted to snowboard. I learned to snowboard. I broke my finger, but it doesn’t matter. Now. I can’t do it because I’m scared if I fall down, I can’t get up as fast. But there’s only a few things that I actually feel that I, you know, had, you know, great spirit. And in some ways, you got to get out of your own way. That’s the only thing that I always can say. 

Bethann Hardison [00:10:52] To do this film, I had to get out of my way because I was working on this film and people would say to me, Yeah, but you need to, you know, sometbody needs to do a film on you. And I just couldn’t even imagine. I don’t want to be in front of the camera. There’s nothing to talk about me. But when I decided that it was easier to make this film. About me. It would be easier to tell the story then if what I was trying to do, I was trying to do before an exposé on the fashion industry and tell the story between three girls. And it was still called Invisible Beauty. But it it becomes complicated in that way. So this is what we’ve done. So I got in my own way and I let Fredric and I, Fredric asked me to co-direct it. He said, I want you to co-direct this with me. And he sent some wonderful films prior. So I was very happy about that. I had no fear in that because I had him as a crutch. You know, he’s your spar partner and he’s a very kind person and he’s very– he’s so proud of me for how I allowed the story to be documented. 

Invisible Beauty [00:12:03] She’s the godmother of fashion. When I started, I was the first Black, Black looking model on Seventh Avenue. There was no people look like me. I knew the difference of segregation from childhood. These people thought that we were less. I let them know we are here. 

Bethann Hardison [00:12:21] And I– we never had really any problems to doing any of it. So. So those fears. I’m go, you get out of it. But basically the only players I try, that’ll I’ll attempt are the ones I think I can control. 

Maiysha Kai [00:12:35] Mm hmm. Well, I mean, that’s one strategy. And we’re going to talk about a few more. We’re going to take a quick break and we’ll be back with more Bethann Hardison to talk about Invisible Beauty on Writing Black. And we are back with the incredible Bethann Hardison. We were just talking about fear. We were talking about vulnerability, too. I mean, you really did. You know, there’s there’s a portion where someone says in the film that you’re a very private person. I want to say it’s like Lia says it. That you’re a very private person and and a bit of an enigma to those who love you. And that that’s a wide breadth of people who love you. But there is a lot of vulnerability here. There’s a lot revealed here. You know, some of it, you know, how you know, what was it like to kind of sit there? You know, I use the word excavation a lot on this podcast. It’s one of our keywords here when we talk about telling stories. But, you know, there’s a lot of relationships revealed here. You know, you have your son talking about, you know, the difficulties of of having such a dynamic parent. I think in some ways. 

Invisible Beauty [00:13:46] She sacrificed a lot. My mother has enough ambition for the whole world. It’s really hard as a single mom, I was scared to fail. Because she wants us to win more than anything. It gets a little challenging at times. But that’s going to be part of your great story. I don’t know who I think I am, but I do be trying. 

Maiysha Kai [00:14:07] You got all these people who are, yes, on one hand giving you your flowers, but also talking about how you really challenged them. So what was it like to kind of excavate some relationships through this process? Did you find it to be cathartic or healing or eye opening? 

Bethann Hardison [00:14:26] Well, no. The only thing honestly, they’re not that deep. It looks– it looks more deep I think in the film. 

Maiysha Kai [00:14:35] That’s some good editing then. 

Bethann Hardison [00:14:36] You know, because, you know, they say, Oh, we everything all right with you and Kadeem? When’s the last time you talked. people really, you know, happily concerned. You know, there’s always been– Kadeem just disappears. But it’s not it’s not like a dysfunctional relationship. No, we never had that, but I have to admit that I could be very open about that. But I didn’t realize it would be in the film either. I didn’t realize that, you know. You know, whatever Fredric with me, he’s always shooting. But the end of the day, I also find him like father confessor. I can easily tell him anything and everything. Once we went on this journey together, I just speak to about, Oh, I got called. But they say I have cold. But I was working on this series down in Georgia and I don’t have COVID, but the only three people I told, well, he was one. So he becomes that person that you don’t even notice what you’re saying. And he has a camera or, you know, when you’re on the phone, you’re talking. The relationship’s something like that. I think I had to really realize I’m co-directing this. I’m the subject. And if anything, I’ve always been a documentarian. This is my first film. But in my mind, I always wanted to tell stories. You can’t get in the way of the story. Whatever you do, you have to fall back and allow it to just go, because otherwise you won’t sell it right. People won’t feel it. It won’t be honest to you. So I think that was the most important thing. And what did surprise me is seeing that I learned that because I didn’t, so you’ll know this, I wasn’t available. I’m not sorry it wasn’t available, but that’s not the word. I didn’t allow myself. To sit down any interview. So all the interviews were done just with Fredric and the crew. I never saw any of them until I saw them once they were edited. So to see what Kadeem had expressed and how he explained it and they said his interview was as long as mine. Mine was the longest, his was equal. And I was just so proud of that, you know, that he could just, you know, talk to his he is lacking in some way, you know, he’s not putting on. So that was very, very nice to hear, you know, in that way. 

Maiysha Kai [00:17:00] Yeah. You know, we’re usually talking on this podcast about, you know, characters, but when it’s real people and, you know, I did think it was really interesting. I loved that you’ve already alluded to the memoir That’s that’s coming, which sounds like it’s going to be just as kind of wonderfully unconventional as this. That you are, I hope I’m correct here, I’m taking this from the, film that you. Ah, yes. Telling your story through other people’s stories, you know, I mean, I think the big thing you walk away from Invisible Beauty with is is this this indelible sense of impact that you have made. Yeah. And. And so. Taking on, telling your story through other people. Like how is that? How are you teasing that out as it is? It’s kind of like I mean, I don’t want you to spoil anything for us, but are you doing this through vignettes or are you doing this sort of through revelations as it chronological? 

Bethann Hardison [00:17:57] Like, how is that whole thing for you? Yeah. Yeah. And in the writing. In the writing of the book right now, it’s just it’s not the whole book is not telling my story through others but in some case it is because I’m telling you an incident that happened or a story that happened or, you know, a situation and it really the reason why the situation happens because, you know, Carolyn came to my office and sat down and told me when she and John had first started dating, I mean, things like that, I’m telling that story. But the fact that I’m the one telling it is like it’s my story. 

Maiysha Kai [00:18:32] Yeah. 

Bethann Hardison [00:18:33] So that in that case, yes, that is how it is. But then there’s other things that sometimes just just a paragraph. I’ll be just telling you what I think about some. It can be philosophical in one way and then in other places. I really do tell you my experiences and things that are beginning to. I’m recognizing as I’ve gotten older, you know, that I was an athlete. I was always active. I’m a well-known dancer, you know, social dancer. And I basically now I’m finding the imbalance of walking. So I want to write about body and how it changes, really, how you really begin to see how age becomes something you don’t notice that happens, but you notice it in other ways, too. How you feel about people. Relationships. And I think it’s so important. You know, surely you talk about how people have their relationships and how they manage your children. Sometimes, you know, you witness so many things that you start to share just what you’re beginning to observe. And that’s things like that in the book, even about my fact, you know, the model industry, you know, there are many people who feel very positive that everything is inclusive, everything should be inclusive. I don’t feel like that. I think there should be a line where everything is exclusive. There are some things that should be exclusive. I mean, that’s what keeps bar high and that’s what reminds you much more of an industry that we think we’re at, which this has become more pop culture, more and more and more and more. That change is exactly what we know something to have been. It becomes an influence from the outside. This was a tiny little island fashion industry with forever, you know, and now it’s full of much more migrants. But the island real estate hasn’t changed. It’s the same small little industry. It’s not The oil industry is called the fashion industry. 

Maiysha Kai [00:20:32] Well, I want to talk more about that. And and also. Yeah, because I think there’s something to be said there in terms of the fantasy that is fashion. We’re going to take a quick break. We’ll be right back with more Bethann Hardison and more Writing Black. 

Star Stories Podcast [00:20:46] I’m Touré. Join us for crazy true stories about stars who I really hung out with like Snoop, Jay-Z, Prince, Kanye and the time I got kidnaped by Suge Knight. Don’t miss my animated series Star Stories with Touré from theGrio Black Podcast Network. 

Maiysha Kai [00:21:12] And we are back with more Writing Black and our incredible guest today, Bethann Hardison. We were just talking about, well, we were talking about so many things. I am personally overwhelmed by this conversation because I think, like, the amount of wisdom that you obviously impart to everyone you encounter is so, you know, it’s so rich. And I want to talk a little bit about relevance. You know, as we were just talking about age and we were talking about fantasy and, you know, all these things that I mean, that often don’t go in tandem together, but you are still very much a part of the fantasy world that I mean, that is fashion. You know, you are still starring in campaigns and still, you know, you still have so much input and so much influence. What does it mean to you now that level of like, you know, being on the other side of it? I mean, we’re 50 years out now from the Battle of Versailles, right. This year we celebrate 50 years and which was a groundbreaking moment for you, for Black women in fashion, etc.. But like, what does it mean to you now that relevance? 

Bethann Hardison [00:22:29] You know, the good thing is that people say, oh my God, you have such a full life and you don’t. And that’s the reason why Fredric, my co-director, Fredric Tcheng, asked me to co-direct the film is because he felt that I’m still alive. It’s very you know, he didn’t want to take full responsibility of telling a story about someone who is still living her life so full. So I think the relevancy thing is just something just so happens to happen to certain people. It doesn’t happen to everyone. Everyone shouldn’t try hard to make it happen to them because you’re just like. 

Maiysha Kai [00:23:02] And don’t we all try? We tried so hard. 

Bethann Hardison [00:23:05] You know, be something that shows up at the end more towards as your life as you’re doing it, you know? People would say to me, you know, when I had started the model agency, oh, my God. You know, you’re just you always remain relevant. You know, you don’t think you’re not trying to remain relevant. You’re just trying to make sure you don’t get evicted. You’re not trying to do anything special in that way. But many people think because you had success at it, that was a goal. It’s never been my goal. Like I when I say I’m that ambitious, no one buys that. They think it’s ridiculous. How could you say that? Look at all that you’ve done. But you don’t do it out of ambition. You do it out of need. Oftentimes that’s what happens. You just got to do something or it’s it’s the way you have to walk the walk because you’re capable, but not because you know, Oh, my goodness, one day. Being ambitious, you can make a plan. You know, the way my life is run, it just seems like things just pop up. And when it comes down to that, the industry of fashion and the industry of models, they’re two different industries. 

Maiysha Kai [00:24:13] They are. 

Bethann Hardison [00:24:14] They they, they basically– it’s changed so greatly and so much. And the fact that I could go work with Gucci and become this consultant, that was so, I mean, such an incredible moment because I’d never work corporately. It’s so great to experience it. 

Bethann Hardison [00:24:31] But you also see that Alessandro noticed something about me and that Benedetta, another woman of age, it was a model and he put us in his campaign. That was something I thought for a while. I don’t really want to do that. I don’t really. Yeah, but, you know, I’m glad I wind up doing it because the experience of the shoot was great because of the photographer and we shot it in Rome. And being on the street, how fast he was. He only did two, 2 shots and it was great. And then, you know, once that happens, then it starts becoming like a slow train. The next thing, somebody else asking you to something, whether it be the Victoria’s Secret or The Gap or Kate Spade, all these things start to happen and people start to make joke about it. Oh the British Vogue was amazing because I thought, he’s going to do a portrait and that’s it. No, he wanted the eight pages. And again, I’m not a print model. I’ve never been I’m a runway model. But he said, Oh, you’re a supermodel. That’s Edward Enninful saying that. No, I’m not. I was a top model at the time within that game. But anyway, we got it done In the truth of it. You can do it and it turns out nice and it’s really great and it’s a beautiful thing. 

Maiysha Kai [00:25:44] Yeah. You know, I then ambition conversation is such an interesting one. I, I related to it personally because I also have a life that and a career that is kind of just things pop up. But when do you know– when do you know it’s time to to go and to transition? I mean you closed your modeling agency, you know, in a point where I think a lot of people were like, Yeah, really? Yeah. That’s a new era. Yeah, that’s true. Up here, you know, with most people don’t do that. How, how do you act upon that instinct? Because I do think in many ways there are some parallels to writing there, like when do you know when to close a chapter? 

Bethann Hardison [00:26:21] Yes, exactly. Exactly true. When it comes to something like my model agency, I never wanted to have a model agency. I got talked of to having to model agency. And then Bonnie Berman, who’s in the film, what founded the money in all the models, was willing to take the risk with me so I don’t have to do the voucher system, which was something that other model agency had been the finance to do. I was looking to get out of it when I went into it. So it wasn’t something that, you know, you say oh well you know, doesn’t happen to me where it happens more to me in a way that it’s the next thing you have to do. It’s not like a plan, because I think if you had a plan, then, you know, that’s ambition, that’s being, you know, like setting goals. I’ve never done that. So the model agency thing, yes, I wanted to get out of it, but I was so successful that it wind up being 13 years. But I knew in the 12th year that that 13th year had to be my out. And I’m very happy that it allowed me to come out and I didn’t fall on my face. Yeah, I could have sold my model agency, but then I would have had to stay in it. And then many people started writing in The New York Times specifically saying, you know, now that I’m leaving the industry, what’s going to happen? Because I kept the industry so much more balanced. 

Bethann Hardison [00:27:41] But then when I did leave it, it went down into, you know, the Berlin Wall came down and Eastern Europe came and the models changed. So then you had to come back into the game in some way to change it, to fix it, to to acknowledge that this was happening. And yeah, you get to a place where you basically just know that life helps you move you along more so that you taking life and telling life what to do. I think in my case that’s what’s happened. I, I know it and I watch it and hearing people talk about the film that that way it made so many people want to go home and change their life. Go home and fix their life. Go home and do more. Go home. You know, I was hearing all of these things. I look at the film in such a way as such an inspiring film. I hear it so I understand it. But I promise you, as I said to a young kid who asked me, What should we do as young people? And I said, don’t try to be like the woman on the screen, because that isn’t necessarily your role or the goal that will benefit you. But what you should do is just go out and vote. If you vote, you are doing a great deal for us all. That’s the only thing you can only ask people to do if you want to fix what’s going on. You got to stop talking about it all the same and all the excuses again. That kind of thing is how you actually see how your life changes. By doing things that you know you’re supposed to do. Good news is that things work out sometimes. Real nice. 

Maiysha Kai [00:29:25] I mean, I would say so, and I love that advice personally. I also think, you know, I’m interested in– you’ve changed so much for so many people for the better. But obviously there’s still so much. And as you see, whenever you yeah, when you took your hands out the wheel like that, they slide right back. What would you like to see next? You know, I mean you talk you kind of you talk a little bit about this passing of the torch a bit.  Whether it’s you or someone else, what would you like to see continue to happen or momentum that you would like to see In the industries that you’ve chosen. 

Bethann Hardison [00:30:05] I think that, you know, it’s that much more can be done. The industry has changed a great deal. The model industry has changed that. There’s so many more models. You can’t develop talent like you used to. There’s so much more. We have things like casting directors and stylists. They came on board, you know, a decade, maybe a decade or two ago or less. But things have changed in the industry. And the fact that we were able to finally help people to see that, you know, that Blacks can wear clothes in the wintertime, for collection. Or that you can actually try to make sure you be inclusive racially. That was something that I think was so important to do. And it’s been done. They have done it. I really want the young emerging designers of color or any color to really recognize, do you really want to go out there based on ego or do you want to go learn how to be in the business? Would be wiser to really go work with someone for a while or a good while and so that someone else can discover you at what you’re good at. That’s what happens in Europe a lot with the luxury brands. So I think really, I think the industry has really gone its way. I think it’s really where it’s going to be. I think it’s going to stay racially diverse for quite a while. I do. I think that the DEI of corporations and things like that, it’s having already its effect. And I do know that whatever happened with Black Lives Matter and Mr. Floyd losing his life in that way, that set the industry and everybody ablaze, that’s now really falling back. What they extended before is not being extended so much now. So anybody who had it together, basically should try and make sure it stays together because they may be the ones who can win this. It’s not meant for everybody. Everyone’s not going to fit through that tunnel. I’ve said that often. You got to know this is the model industry industry is separate, but the fashion industry has to deal with wholesale and retail. And that’s not an easy game. 

Maiysha Kai [00:32:17] You know, it’s interesting because you we here again live in the in that community. She says you know, she makes that reference there only being one. And I think because of you we know that they’re not only can there be more than one, but so many of us made it through the door. You know, we ask a question of everyone who comes on the podcast. I’m going to ask you as well. You are writing now, but what do you read? Like who do you love? What, what or the creators that you love to to engage with? 

Bethann Hardison [00:32:46] Don’t ask that question. I don’t read. I know. I shouldn’t say that out loud. 

Maiysha Kai [00:32:53] If that’s the answer, that’s the answer. 

Bethann Hardison [00:32:58] I listen to talk radio. And I, i, I really. I do. And I’m. I listen to talk radio more than I listen to music. I listen to the radio. I’m a radio kid, but I have lots of books. I have so many books and there are so many great writers right now. You know, I just so many. And I haven’t I don’t I don’t I don’t engage like I used to. When I was younger. And I don’t know if it’s just because I had time or whatever. But some people– I was saying to my publisher, it’s interesting about writing and the publishing world, there are people who nowadays don’t read like they used to. There’s an enormous amount of people like that, but they’re going to always be people who need to read. That’s always the case. There’s Just people who just read of and and they will always need to read. And so I. I’m just not I hate to admit it. But I’m not that. But I have lots of books and I collect them. I, I just do. 

Maiysha Kai [00:34:04] I think there’s a word for us. Those people like that who collect a lot of books. Who collect more books than we read. There is a word for that. I’m going to find it and say it on the podcast at point. But, you know, I again, we cannot thank you enough for joining us. I really want people to engage with this film. Invisible Beauty is such it’s such an accomplishment. It’s such a marvelous and wonderful. You know it And it is wonderful that you’re that you’re living, that you’re here, that we can discuss this with you. Because so often people don’t get their flowers until after the fact. And to have you still here, still vibrant, still doing everything that you do, you know, I really hope people engage with that. Go to the theater. You can go back to the theater, guys. It’s coming out on September 15th. Go to the theater, enjoy it. You know, take yourself to lunch or dinner and have a glamorous evening with Bethann Hardison. And thank you so much for joining us. 

Bethann Hardison [00:34:57] And I’m just going to add one word or two. 

Maiysha Kai [00:34:59] Go for it. 

Bethann Hardison [00:35:00] September 15th at the Film Forum, it starts. That’s a theatrical release and it should be there at least two weeks. But if you keep coming, everyone, it’ll be there for three and four. 

Maiysha Kai [00:35:11] That’s right. You know, you know about demand. That’s how trends get started. But yeah, this is you know, you are you are a godmother to many. Some of us you don’t even know. And because and because you did, we know that we can. So thank you so much for everything. 

Bethann Hardison [00:35:28] You are so welcome. I’m so proud to see you here. And thank you for this conversation. I appreciate it. Really. 

Maiysha Kai [00:35:35] That was an incredible experience. And just so you know, I actually did get a few of Bethann’s favorite writers out of her. She loves the writing of Roxane Gay, Shout out to Roxane Gay and Zadie Smith. So she does read. Yeah. This is a little portion of writing Black that we love to call Mai Favorites. Our recommended reading for the week. And I would be remiss if I did not point out this book, The incredible Supreme Models: Iconic Black Women Who Revolutionized Fashion. This is by Marsellus Reynolds with a foreword by Veronica Webb, supermodel Veronica Webb. And of course, Bethann is in this book, as are a lot of your favorite faces, I’m sure, and the stories behind them. But if you really, really want to know more about this incredible industry, this incredible journey and Bethann’s personal impact on the fashion industry, not just modeling, the fashion industry at large, you got to check out Invisible Beauty. I can’t say it enough. Yes, it’s going to open at the Film Forum. It’s an independent film. It’ll be all over the country. Please look for it. Google is your friend and join us next time for another episode of Writing Black. Thanks so much for joining us for this week’s episode of Writing Black. As always, you can find us on theGrio app or wherever you find your podcasts. 

Dr. Greer [00:37:05] I’m political scientist, author and professor Dr. Christina Greer, and I’m host of The Blackest Questions on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network. This person invented ranch dressing around 1950. Who are they? 

Marc Lamont Hill [00:37:18] I have no idea. 

Dr. Greer [00:37:19] This all began as an exclusive Black history trivia party at my home in Harlem with family and friends. And they got so popular it seemed only right to share the fun with our Grio listeners. Each week we invite a familiar face on the podcast to play. What was the name of the person who was an enslaved chief cook for George Washington and later ran away to freedom? In 1868, this university was the first in the country to open a medical school that welcomed medical students of all races, genders and social classes. What university was it? 

Roy Wood Jr. [00:37:52] This is why I like doing stuff with you, because I leave educated. I was not taught this in Alabama Public Schools. 

Dr. Greer [00:37:59] Question three. You ready? 

Eboni K. Williams [00:38:00] Yes. I want to redeem myself. 

Amanda Seales [00:38:02] How do we go from Kwanzaa to like these obscure. 

Dr. Greer [00:38:08] Diaspora, Darling. Diaspora. 

Amanda Seales [00:38:09] This is like the New York Times crossword from Monday to a Saturday. 

Dr. Greer [00:38:12] Right or wrong, Because all we care about is the journey and having some fun while we do it. 

Kalen Allen [00:38:17] I’m excited. And I also a little nervous. 

Dr. Greer [00:38:20] Oh, listen. No need to be nervous. And as I tell all of my guests, this is an opportunity for us to educate ourselves because Black history is American history. So we’re just gonna have some fun. Listen, some people get zero out of five. Somebody can get five out of five. It doesn’t matter. We’re just going to be on a little intellectual journey together. 

Eboni K. Williams [00:38:36] Latoya Cantrell. 

Dr. Greer [00:38:38] That’s right. Mayor Latoya Cantrell. 

Michael Twitty [00:38:40] Hercules Posey. 

Dr. Greer [00:38:42] Hmm. Born in 1754, and he was a member of the Mount Vernon slave community, widely admired for his culinary skills. 

Kalen Allen [00:38:48] I’m going to guess Afro Punk. 

Dr. Greer [00:38:51] Close. It’s Afro Nation. 

Kalen Allen [00:38:55] I never heard of that. 

Dr. Greer [00:38:55] According to my research, it’s Samuel Wilson, a.k.a. Falcon. 

Jason Johnson [00:39:00] Wrong. Wrong. I am disputing this. 

Latosha Brown [00:39:05] I’m Very, very, very, very 99.9999 sure that it is Representative John Lewis, who is also from the state of Alabama. And that, you know, Christina, we got some goodness come out of Alabama. 

Dr. Greer [00:39:16] There’s something in the water in Alabama. And you are absolutely correct. 

Diallo Riddle [00:39:19] The harder they come. 

Dr. Greer [00:39:23] Close. 

Diallo Riddle [00:39:23] Oh, wait, The Harder They Fall? 

Dr. Greer [00:39:24] That’s right. I’m one of those people that just changes one word.  

Roy Wood Jr. [00:39:29]  I just don’t know nothing today. I’m gonna pour myself a little while you tell me the answer. 

Dr. Greer [00:39:34] The answer is Seneca Village, which began in 1825 with the purchase of land by a trustee of the A.M.E. Zion Church. 

Roy Wood Jr. [00:39:41] You know why games like this make me nervous? I don’t know if I know enough Black. Do I enough? How Black am I? Oh, my Lord. They they going– we going to find out in public. 

Dr. Greer [00:39:49] So give us a follow. Subscribe and join us on the Black as questions.