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'Invisible beauty' review: A groundbreaking model fights industry racism in a thoughtful Doc self-portrait

In November 1942, the fashion world gathers at the magnificent Palace of Versailles in France for a fundraising event turned into an unforgettable event. The Battle of Versailles was a fashion show pitting French designers against American designers, a David and Goliath situation between high fashion royalty and New World entrants. What the Americans lack in drama and set design, however, they more than make up for in personality. Among the models, the United States was invited to the catwalk, Among them were black people – an unprecedented number for the industry (then, let’s be honest, now). Among them was Bethann Hardison, who spoke about her experiences in Invisible Beauty, a film she shared with Frédéric Tcheng (Dior and I ).

“I know these people think we’re not that important,” Hardison said of the French audience in attendance. “The more I walk, the harder and stronger and more intense my attitude becomes.” Her steps are purposeful, energetic and provocative. “I let them know we’re here,” the model added in her testimony. Audiences love it. At the end of her moment, they threw out their show and erupted in thunderous applause. Hardison knew then that Americans were winning battles abroad, and that inspired her to use similar energy to transform industries at home.

The Invisible Beauty

BOTTOM LINE An unwavering paean to the groundbreaking model.

Sundance Film Festival (Premiere) Director: Bethann Hardison, Frédéric Tcheng 1 hour55 minute

Invisible Beauty is an admiring self-portrait of a fashion maverick, a woman How trying to impress her reflective story on the stubborn needle of industrial progress. Hardison serves as co-director, and the film adopts the tone and structure of a memoir rather than a standard biopic. Recorded conversations between Tcheng and Hardison were played early in the project, establishing a collaborative structure. In a world where the work of black women is all too easily buried (both in life and after), it makes sense that Hardison, a woman whose fingerprints touch every part of this ossified industry, would want to enshrine her legacy.

The duo with different opening styles of the documentary came together for creativity. Should they start writing her memoir with Hardison, charting the challenges of self-reflection? Or throwing herself at the height of her career, documenting her various publicity efforts? They settled on a straightforward chronological order, telling the film about Hardison’s youth in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

Hardison born in is optimistic about her early years. She attended a predominantly white school in New York and spent summers with relatives in Jim Crow, North Carolina. Started early on to realize the difference between the two places. At school, she participated in several extracurricular activities, from cheerleading to athletics. Peers accused her of pretending to be white. Hardison is poised: “If you’re going to the circus, you better get in the car,” she said of being one of the few black people in a white space.

This sentiment cemented Hardison’s attitude towards the rest of her life. Even as she reflects on her relationship with her parents who divorced as a child, Hardison maintains an unobtrusive optimism. Her charisma and down-to-earth approach made her a natural leader and problem solver when she entered the fashion industry.

Hardison threw herself into the modeling industry, but once she entered the world, she dominated. Invisible Beauty chronicles her runway achievements through interviews with Hardison, fashion critic Robin Givhan, industry stalwarts and friends and students like Naomi Campbell, Iman and Tyson Beckford. From these heartwarming anecdotes, sparkling testimonials, and fond memories emerges an image of a woman committed to nurturing community in a relatively hostile environment. Campbell — at one point moved to tears — repeatedly referred to Hardison as a second mother; Beckford echoed that, recalling how Hardison called meetings of young models to help them form truly lasting relationships.

The Battle of Versailles was a turning point in Hardison’s career — a moment that, as friends and colleagues describe it, seemed to give the model a new sense of purpose. She started her own agency shortly after returning to the United States. She focuses on changing the industry from within, recruiting models from marginalized backgrounds and helping them find work. At 1942, she founded the Black Girls League to support black models and organized town halls early on to Foster dialogue and urge industry leaders to confront their discriminatory practices. Casual audiences and industry insiders alike will appreciateInvisible Beauty for its detail and candor, which doesn’t glorify its portrayal of the fashion world: milking and chasing trends.

Anticipating that some viewers might be repelled by Hardison’s integrationist political tactics (the idea of ​​teaching white executives empathy and tolerance), Hardison and Tcheng also included a show Part of the model and designer for Solo Traveler to interact with the younger generation. It was a fleshed-out coda that showcased one of the more impressive traits of Hardison’s leadership style. She doesn’t expect the next backbone of the industry to necessarily agree with her approach — she just wants them to have the courage to lead their fight.

Like Black Godfather, Reginald Hudlin’s ode to Music Supervisor Clarence Avant, Invisible Beauty is right An inspiring and unflinching anthem from an influential industry leader. There were some lessons learned and issues that were not resolved in the end. Hardison is more honest than most bio-PhD subjects, but evasive or ambiguous around certain themes—for example, her relationship with photographer Bruce Weber, recently accused of sexual assault, or her efforts to reconnect with her son— Left a nagging loose end. Perhaps Hardison will answer these questions in her memoir, and Hardison will answer these questions in her memoir. All Credits

Venue: Sundance Film Festival (Premiere)
Directors: Bethann Hardison, Frédéric Tcheng Producer: Lisa Cortés
Executive Producers: Harley Adelman, John Bocardo, Derek Esplin, Ivy Hellman, Rick Rosen Tarr, Nancy Stephens Andrea Van Beuren, Jeff Zimbalist
Director of Photography: Mia Cioffi Henry, Frédéric Tcheng Editing: Chris Mcnabb, Frédéric Tcheng
Music: Marc Anthony Thompson File Producer: Paul Dallas 1 hour55 minute

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