Film Review: INVISIBLE BEAUTY (directed by Frédéric Tcheng | World Premiere at Tribeca)

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by Kevin Vavasseur on June 22, 2023

in Film


Bethann Hardison is a trailblazer. And a mother. And ambitious. And a visionary. And a major success in the fashion world. And Black. And a Woman. Now in her seventies, she is still setting goals, reflecting on herself and finding new mountains to climb. Frédéric Tcheng’s beautiful new documentary Invisible Beauty, co-directed by Ms. Hardison, reveals a victorious woman of contradictions who has always trusted and followed her own internal compass while maintaining a positive outlook, quick laugh and devastating honesty. As her only child, successful television and film actor Kadeem Hardison says, “If you don’t want the truth, don’t call her.”

From a childhood that spanned the segregated South to cosmopolitan Manhattan, Hardison always had a curious mind and activist bent, both encouraged by her activist father. And that activism served her well upon entering arguably the most narcissistic business in the world, high fashion. Even as a ground-breaking model who lived the Studio 54 high-life (but only to a point as she had a son to raise) she used that access to expose inequities and mistreatment in the business, eventually creating and running her own very successful modeling agency, which helped foster change. All the while, she encouraged her models and everyone around her to get to know people of other cultures and backgrounds as people – Hardison’s own wide circle of friends and relationships attest to this core belief of her life.

Tcheng’s ingenious use of celebrity interviews, archival footage and unique camera angles of Hardison herself (providing a running commentary on her in its own right) ultimately weaves a composite of its subject that is part honest reveal, part fan-boy admiration and part public relations maneuver. Ultimately, Bethann comes off as an intelligent, fascinating, challenging, flawed, brave, driven and caring person. Even today, Ms. Hardison serves as mentor and cheerleader to a select group of talented, young, fashion designers. We should all be so lucky.

Bethann Hardison at Tribeca Screening of INVISIBLE BEAUTY (Kevin Vavasseur)

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