February 1st not only jump-starts the countdown to spring, but it also marks the beginning of Black History Month.
In celebration of black excellence in style, GlobalGrind is committed to bringing you a three-part series featuring the models of Black History – past, present and future.
In this first part of the series we will highlight the original trailblazers who brought color to the mute runway: two of the timeless beauties of Versailles, Bethann Hardison and Pat Cleveland, and the first black model to be featured on the cover of Vogue, Beverly Johnson.
These women and their stories are shared in commemoration for dedicating their lives, careers, and voices to the empowerment and progression of black people. GlobalGrind salutes you.
If there were a single word to describe Bethann’s rise to the top, it would be triumphant. Bethann started on the quest to trample the fashion empire as a sales girl in a retail store in the 1960s. A mere decade later, the girl from The Bronx was strutting runways and assisting some of the most prominent designers of the decade. Bethann did not let racial boundaries impede her conquest and in 1984, she founded her own agency that put her in the position to scout, launch and manage some of the biggest names in the fashion industry. Today, half a century later, Bethann is still one of the most powerful black figures in fashion and uses her position to shed light on the lack of diversity on the runway. Bethann additionally served as a contributing editor to the now infamous Vogue Italia “black” issue.
Born in New York City in 1952, Patricia Cleveland would soon be known as Pat Cleveland to the world. The soon-to-be supermodel, who became known for her relentlessly curly hair, was scouted on the NYC subway by Vogue magazine editor Carrie Donovan in the late ‘60s. In the height of the civil rights movement, Pat endured her share of struggles breaking into the industry, but soared to the mainstream when she was booked by the legendary Eunice Johnson to travel as a model with the Ebony Fashion Fair. In a feat unheard of at the time, Pat conquered not only the fashion color lines, but was one of the few working models frequently booked for both runway and print jobs. Today, Pat’s daughter Anna keeps her mother’s vision of diversified runways alive and is frequently featured in fashion shows as well.
Today, a tidbit of a feature in Vogue magazine announced its arrival. In 1974, getting the cover of Vogue as a black model was almost unheard of, but Beverly Johnson brought it to fruition when she was featured as the first black model on the August 1974 issue. A year later, she became the first black woman to appear on the cover of the French edition of Elle magazine. Throughout her modeling career, the model covered a record-breaking 500 covers of magazines and conquered the stigmas of the beauty ideal in the 1970s.